3 ways to ease hip pain at home

By The Health News Team | January 18, 2024
Person holding hip in pain

Our hips are essential for helping us stay active in our daily lives. But just like other joints in our body, they can undergo wear and tear that leads to discomfort and pain.

Dawn Zawalnicki, a physical therapist at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, says hip pain can be a result of various factors, such as pressure during pregnancy or exercise-related injuries. It can also persist over time and be a natural part of the aging process.

For acute or sudden pain, Zawalnicki recommends trying at-home treatments and practical lifestyle changes to ease discomfort. If pain continues or worsens, it’s important to speak with your primary care doctor to see if surgery or other treatment is a good option for you.

Try these 3 ways to ease hip pain at home:

1

Use ice packs and heating pads.

If you experience acute or sudden hip pain, Zawalnicki recommends treating the area with an ice pack four to five times a day for 20 minutes at a time. If pain lasts longer than a week, try alternating between ice packs and a heating pad to help increase mobility.

“Start with a heating pad first thing in the morning — that’s when people tend to be more stiff and sore,” Zawalnicki says. “Using heat to start the day can help loosen up the hip joint.”

2

Do low-impact exercises.

There are many low-impact exercises to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle when experiencing hip pain.

“Walking is a great way to stay active,” Zawalnicki says. “But instead of walking two miles all at once, I recommend that people break up their activity throughout the day. So, maybe take a few short 10-minute walks with rest in between.”

Other hip-friendly exercises include swimming and using a stationary bike. Try to avoid exercises that require running or jumping.

“If someone is in a lot of pain, I recommend they consider using an assistive device, like a cane or walker,” Zawalnicki says. “Think of that device as a tool that will allow them to exercise while taking some of the strain off of that joint.”

Incorporating gentle hip stretches into your daily routine can also make a big difference by increasing flexibility and reducing tension.

3

Focus on diet.

Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce strain on the hip joint. Low-impact exercises are beneficial, but paying attention to your diet is also crucial. Focus on eating fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables, to minimize inflammation and support overall joint health.

“Body weight puts a lot of strain on the hip joint,” Zawalnicki says. “It’s easy to fall into this vicious cycle where your hip starts to hurt, so you can't exercise as much, but your diet stays the same and you gain weight.”

When to seek treatment

Surgery can be life changing for many patients dealing with severe or chronic hip pain. Total hip replacement, also known as total hip arthroplasty, involves surgically replacing both the ball and socket components of the hip joint with implants. These implants effectively eliminate bone-on-bone contact, alleviating the associated pain.

But when is the right time to consider surgery? Zawalnicki recommends consulting your doctor to find out if the pain is caused by something structural, or if it just needs time and rest to heal.

“The great thing about hip surgery is that the orthopedic surgeon can physically take out what’s causing the problem and put in a brand new, shiny hip joint for you to work with,” Zawalnicki says. “I’m a cheerleader for these patients in the recovery room. I say, you've got a brand-new hip joint when this heals up — this is going to change your life.”


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