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How To Ease Hip Pain In Elderly

An elderly woman walking on a sidewalk. She is using a cane.

Do you have hip pain? You’re far from alone. WebMD estimates that as many as 50 percent of older adults experience aches in their hips and/or knees. The symptoms can leave you sidelined in your own life. 

What Is The Fastest Way To Relieve Hip Pain?

The quickest method to alleviate your stiff, aching hips is by resting.

Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, which contribute substantially to hip pain in the elderly, cause inflammation, and resting the joints can help. 

Hip pain from other sources, such as an old injury or another medical condition, should also respond well to rest. 

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can also help manage pain. However, if your pain flares up and frequently disrupts your quality of life, make sure you tell your doctor.
  • Applying heat or cold to the affected area can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain (using each separately). Heating pads can soothe sore muscles and joints, improve your circulation and blood flow, and speed up healing. Cold therapy like ice packs will reduce swelling and inflammation, which should put a dent in the pain. 

Lifestyle Adjustments To Ease Hip Pain

Obviously, resting the hip, applying heat or cold, and taking pain relievers can only be done for so long. If you’re just sitting around, you can’t live your life properly.

Here are other solutions to incorporate into your wellness plans for less hip pain.

Use A Cane Or Walker

If you struggle to get around on your own two feet, a walking aid such as a cane or walker might renew your mobility.

You can confidently and securely navigate your day-to-day life, enabling you to see more friends and family and live a more well-rounded existence.

While walking with a cane or walker might slow you down at first, once you adjust to these tools, your pace will naturally pick up.

If using a walking aid doesn’t help enough with your hip pain, consider a motorized wheelchair if it’s in the budget. 

Do Hip Exercises

Although the last thing you want to do when having a bad hip day is move, exercising can strengthen the muscles in your legs and hips, potentially preventing future injuries and helping with pain levels. 

Low-impact exercises, such as swimming and cycling, can strengthen the muscles without worsening pain.

Here are some exercises to add to your routine – with your doctor’s approval:

  • Single-leg hamstring hinges
  • Knee-to-chest pose
  • Seated runner
  • Hip circles
  • Side hurdle steps
  • Hip marches
  • Standing knee to side kicks
  • Standing hip abductors 
  • Side hip raises
  • Seated side taps
  • Prone straight leg raises
  • Standing hip extensions
  • Butterfly pose
  • Standing hip flexors 

Some of these exercises are modifiable so you can adjust the intensity and degree of stretch. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help decrease hip pain. It is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the nervous system and enhance natural healing processes.

Research into acupuncture’s effectiveness for hip pain, particularly that caused by conditions like osteoarthritis, has shown promising results.

Several clinical studies and systematic reviews suggest that acupuncture can significantly reduce pain and improve function in people with hip osteoarthritis.

It can provide pain relief without the side effects associated with pain medications.

Injections

Corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief from inflammation.

Manage Your Weight

Besides the above hip exercises, you should also do other regular body exercises to maintain your weight.

Being overweight or obese puts more strain on your bones, muscles, and joints, increasing your pain levels. 

Also, control your diet. That’s an important wellness tip for the elderly in general, as your metabolism slows down in older age, making it easier to pack on the pounds.

A healthy, well-rounded diet includes vitamins, minerals, nutrients, unsaturated fats, protein, dietary fiber, and some carbs.

Do Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can improve flexibility, strength, and balance, reducing the risk of falls. For this reason, meeting with a therapist weekly or monthly is a holistic pain control method to consider.

The physical therapist will discuss your pain levels and goals, then recommend a tailored exercise routine.

They’ll guide you through each hip exercise, gradually opening up your degree of flexibility.

They will also show you routines you can do at home to stay limber and reduce your pain.

Physical therapy can be combined with any treatment above.

Consider Surgery

You might explore surgery as a last resort.

The most common surgical procedure for hip pain is a hip arthroplasty or replacement.

The surgeon will remove some of your hip joint, adding implants in their place.

Hip surgery is recommended for severe cases, such as for those with hip joint tumors, hip fractures and other injuries, osteonecrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis for whom the above treatments have not done enough to improve quality of life. 

What Flares Up Hip Pain?

The most common culprit is overactivity.

Whether you pushed too hard during your last spin class or walked across the neighborhood yesterday so you didn’t have to drive, hip pain often flares up in relation to how much physical effort you put into your day.

This is because the muscles and/or joints have been stressed by the effort.

However, excessive activity isn’t the only cause of hip pain.

These are some other triggers to be aware of:

  • Arthritis, in particular osteoarthritis which results in the wearing down of cartilage in the joint
  • Bursitis, which is Inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the hip joint
  • Muscle strains and sprains
  • Bad posture
  • Sitting or lying down awkwardly (including lying on the affected hip)
  • Repetitive activities
  • Changes in humidity or atmospheric pressure
  • Infection
  • High stress levels

Getting to know your hip pain triggers will help you create an action plan with your doctor for managing and preventing aches and discomfort.

When a flare-up happens, rest the area, take medication as directed by your doctor, and use ice and heat treatments. The pain should start lessening.

Should I Keep Walking With Hip Pain?

If you have hip pain now, is it better to push on and keep walking or take a break?

You should always take a break as soon as you can.

If overuse has strained your muscles and joints, continuing to walk is not going to make it better.

If anything, you’ll just exacerbate the issue and worsen your pain.

By all means, get to a safe place where you can stop and take a rest. Then, switch to a wheelchair or walker, or even consider going home if that’s an option.

For the rest of the day, focus on recovering, reducing your physical activity and using at-home treatments for pain management.

All that said, I’m not recommending you cut out walking and other physical activity altogether.

Remember, exercise is good for your body. It keeps your joints lubricated, your muscles limber, and your weight trim.

Above all else, listen to your body.

When your hips ache, you feel tired and lightheaded, or otherwise off, that’s your body’s way of telling you to stop.

How Do You Know If Hip Pain Is Muscle Or Joint?

Determining the source of your hip pain is a great way to begin treating it. When it comes to muscle or joint, how can you be sure?

You can rely on a few signs to indicate whether it’s hip or joint pain or even both.

If your body hurts more when you’re upright and moving but less when you stop and rest, that’s frequently attributed to muscle pain.

Oppositely, if your body aches less when walking and more when resting, that’s usually a sign of joint pain.

The joints become swollen and sore, explaining why the pain worsens when you stop rather than get better.

However, rather than guess, consider seeing your doctor and asking about the pain. The doctor will perform a physical exam and likely also an X-ray.

Bottom Line

Hip pain may be a common ailment in the elderly, but that doesn’t mean you have no choice but to deal with it.

You can take advantage of many options in your toolkit, from treatments like ice/heat and NSAIDs for mild pain to prescription medication and physical therapy.

A hip replacement surgery should be used as a last resort, but it’s an option to consider if hip pain has become debilitating and destroyed your quality of life. 

We recommend that you always consult with your healthcare providers to tailor the approach to your individual needs and condition.

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