Is Your Hip Causing More than Just Pain?

July 01, 2018

Many people experience joint pain. Of those that experience joint pain a large number experience pain in their hips. Hip pain can be caused by a number of structures. Labral tears, cartilage lesions and capsular instability are a few of these causes.

The hips play a vital role in gait and lower extremity stability. When pain in the hips becomes chronic, function is compromised. As physical therapists, restoring function is our primary goal. In cases of chronic hip pain, one of the reasons for loss of function is weakness. A recent study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy showed that weakness is a byproduct of chronic hip pain. In this study, researchers looked at the strength of 3 primary hip muscles – gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and tensor fascia latae (TFL). Researchers compared women with chronic hip pain to women without hip pain. The results demonstrated a significant strength difference between the group with hip pain versus the group without. As suspected, the group with pain had less strength.

This reduction in strength may be attributed to pain that caused the tested muscles to not be able to contract as forcefully. Other factors could be an alteration of neuromuscular activation or a change in the structural properties of the muscles of the hip.

Weakness of the hip musculature, regardless of the cause, can result in an abnormal gait pattern. Walking with a gait deviation can cause pain to develop in other areas such as the knee and lower back. In fact, patients frequently come to physical therapy with complaints of back and knee pain that is due to hip weakness, not an actual pathology in the area of their chief complaint (i.e.: back or knee).

Fortunately, strengthening the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and tensor fascia latae (TFL) can help eliminate gait deviation and promote better joint stability. Better still, the exercises that are prescribed are very straightforward and easy to perform.

Are you experiencing hip, back or knee pain? If so, one of our physical therapists can evaluate the area to determine the root cause of pain and develop a plan to reduce that pain and improve your function. The sooner, the better. Seeking care before the symptoms become chronic might help prevent the development of weakness in the first place.


Hip Abductor Muscle Volume and Strength Differences Between Women With Chronic Hip Joint Pain and Asymptomatic Controls. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017 Dec;47(12):923-930. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.7380. Epub 2017 Oct 9.



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