When it comes to hip pain, many would associate it with arthritis. It’s a fair association because hip arthritis is quite common. However, we have seen many younger people with hip pain when arthritis is not part of the picture. So, what causes this and what can you do about it?
Common causes of hip pain
1️⃣ Poor foot posture
Hip pain is most commonly seen in people with a pronated (roll-in) foot type. What is pronation? Pronation is one of the movements our feet go through during gait. The purpose of pronation is to make our feet flexible, so that they can adapt to different terraces and absorb shock from heel strike. In other words, when our feet pronate, they are unstable. There is nothing wrong with pronation. We need it. But, problem arises when there is too much of it. Ankles bulging on the inside, heels rolling in towards each other, and splaying of the feet are all characteristics of a pronated foot.
The pronated posture increases internal rotation of the lower limb and reduces the efficiency of the feet during gait. This causes the hip muscles, namely the gluteus muscles, to compensate by working extra hard. Over time, the gluteus muscles become tight and develop trigger points, also known as knots. Overused muscles tend to fatigue much faster than healthy, supple muscles. This results in a dull ache lingering around the hip area.
2️⃣ Lack of supportive footwear 👟
Shoes are more than fashion. They are actually (and literally) the foundation (literally because they are under our feet) of our feet. Without a firm heel grip and supportive sole, our feet can become unstable when we walk. Instability is one of the biggest factors contributing to the overuse of lower limb muscles, including the gluteus muscles as discussed above.
If someone has a pronated foot type and wears very soft and flexible shoes, their feet will have full freedom to roll as much as they want. And, that creates a lot of work for the calves, thighs and hips!
3️⃣ Too much of a particular activity
We have seen school-aged kids with hip pain, which sometimes can get overlooked as “growing pains”. For adults, hip pain can occur as a result of too much too soon, sitting down too much, and being on the feet too much, etc. Identifying aggravating activities is important as it helps us regulate the amount of activity you should do while recovering.
What can you do about it?
1️⃣ Foam rolling + stretching
Foam rolling is an effective way to relieve muscle tightness. We recommend rolling before and after exercise/work. Stretching helps to lengthen the shortened muscle and works well together with rolling.
2️⃣ Physical therapy and exercise
Both physical therapy and exercise can provide symptomatic relief. Exercise, in particular, is great because it helps improve the tone of your muscles. Good muscle tone is the key to recover and prevent injuries.
While these methods are effective, it is important to keep in mind that complete recovery takes time. You should always see it as a journey and celebrate the wins along the way.
3️⃣ Supportive shoes + orthotics
Strong heel, strong sole – these are the two main things when it comes to supportive shoes. Keep in mind that every brand can make both good and bad shoes. Checking them is the key. For those who need more pronation control, orthotics are highly effective in doing the job.
We usually recommend prefabricated orthotics for children under 12 because they tend to change shoe size really quickly. Prefabricated orthotics last for somewhere between 6-12 months depending on how often they are used, and hence, make a good option for growing feet!
However, if the child requires something more than the prefabricated orthotics, custom-made 3D printed orthotics will serve the purpose best. For adults, the durability of custom-made orthotics will be a better long-term option.
We can go on and on about this, but we hope this short post has given you some insight into the causes and management of hip pain. If you, or you know someone, that needs help with hip pain, let us know – we will be happy to help!