As we age our bodies change. This can affect a number of our healthy systems and can lead to long-term issues. Weight gain and hormonal changes can affect our overall health as well as some common conditions related to aging. We can mitigate some of the effects of the natural aging process by maintaining a healthy diet and committing to regular exercise. However, hip pain continues to be a major health challenge, especially for older adults in the United States. A hip replacement can help with hip pain in some cases, but only after other less-invasive pain management options have been tried.

What causes hip pain?

Approximately 15% of people over the age of 65 report hip pain. The pain can be the result of:

  • A fracture
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Bursitis
  • Lack of blood flow
  • A fall or other injury to the hip

This video gives a brief overview of hip pain and its major causes.

For individuals over the age of 65, hip pain is most likely to be caused by osteoporosis or osteoarthritis. Let’s take a closer look at these common causes of hip pain in the elderly.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a chronic condition that causes the bones to become weak and brittle. With severe cases of the disease, simple and natural ranges of motion can cause a break in the bone. These fractures are most likely to occur in the spine, wrist, or hip. Our bones, just like the rest of the living tissues in our body, regenerate throughout our lives. As we age, our bodies no longer produce all of the natural building blocks for healthy bones. This is why maintaining a calcium-rich diet is important for the health of our skeleton. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation 54 million people in the United States are living with or at high risk for osteoporosis and it causes many of the cases of hip pain in the elderly. Post-menopausal women are at the highest risk with Caucasian and Asian women leading the statistics for the U.S.

Early bone loss has no notable symptoms, which is why prevention is more important than early detection of the disease. As the condition progresses, patients can develop back pain, loss of height due to spinal compression, a hunched over posture, and increased risk of fractures of the bone. It is important to note that often patients can have osteoporosis without any symptoms and may not know about the condition until they experience a fall or other injury that results in a break.

When osteoporosis affects the hip, it can cause a great strain on a person’s ability to walk. This can be exacerbated by being overweight or having other chronic pain conditions that affect other areas of the body.

Treating osteoporosis

While hip replacement surgery may be necessary in the final or chronic stages of this condition, there are better ways to treat it earlier.

The best way to treat or avoid osteoporosis all together is to maintain a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Regular exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle will help older adults avoid the negative results of osteoporosis long-term.

Some women may be able to mitigate the effects of osteoporosis with hormone therapy. There are also several medications on the market that can help reduce or eliminate the risk of osteoporosis. Talk with your pain doctor about a bone density test to determine if you’re at risk for osteoporosis and what treatments can work best for you.

What is hip osteoarthritis?

There are many forms of arthritis—a condition that causes inflamma