By: Dr. Beth Templin
As we age, we experience changes in our bodies. While some are due to the aging process itself, more often we experience these changes because of decreased physical activity in our every day lives. As far as our hips are concerned, pain is the biggest issue we see as we age. The cause of this discomfort is from the "wear and tear" we place on the joints over time. You can delay or lessen the impact of this "wear and tear" by keeping your joints healthy. The best way to do this is to maintain good strength and alignment of your hips.
The hip joint can move forward, backward, sideways and turn in and out. For each of these movements, there is a specific set of muscles in control of that movement. Strong, healthy hips require that the muscles that move the hips in opposite directions are equal and opposite to avoid pulling the hip out of proper alignment.
To understand this better, let's think about a car. When the car's alignment s off and it pulls to the right, this can effect your entire vehicle. You'll see accelerated tire wear, decreased fuel efficiency and will make the wheels work against each other. The same happens with the hips. When we have stronger and tighter muscles pulling harder than weak muscles, it pulls our hips out of alignment. When our hips do not track the way they should you'll start to experience pain and discomfort.
Consider this: For decades, you may have had a desk job and sat all day. As a result, the muscles in the front of our hips became stiff and shortened. On the flip side, the muscles in the back of our hips become overstretched and weak. This leads to an imbalance in the hips and results in a bent over posture when standing or walking.
We also have muscles that move our hip in toward our bodies and out away from our bodies. The muscles that pull our legs in toward the center of our body are bigger and stronger than the ones that hold our hip out. This can lead to further alignment issues in our hips. When these imbalances become too bad, we start to notice changes in the way someone walks, how they stand up from a chair and how they go up and down the stairs. Weak hips also lead to decreased balance and falls.
Besides arthritis issues in the hips, the most common hip issue seen in aging adults is a hip fracture after a fall. In some cases the hip bone has gotten so weak that the hip breaks, leading to a fall. The more common reason for falls are weak hip muscles and the inability to step quickly enough to catch yourself after a stumble.
To maintain happy hips as you age, you need to participate in regular stretching and strengthening activities to keep your hips in good alignment. You also need to perform weight bearing activities to build and maintain strong bones. Fortunately, it doesn't matter how "bad" your hips are, there is always something we can do to help them move and feel better.
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.