The hip is a ball and socket joint that contains the femoral head (the ball) and the acetabulum (the socket). Like other joints, both the femoral head and the acetabulum are covered in cartilage, a slippery material that helps your bones move without pain. The acetabulum is surrounded by a thick ring of strong fibrocartilage called the labrum. The labrum works like a gasket to help give strength and stability at the edges of the joint.
In addition to the femoral head, the acetabulum, and the labrum, the hip joint is surrounded by a number of ligaments, muscles, and structures that give the joint motion and provide stability. These includes the iliopsoas muscle and tendon, the iliotibial (IT) band, the gluteus medius muscle, and a number of bursas (fluid filled sacs) around the hip that help lubricate moving parts. All of these structures work together to provide motion that allows us to walk, run, and jump, while keeping the hip stable and preventing further injury.
Damage, tears, and wear to any of the structures in the hip can cause pain and weakness. Injury to a muscle or tendon called a “strain” or “tendonitis.” Injury to a ligament is called a “sprain.” Common injuries around the hip include iliopsoas tendonitis, gluteus medius tendonitis, greater trochanteric bursitis, and labral tears. Most of the time these injuries respond very well to rest, stretching, and strengthening exercises with anti-inflammatory medications used sparingly to treat pain.
Rehabilitation plays a vital role in returning you to normal activities. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy exercises before and after surgery to help you regain hip strength and motion, allowing you to return to activities quickly. These protocols can vary depending on the type of injury you have. In addition, daily stretching at home is very important for decreasing the pain associated with tendonitis and other activity-related injuries. Your commitment to rehabilitation is key to a successful outcome.