Joint Injury - The Hip

Publication Date: 
Thu, 10/01/2015
By: Alere Staff

Patient

Keeping your body moving requires more than just a signal from your brain to your muscles. Made up of your bones, muscles and joints, your musculoskeletal system helps put these signals to movement. Just like the song from your childhood, your bones attach to each other at joints. On the end of each bone there are linings of smooth cartilage, soft tissues called synovial membranes and fluids that help cushion the movement, making sure your bones do not rub against each other.

Strong tissues called tendons and ligaments help to make these connections solid.1 These integral parts of the human body help support your weight, your organs and perform basic functions and movement.

However, what happens when you get an injury at one of these vital joint locations? They not only can be painful but can limit your mobility and activity for long periods of time. One such point, at your hip, can not only be the most painful to injure but can also put you, a patient on warfarin, at great risk.

The Hip Joint

The hip joint is where your thigh bone (femur) meets your pelvic bone. The hip joint is a “ball-and-socket” joint. The top of the thigh bone, with its ball-like shape, moves within the socket space of the pelvis.2 When your hips are healthy, they are naturally stable and strong. A lot of force is typically required to injure or dislocate your hip joints. While playing sports, running, overuse and falling can all lead to hip injuries, conditions like osteoporosis or osteoarthritis can also increase your risk. Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis are conditions usually developed with age and can cause pain, discomfort, limited mobility and weak bones that break easily.2

No matter how strong your hip may be, hip joint injuries can happen to anyone. Some of the more common injuries to your hip joint are:           

  • Broken Hip: also called a hip fracture, this injury occurs mostly in people aged 65 or older and specifically in women. Such a fracture can occur even in a minor fall.3
  • Bursitis: this condition is when the bursae within the joint, the fluid-filled sacs that cushion your joints as they move, swell and inflame. Bursitis can cause a great amount of pain that can be aggravated with walking or any sort of activity that causes the tendon within the joint to move over the bone.3
  • Labral Tear: this involves damage to the cartilage that surrounds the bony edge of the socket within the pelvis.3
  • Snapping Hip Syndrome: a condition characterized by a snapping sensation in the hip when extended. It may or may not be accompanied by an audible noise.3
  • Hip Dislocation: dislocation occurs when the ball at the top of the femur slips out of the socket. Hip dislocations usually require a strong force to occur like a fall or car accident. Dislocations are painful and often ligaments and nerves surrounding the joint can become damaged.

Hip Injury Care

Injuring your hip joint can be incredibly painful and put you off your feet for a long period of time. A hip dislocation, in particular, is considered a serious medical emergency requiring immediate treatment. Hip dislocations occur when the head of the femur is pushed either backward out or forward from the socket. When a hip dislocates, it is common for ligaments, nerves, muscles and soft tissues around the joint to be injured as well.4 Should you experience a hip dislocation or know someone who does, it is best not to move the person until help arrives.4

Treatment for a dislocated hip includes bringing the bones back into place. Sometimes, the dislocation will require this to be done surgically, particularly if torn tissues or small bone fragments block the bones from going back into their socket.4 If too damaged from injury, your doctor may even recommend a hip replacement. Hip replacement surgery is when the damaged cartilage and bone of the hip joint is removed and replaced with man-made parts. Because the man-made hip is usually smaller than the original joint, hip dislocation can be a continued problem.2

Rest, medication for pain and physical therapy are to help retain your movement.2 Recovery after hip replacement can take two to three months to heal with a possible long rehabilitation and physical therapy afterwards. Doctors will most likely recommend limited motion of the joint for many weeks to protect the joint from dislocating again.4

Hip Injuries and Warfarin

As a patient taking warfarin, recovery from a hip injury or replacement may require an extra bit of care. All the down-time required for the hip joint to heal means a higher chance of developing blood clots. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is the most common clot that people experience after undergoing surgery for a total hip replacement or broken hip.5 Surgery requires you to be less active for several days or weeks afterward, which can cause your blood flow to slow down. As many as four out of ten people who do not receive medicine to prevent blood clots will develop a DVT within one or two weeks after having either hip or knee surgery.5 If you do take medication or use a device to prevent blood clots like compression stockings, your risk can be lowered to one to two people out of ten. Research has shown that patients with congestive heart failure were at an even greater risk of having DVT form after surgery.5

Should you ever experience a hip injury or surgery, it is important to stay in touch with your physician during your recovery. Staying on top of your recovery may help you feel more confident about healing and catch possible complications early.

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References:

  1. Experts in Older Adult Care. Joint Problems: Basic Facts and Information. Health in Aging. March 2012. Retrieved from website: http://www.healthinaging.org/aging-and-health-a-to-z/topic:joint-problems/.
  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Hip Injuries and Disorders. MedlinePlus. August 18, 2015. Retrieved from website: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hipinjuriesanddisorders.html.
  3. Arthritis Foundation. Hip Injury: Common and Not-So-Common Injuries of the Hip Joint. Retrieved August 28, 2015 from website: http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/where-it-hurts/hip-pain/causes/hip-injury-fracture.php.
  4. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip Dislocation.OrthoInfo. June 2014. Retrieved from website: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00352.
  5. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality - Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Blood Clots After Hip or Knee Replacement Surgery or Surgery for a Broken Hip. Effective Health Care Program. August 2012. AHRQ Pub. No. 12-EHC020-A.