Pain, soreness and weakness in the hips can interfere with desired activity levels, particularly for men and women 65 years old and older. For active Americans trying to enjoy their retirement years, poor hip health simply isn’t part of the plan—but that doesn’t mean they’re destined to miss out on life’s many pursuits. The good news is that physical therapy can help seniors remain physically active by addressing small issues before they grow.
Many are surprised to learn that when it comes to hip pain, the answer is closer than they think. According to Harvard Medical School, strengthening the surrounding muscles—including the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings—can take some of the stress off of the hips. Learning to take care of our hips as we age means recognizing when a new pain or limitation arises, and making sure it’s addressed by a healthcare professional to avoid mobility loss and prevent surgery. The focus of Physical therapy has been changing to become more and holistic. Oftentimes, going for physical therapy becomes a cycle of getting better and then declining again. By looking at the body as a whole, a more dynamic approach to treatment is implemented. Addressing pain and weakness at the first sign of a problem is important at any age, but it’s particularly important for seniors as concerns including fall risk and bone loss increase as we age.
According to a recent study in The Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, hip weakness and poor hip motion can lead to other problems, including knee and back pain. To prevent pain from worsening or moving to other areas, make an appointment with a physical therapist who will assess and address mobility issues and associated pain with a customized treatment plan. When devising an exercise program, the physical therapist begins with an evaluation of the patient’s pain, functional ability, strength, balance and endurance. In addition, the PT will gather a thorough medical history and request a complete picture of the patient’s current activity level as well as goals for participating in additional recreational, sports or leisure activities. [A well rounded clinic can work not only on the hip but strengthen their whole body, as weakness on one part affects the general strength and function of the body.] While the main focus of therapy is to adequately address the hip pain and any surrounding weakness, under the supervision of a physical therapist, a controlled progressive approach to challenging their joints, bones and muscles is provided—to resume the level of activity they’re accustomed to. Upon discharge, the prescribed home exercise program is critical to maintaining good hip health and strength into the foreseeable future.