Hip pain is a common complaint that medical professionals are confronted with. It is well known that a significant amount of the population will suffer from hip pathology at one point or another. Fortunately there are multiple options and solutions from both conventional and integrative medicine on how to resolve hip discomfort and significantly improve the quality of life of the patient.
Before addressing preventive medicine as well as the physical and psychological aspects of hip pain, it is useful to know some background about the hip. The central location of the hip is a crucial component that explains why many of us will suffer from pain and discomfort. Pain in the hip may be also be due to long lasting problems in the knee joint, being overweight, spine problems as well as deformities of the feet and poor posture. Continuous problems with the cartilage that acts as a protective cushion in the hip joint will be a causative factor for hip problems as well. As we age, our body suffers wear and tear and the protective cartilage at the hip joint tends to become damaged and overused. Pain in the hip often also appears during pregnancy or after child birth as we women to suffer from postural changes that effect our musculoskeletal structure. Generally speaking, symptoms such as local swelling, sharp pain, changes in walking and of course sudden weight loss are alarming and one should see a physician.
Conventional medicine offers a number of options to address hip pain and discomfort such as non-steroidal medications, physical therapy and surgery. When surgery is needed it is often as a last result, but can been effective for a large number of patients. However, it of course includes all risks and potential complications of surgery and if less invasive techniques can be used, it is preferable. In Europe for example new modalities and techniques are being offered to address long lasting pain. A unique machine that balances weak muscles and postural deformities named Huber is used to address such pain.
Complementary medicine can be highly effective in addressing hip pathologies. Chinese Medicine offers herbal remedies and supplements as well as acupuncture to address pain and discomfort. Supplements such as powdered ginger and turmeric among many others are useful to address inflammation. The meridians listed in Chinese Medicine open an additional view of observing long lasting symptoms and thus treating the patient with holistic care. Such was in a case of a patient that complained about hip pain radiating on the side of the thigh and knee .The muscle located on the side of thigh (Vastus Lateralis) was extremely tight. The following symptoms were located on the gall bladder meridian. When this meridian tends to get affected, the patient will tend to suffer from problems such as pain on the side of the foot, heaviness in the hip and legs, weight gain specifically around the hips (all represent gall bladder meridian pathology in the view of Chinese medicine philosophy). There are more and more physicians today that understand this philosophy and treat accordingly.
It is important to fully address the patient rather than just address symptoms and pain since the patient is composed of both physical and emotional components. Certain people will have a high threshold for pain, while others will be alarmed by a slight discomfort. The nervous system plays an important role in the way we perceive pain. Additionally we all carry a unique personal history that contributes to how we react and narrate our experiences. For example, if we focus obsessively on pain and its meaning whether its emotional or physical, we create a cognitive map that can actually contribute to a cycle of chronic discomfort. Alternatively, if we utilize a mindful approach to suffering, allowing space for the pain, but not fusing with or becoming caught up in our negative narratives about pain, we avoid an additional or secondary layer of suffering.
The recommended nutrition for pain and inflammations will generally be a non-acidic diet as well as avoidance of foods that contain a high ratio of Omega 6 (sunflower oil, canola oil, snackfoods, etc’).We tend to have an imbalance between the ratio of omega 3 and omega 6 that we consume and it may lead to inflammatory processes. It is important to engage in moderate exercise but to be aware of excess pain or discomfort.
As one can see, there are many layers and philosophies in the understanding and treatment of hio pain and pathology in general. To achieve optimal health and balance, a preventive approach is ideal, but once a person does begin to experience symptoms, the whole person, physical, psychological and at times spiritual, must be addressed.
Doron Ben Dov MS,LAc