If you are experiencing frequent bouts of pain which start in the hip and radiate down the legs, chances are you may be suffering from sciatica, a condition caused by the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve that extends from your lower back to your feet. This can cause excruciating pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in your legs, thereby impacting your ability to walk and perform your usual everyday activities. At Canova Medical in Wilmslow, Cheshire, we offer effective treatments such as physiotherapy and injection therapies to give you much-needed relief from hip pain and bring your physical health and well-being right back on track.
Causes and risk factors of sciatica, explained
Hip pain experienced as a result of sciatica can be very debilitating and can worsen with coughing or even sitting. This significantly impacts a patient’s quality of life as normal daily routines are disturbed and progression is often hindered. Therefore, it is vital that this condition is addressed and treated by specialists, such as our team of dedicated medical professionals, as soon as possible.
While sciatica can have many different causes, some of the more common ones include:
- Lumbar herniated discs: This is a type of injury wherein discs in your spinal cord are displaced from their original position, thus placing pressure on nerves nearby. When pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve, this results in pain that shoots from the buttock down toward the foot. Herniated discs can often be caused by obesity or poor lifting techniques.
- Bone spurs: These occur as a result of spinal bone overgrowth which can extend to place pressure on the sciatic nerve. This compresses the nerve, causing the patient to experience numbness or a tingling sensation in the legs.
- Spinal stenosis: This happens due to a narrowing of the spinal cavity. When this occurs, the available space for the spinal cord and nerves is significantly decreased, placing undue pressure on them.
Although one might think that such causes are beyond their control, there are certain risk factors that can be addressed to hinder the onset of the condition. Some risk factors which contribute to hip pain include:
- Age: Changes in the spine such as herniated discs and bone spurs can gradually occur over time with age.
- Being overweight: Excess weight can place undue pressure on the spine, causing strain and altering the natural curve which can contribute to frequent occurrences of hip and back pain.
- A sedentary lifestyle: If you do not exercise often and are almost always in a sitting position, this can aggravate hip pain even more as prolonged sitting contributes to muscle imbalance and spinal disc damage.
- Improper posture: Having a poor posture while sitting, standing, or walking can further worsen hip pain due to pressure placed on the spinal nerves, thus causing discomfort in the lower back and hip area.
- Smoking: The chemicals in smoke contribute to spinal disc degeneration over time, giving rise to herniated discs along the spine.
Other causes of hip pain
While sciatica appears to be the most common cause of hip pain that radiates down the legs, there are certainly other causes that contribute to this painful sensation. Apart from sciatica, you may be suffering from hip impingement, a condition during which sharp bolts of pain are experienced in the hip and groin area immediately following any type of movement, such as bending to tie your shoes or standing up from a seated position. Hip impingement is caused by an overgrowth of bone along the bones of the hip joint — this causes them to experience abnormal contact, resulting in joint damage and pain.
Hip osteoarthritis may also be another cause of hip pain which is essentially the gradual wear-and-tear of the hip joint cartilage. This cartilage provides protection to your joints and bones by reducing friction and preventing bones from rubbing against each other. As this protective tissue wears away, the bones start to rub against each other, producing friction and causing pain.
Pain experienced in the hip could also be due to a labral tear which is a tissue injury in the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. Symptoms of labral tears include decreased mobility, pain, and a feeling that your hip is locked. However, this can be addressed either with or without surgical intervention.
Although rare, hip pain can also be caused by cancer, which may be one of three types: primary bone cancer, metastatic cancer, or leukaemia. Hip pain as a result of cancer can typically be achy, severe and aggravated by frequent movements.
When to seek emergency care
Although you may take it as a simple case of muscle strain, hip pain is just one of the many symptoms that should not be ignored, especially if the ache has persisted for more than a couple of days. You should seek immediate care if:
- You are experiencing intense, excruciating pain
- You notice swelling, redness, or deformity around your hip joint
- You can hear a popping noise in your hip area following any type of movement
- Your hip bone or muscles around the area are exposed/protruding
Reach out to us as soon as you notice any of the above symptoms as these may signal the presence of infection which, if left untreated, can worsen the condition significantly.
Diagnosing hip pain
While hip pain may be diagnosed with just a physical exam by itself, it is also important to carry out medical imaging tests to aid in accurate diagnosis. Doing so would enable the appropriate treatment to be administered, ensuring pain relief is achieved in no time.
During a physical exam, your hip will be examined and you may be asked to perform certain movements in order to diagnose what is causing you pain. If your doctor recommends that you undergo medical imaging, you will most likely be asked to take an X-ray. Your X-ray results can help your doctor ascertain the condition of your hip joint and bones, such as whether bone spurs are present, and administer treatment as appropriate. Since soft tissues do not really show up on X-rays, you may be asked to do an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan as well. Another scan you may be asked to take is the CT (computerised tomography) scan to check for any shape abnormalities in the hip joint.
Apart from physical exams and medical imaging tests, you may also be asked to undergo some blood tests to check for arthritis or the presence of infections.
So, how can we treat hip pain?
Living with hip pain can have a significant impact on your quality of life, so it is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible before it worsens down the road. The good news is that hip pain can be treated in various different ways, either with or without medical intervention. Based on your situation, we may recommend:
- Losing weight: Losing excess weight can help reduce the pressure and strain placed on the spine, giving you much-needed relief from hip and back pain.
- Quitting smoking: Since the chemicals in smoke exacerbate spinal disc degeneration as a result of reduced blood flow, quitting the habit can gradually restore normal flow and reduce your risk of acquiring herniated discs.
- Engaging in physical activity: Exercising regularly and engaging in low-impact sports such as swimming can strengthen your muscles and reduce the risk of disc damage. Avoid strenuous sports such as running, soccer, and volleyball as they may aggravate hip pain and strain.
- Physiotherapy: Physical therapy that targets the problem areas can help reduce the tension caused by muscular and spinal imbalance in the lower back area and hips, enabling you to perform your everyday activities pain-free.
- Injection therapies: Corticosteroid spinal injections can also be used as a temporary and immediate measure for pain relief. These injections work by reducing the degree of inflammation of the spinal nerve.
- Painkillers: NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and acetaminophen can also be taken as a temporary measure for pain relief. If the ache you experience is very intense, your doctor may prescribe you other alternative pain medications.
- Surgery: Although not a very common occurrence, some patients may need to undergo surgery to address the pain-causing source. This often tends to be the last resort if the condition still persists in spite of ongoing treatment.
Get your physical well-being back on track and call us today
Our busy, modern-day lives have made it easy to wave off problems such as hip pain but it is important not to take these symptoms for granted. Time is of the essence when it comes to conditions such as these hence it is vital that you seek medical advice at the first opportunity, regardless of how packed your schedule may be.
Your health and well-being are paramount so don’t let hip pain stop you from living your best life — call Canova Medical at 01625 529942 or book your consultation online today.
We are conveniently located at 36A Alderley Road, Wilmslow, SK9 1JX and we look forward to helping you get back in shape.