Hip and knee pain is a condition that affects most people, especially as they age. Most of us get it off and on at some stage. Surprisingly, pain is an interesting phenomenon, as it is a perception of discomfort in our brains. If harm is being caused to our body, a signal is sent by the nerves to the brain, which perceives it as pain, and a protective response is evoked. While there are many reasons for hip and knee pain, let's first see what happens in the case of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. In simple terms, it's age-related wear and tear. As we grow old most of us will get osteoarthritis. However, osteoarthritis of the hip is less common in Indians. The reason is probably our traditional squatting and cross-legged sitting habits, those Indians who have Caucasian roots do get primary hip osteoarthritis. On the contrary, Indians more commonly suffer from knee osteoarthritis because our legs are slightly bowed.
Osteoarthritis occurs due to wear and tear as well as injury when a joint's cartilage tissue is worn out. This is usually seen in patients of the age group of 50-60 years and onwards. This condition progresses slowly with time and does not happen at a rapid pace. Hence, if we take proper care of our joints through simple lifestyle modifications like weight control, joint-friendly exercises, a healthy diet, and certain supplements, then arthritis will not progress much or cause other complications.
In some cases, hip and knee pain can also be because of gout. Gout is a common and complex form of arthritis caused by uric acid crystals which is a protein breakdown product in the body, cleared by the kidneys. Those with kidney disease, having a diet with excessive meat intake, alcohol issues, overweight people, and other chronic diseases are at higher risk of gout. It's straightforward to recognize and treat gout through simple ways like reducing the consumption of meat and alcohol can have instant results. In addition, medications are also prescribed to control uric acid in kidney patients and those who don't respond to dietary restrictions. Reducing weight and normalizing cholesterol levels always help prevent the condition in the patient.
There are several other reasons for arthritis. Some common ones are rheumatoid and infective arthritis which can be treated with specific medications, although surgery might sometimes be needed. In typical situations, surgery is offered when the joint wears out entirely, and pain control becomes difficult. Also, hip and knee replacements are highly successful and excellent operations that can provide pain relief and enable people to perform their everyday tasks efficiently. Other lesser-known forms of arthritis are SLE, ankylosing spondylitis, autoimmune disease-related, and viral arthritis.
The basic approach for hip pain will always remain the same. The patient needs to understand that self-medication will not help them or provide relief but will worsen their condition. Therefore, they should consult a good doctor and seek medical guidance early in the disease, as they will have multiple options to improve their joint mobility and reverse arthritis.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, certain medications used to treat the virus could cause AVN or avascular necrosis in hip joints. The hip joints get damaged and arthritic because of damaged blood supply. If these are untreated or missed, it can lead to severe arthritis. Hence, anyone with signs and symptoms related to hip pain after suffering from COVID-19 should consult a specialist immediately.
In addition, hip pain can not only cause arthritis but also lead to diseases like appendicitis, ovarian cysts, and ectopic pregnancy. Further, a hernia in the groin, especially in women, can cause hip pain. Therefore, hoping that the pain will eventually disappear is never a good idea, and it is best to reach out to a specialist for proper solutions. Similarly, knee pain can also arise because of other conditions.
Dr. Sachin Bhonsle, Orthopedic Surgeon
Fortis Hospital Mulund