Everything You Need to Know About Hip Pain

The joint's genius ball-and-socket design is the reason you can strut, salsa, and shimmy like Shakira (if that's your thing).

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Keep yours in good working order with these tips.

The Vitals

  • 120 degrees: How far the hip can extend forward and up (picture leg raises), making it one of the body's most mobile joints.
  • 75 percent: The total of hip fractures that happen to women. That's because we're more likely to get osteoporosis, but exercise lessens the risk. (Good advice at right.)
  • 8.5 percent: The percentage of American women who say they've experienced hip pain recently.

Aches Can Be Hard to Pinpoint

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Hips are sneaky: Trouble there — including inflammation and arthritis caused by injury, genetics, or overuse — is often felt in the groin, butt, thighs, and even knees. On the flip side, sore hips can sometimes be a sign of a lower-back issue. That's why it's important to get lower-body pains checked out if they last more than a few days, mess with sleep, or come with swelling or a limp. Luckily, surgery usually isn't needed, says Nicholas DiNubile, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Haverton, PA. Instead, your doctor may suggest anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, or the simplest cure-all: weight loss. The hips support your upper half, so dropping 10 to 15 pounds can take lots of strain off the joint.

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Blame Your Couch…

…and possibly your desk chair. Sitting may seem like a welcome break for the hips, but the opposite can be true. In a healthy hip joint, the ball glides smoothly in the socket, but too much time on your tush can position the hips so that the thighbone grazes against the socket's edge. Eventually, this may tear the cartilage that runs along the rim of the joint. Help prevent this by moving around at least once an hour, whether you're at work or having a lazy Sunday Netflix session. And try this froglike but effective yoga squat. It stretches out tight hip flexors—the muscles that let you bend at the waist. Stand with feet about 2 feet apart, toes turned out 45 degrees. Sink butt toward floor as low as you can comfortably go, then place elbows inside knees and gently press outward.

More Milk Isn't the Answer

Research shows that upping your calcium intake — whether with food sources or supplements — doesn't help prevent fractures. What you should focus on instead is balance training. Falls are the cause of most hip fractures, so simple exercises, such as standing on one leg, can keep your stability sharp over the years. Aerobic activity like walking and dancing may also boost bones, or simply hop around on one leg. Yes, seriously. Research has found that doing this for just a couple of minutes a day can strengthen your hip bone.

Hip-Happy Habits

Keep your joint feeling fine with these three easy tweaks.

1. Sleep On Your Back

Snoozing on your side can throw the hips out of alignment, but if that's your go-to position, stick a pillow between your knees to reduce stress on the hips.

2. Sit Tall

Slouching or sitting with your weight to one side is a recipe for hip pain, so keep feet flat on the floor, knees at the same level as hips, and weight centered.

3. Shed Your Shoes

Go barefoot at home — it changes your stride so that you strike mid-foot instead of on the heel, a gait that's easier on the hip joint.

This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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