If you have hip pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA) you will be somewhere on the spectrum of it being an annoying inconvenience at one end to completely debilitating at the other. For most the escalator only travels in one direction over time and that is toward debilitation, as the osteoarthritis progresses. The impact of debilitating arthritis of the hip can be life changing severely impacting the quality of your life.
The chances are you have not been told how to best manage this condition to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and improve the quality of your life. The most likely advice you will be given is to take care and rest when required. Depending on your level of pain you may be prescribed pain relief and or anti-inflammatory medication as required. There is an alternative as research tells us that the symptoms of hip OA can be conservatively managed to reduce pain.
What do we mean by conservatively manage? And if I do not manage my condition conservatively what is non-conservative management? The key word here is manage. To not manage you hip arthritis will mean you modify your life choices and movement patterns without knowing what are the best modifications to make. You may take pain relief until the pain becomes unbearable or makes daily life unmanageable. At this point non-conservative intervention is required, which is usually some form of surgery.
So here are the 5 reasons for you to manage your hip pain:
- An opportunity to improve the quality of your daily life by doing more of the things you like to do.
- Reduce or eliminate the level of pain medication required and the potential side effects of drugs.
- Delay the requirement for surgical intervention and the attendant risks for as long as possible.
- Increase exercise tolerance and being able to perform moderate exercise that is good for your general all round health.
- Build strength and fitness so in the event of any surgical intervention you are as strong as possible. The more strength you have prior to any surgery the better chance of a good outcome and faster the recovery.
The primary objectives for conservative management of hip arthritis are:
- Reduce the symptoms of pain.
- Keep the hip joint moving.
- Build strength of the supporting structures around the hip.
Research tells us these objectives can be achieved through manual therapy and exercise therapy. Manual therapy applies techniques that a musculoskeletal therapist (physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath) use to manipulate and mobilise the hip joint, i.e., move the joint. The primary technique for administration in manual therapy is long axis traction, a technique that has been in use for over one hundred years, which literally pulls your leg. HipTrac is a device that replicates the manual therapy technique of long axis traction and can be used in the clinic setting or at home.
A manual therapist who has good experience of managing hip pathology will apply these techniques and teach you methods where you can self-mobilise and give you exercises to help you build your hip strength.
It seems counterintuitive to move a painful hip and apply exercise as medicine, but these techniques are applied moderately and progressively. The advice is similar to those who suffer from back pain. Keep still at your peril.
The overused mechanistic analogy of the car is useful. Manual therapy is all about getting the hip moving and like a broken down car once you push it and get it moving it is easier to keep it moving.
If you require hip pain relief seek out a musculoskeletal therapist with good knowledge on how to conservatively manage hip pathology. They will help accurately assess your condition and guide you on how to conservatively manage your hip pain.