Hip pain can range from mildly inconvenient to completely debilitating. It often occurs gradually, however, so it’s possible to address the issue before pain becomes unbearable. Many conventional treatments for hip pain can alleviate symptoms but fail to address the underlying cause. After trying several treatment options with no relief many turn to a total hip replacement surgery in an attempt to find relief. Though surgery may seem like the only option, there are alternative treatments worth looking into on the market. Read on to learn more about these treatments, called regenerative medicine, and how they can help treat the underlying cause of discomfort.
Causes of Hip Pain and Diagnosis
Due to its frequent use, the hip joint can be prone to injuries. Pain often occurs when parts of the joint become misaligned or displaced. Previous injury, misuse, and frequent use can all contribute to hip problems later in life.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, where the head of the femur (thigh bone) fits into a pocket in the pelvis called the acetabulum. Articular cartilage exists between the two bones to prevent them from rubbing against one another, which can cause pain and long-term damage. This cartilage also allows the joint to glide smoothly, allowing for a wide range of motion.
Activities such as running, sitting, and lifting can all contribute to hip pain, among many others. Certain professions that involve heavy use of the hips may result in long-term damage. Another common cause of hip pain is from a previous traumatic injury such as a car accident or fall. Long-term damage can also occur due to deformities in the bones or muscles which may be genetic or a result of years of misuse.
Once pain becomes unmanageable or begins to interfere with daily life, consult a medical professional. There are many conditions that may be causing hip pain. The diagnosis process often involves a physical examination, gathering information, and diagnostic tests. Some of these tests may include an MRI, X-Ray, or CT scan, for example.
Treatment begins once a diagnosis has been made. Patients may need to undergo more than one diagnostic test to determine the root cause of symptoms.
Formulating a treatment plan varies from patient to patient. Some factors that may influence the treatment of hip pain include smoking status, diabetes, athletic level, financial limitations, and many more. The plan also varies based on the underlying cause of pain. Many doctors take an approach that begins with minimally invasive techniques and increase the intensity if initial treatment does not alleviate symptoms. Some of these treatments include:
- Pain Relief: taking over-the-counter pain drugs such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen can relieve discomfort. Severe pain may be addressed with prescription pain medication, but patients should be aware of the risks before taking them.
- Ice: applying ice to an injured hip can reduce swelling and in turn alleviate symptoms.
- Rest: resting an injury can allow damaged tissue to heal and reduce swelling.
- Physical Therapy: exercising the muscles around the hip can significantly reduce symptoms. Doing so provides support to the joint. Physical therapy also seeks to restore mobility and independence.
- Corticosteroid Injections: injecting a concentrated solution of synthetic cortisol to a joint can relieve pain by reducing inflammation. These shots can cause long-term damage to soft tissue, so they should be closely monitored.
- Surgery: there are many different surgeries that may alleviate symptoms without resorting to a total hip replacement. Some operations reshape structures like bone to avoid further complications and alleviate pain. Arthroscopy is a common surgery for hip conditions. Using only a small incision, surgeons insert a tiny camera and tools into the injury site. This allows surgery to be performed in a minimally invasive way, but the recovery time can still last months depending on what was accomplished.
Patients often undergo these treatments or others before even considering a total hip replacement. Some hesitation may occur because patients don’t want to experience surgery more than once. When conventional treatment fails to relieve symptoms, patients may turn to different options.
The practice of regenerative medicine has gained traction recently as a means of treating injuries as well as preventing future injuries from occurring. The concept of these treatments is to take a patient’s own cells which contain healing properties, enhance them, and inject them back into an injury site. There are two types of regenerative medicine offered at CELLAXYS:
- Stem Cell Therapy: these cells are the building blocks of the body. A stem cell has the ability to become any type of nearby cell, and is capable of regenerating damaged tissue. The body naturally contains stem cells in areas where an injury or damage has occurred. Increasing the amount of these cells can allow healing to happen more quickly.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy: platelets are cells that the body uses to form blood clots and heal damage. There are growth factors and proteins in platelets that can call out to other cells and send them to the troubling location. These cells are also known to reduce inflammation and therefore pain.
Both forms of therapy begin with taking a sample of the cells. Stem cells are extracted from bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissue. The cells are then concentrated and activated, then returned to the patient in the form of an injection. Trained medical professionals then use imaging technology such as ultrasound or X-Rays to accurately determine the problem area.
PRP therapy begins with a simple blood draw. The blood sample is then placed in a centrifuge to separate the platelets from other components in the blood. Once the platelets are more concentrated, they are injected into a problem area. Like stem cell therapy, doctors use imaging technology to determine the location of the injection.
These are outpatient treatments which typically take under two hours to complete. The most common side effect is pain at the injection site, which usually goes away in a matter of days. Some patients opt to receive anesthesia at the injection site to prevent this.
Results may become apparent in a matter of days and sometimes as quickly as a couple of hours. Treatments sometimes involve more than one injection over time – this will be determined during a preliminary medical evaluation.
Benefits of Regenerative Therapy
Regenerative medicine is unique as a treatment in many ways. PRP or stem cell injections offer benefits for patients who are considering surgery, and it offers relief for patients who have already undergone surgery.
For those suffering from hip pain, regenerative therapy may be a good option to try before deciding to go under the knife. In some cases, patients who have used these injections no longer need surgery, as the injury finally begins to heal and pain is reduced. Lower pain levels can make physical therapy easier, as well as restore independence to daily life.
Patients who have already had a total hip replacement surgery can benefit, too – these treatments can help speed up the total recovery process while making it more comfortable. Total hip replacement is a major surgery, and recovery can take months up to a year. Many individuals have jobs or families that make it difficult to rehabilitate post-operation.
Once a patient is faced with total hip replacement, it is likely that they have tried other surgeries as well. Many individuals seek to have as little surgery as possible, so they begin to explore other options.
The ability to walk without pain is something many of us take for granted. Once hip pain begins, it can hinder a significant amount of day-to-day activities. Finding a treatment that works can be a tiring trial-and-error process. When pain persists beyond initial treatment, the options become more involved. The final stop in conventional treatment is the total hip replacement surgery, a major surgery with a long recovery time. Many patients experience benefits from the surgery but sometimes corrective surgery is needed. There is another option, however, found in regenerative medicine. Considering all of the treatment options available may be a good way to avoid surgery altogether.