Typically presenting as pain in the groin that occurs with deep hip flexion, hip pain in young adults (late teenage years to 40s) is “extremely common,” according to Queensland-based Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr David Agolley.
If conservative treatments such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage and even injections are not giving long-term pain relief, a second opinion from a specialist with an interest in young adult hip pain is recommended – so to avoid complications down the track, Agolley said.
“Common causes of hip pain are muscle or tendon strain sports injuries, and the increase in [hip joint injuries] such as labrum (hip joint cartilage) tearing due to high hip flexion sports.
“Hip pain is becoming more common as amateur sport is increasing, [often involving] high-kicking sports” such as ballet, dance, AFL, football and surfing, Agolley said.
Repetitive stress is another cause, “more so in patients with hip dysplasia - instability of the hip that causes hip pain from a labrum tear,” Agolley said.
“For some the pain will present as just a niggle in the groin, sometimes with referred pain to the buttock that’s [about] a three out of 10. But in [undiagnosed patients], pain can progress to up to a nine out of 10.”
A detailed case history will first address the cause of the hip pain, when it occurs, and why conservative treatment is not helping, Agolley said.
A physical examination and basic investigations by a trained specialist will follow via a series of plain X-rays and MRI scan, which can be helpful with diagnosis, he said.
“Treatment usually involves strategies with targeted physiotherapy to improve strength of the core and hip girdle.”
Activity modification, such as altering a cyclist’s bike or altering a desk worker’s work environment (elevating a seated work station with a saddle chair for example) can also be beneficial.
“If other therapies don’t help, [athletes] are the ones who tend to go onto surgery,” Agolley said.
“If [the cause of hip pain is] not diagnosed early enough, [the patient can] end up getting hip arthritis early in life - whereas preventative [measures] can be [made] beforehand to essentially minimise [that risk].”
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