Hips Archive


Does running cause arthritis?

It's easy to blame running when a person who runs regularly develops arthritis. But that blame may be misguided. Here's a look at the latest research on the topic.

Seeing a surgeon?

A pre-surgery consultation with the surgeon can feel overwhelming. Many people are anxious and have questions about what's to come. Setting the right expectations on both sides can ease anxiety and help define a successful outcome.

Vegetarian diet linked to more hip fractures in women

A 2022 study found that women ages 35 to 69 who ate vegetarian diets were significantly more likely to break a hip than peers who ate fish or meat. Vegetarians need to be sure they get adequate amounts of dietary protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other micronutrients to maintain bone health.

The best types of exercise when you have hip or knee pain

Non-weight-bearing exercise takes the burden off the hips and knees and makes it easier for people with joint pain to exercise. Exercise machines that are gentle on the joints include an elliptical trainer, a stationary bike, and a rowing machine. Low-impact exercises can also provide a good cardio workout and muscle strengthening without stressing the joints. Examples include pool exercises, tai chi, and short walks at a brisk pace.

Questions to ask before getting a hip replacement

Bring this article to your doctor appointment.

You've run out of options for hip pain and you're facing a possible hip replacement (see "Anatomy of a hip replacement"). Once your doctor has determined that you're a good candidate for surgery — based on your medical history, images of your hip, steps you've taken to reduce pain (such as weight loss and low-impact exercise programs), and how pain has affected your daily function — you'll need to ask lots of questions.

"This is not a time to be shy. Be aggressive and get answers. The doctor expects that," says Dr. Scott Martin, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and medical editor of the Harvard Medical School Guide Total Hip Replacement.

Self-care for bursitis

These painful flare-ups can occur suddenly and for no apparent reason. Here's what you can do about them.

Have you ever woken up with a mysterious egg-shaped swelling on your elbow or knee and have no clue what caused it? There is a good chance you have bursitis.

"Bursitis is definitely more common as you get older and just comes with the territory of living a longer and more active life," says Dr. Robert Shmerling, senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing and Corresponding Member of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Medication may lower future hip fracture risk

In the journals

If you are ever hospitalized for a hip fracture, using an anti-osteoporosis medication may protect you from another bone fracture. A study in the September 2020 issue of Bone examined data on almost 78,000 people ages 50 and older hospitalized with hip fractures. About 10,000 were given anti-osteoporosis medication — usually alendronate (Fosamax) — within one year.

People who began treatment 15 to 84 days after their fracture were less likely to be hospitalized for another kind of fracture in the future compared with people who began treatment later. Those who first took medication after 252 days had the highest risk. The researchers were not able to measure the participants' bone density, so it's possible some people had especially strong or weak bones, which may have influenced the outcome.

Hip Replacement: Is the timing right?

Age is an important factor in deciding when to go ahead with a hip replacement because artificial hip implants have limited life spans. You can only put a certain number of miles on your new hip before it wears out. If you are overweight or very physically active, your new joint may wear out faster.

Given the average life span for Americans, many of the older adults who get a new hip in their 60s or 70s may never need to have it replaced.

Think that hip pain is bursitis? Think again.

Pain on the side of your hip is more likely from tendinitis, tight muscles, or another condition.

 Image: © Jan-Otto/Getty Images

Hip bursitis — an inflammation between your thighbone and nearby tendons — is commonly diagnosed when patients have pain on the outer side of the hip. However, several other conditions can cause similar pain, and require different treatments. "Doctors often assume that pain on the outer side of the hip is due to bursitis. But 90% of the time, it's not bursitis," says Dr. Lauren Elson, a physiatrist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

What's causing the pain?

Dr. Elson says pain in the side of your hip most often results from one of the following conditions:

Where to turn for pain relief - acetaminophen or NSAIDs?

The first line of treatment for many knee and hip problems includes taking over-the-counter pain medications. Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen are the most common pain medication options. However, these pain medications have a variety of side effects, so it's important to discuss your personal health risks with your doctor when considering long-term use for chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol and other brands) is usually effective for mild pain and is easy on the stomach. However, it is toxic to the liver at high doses. The recommended maximum per day is generally set at 4 grams (4,000 milligrams), which is the equivalent of eight extra-strength Tylenol tablets. But that dosage can still cause liver problems for some people. To be safe, aim for 3,000 milligrams or less, and be cautious of mixing multiple products containing acetaminophen, such as a pain reliever and a cold medication or a prescribed narcotic.

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