To better understand hip problems, it may be helpful to know how the hip works. It is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body. The thighbone (femur) fits tightly into a cup-shaped socket (acetabulum) in the pelvis. The hip joint is tighter and more stable than the shoulder joint but it does not move as freely. The hip joint is held together by muscles in the buttocks, groin, and spine; tendons; ligaments; and a joint capsule. Several fluid-filled sacs (bursae) cushion and lubricate the hip joint and let the tendons and muscles glide and move smoothly. The largest nerve in the body (sciatic nerve) passes through the pelvis into the leg.
Limping is the body’s way of compensating for pain in the hip by trying to minimize the amount of weight the hip has to support while walking. When limping occurs, abnormal stresses are placed on other joints including the back, knees, and ankles.
For those individuals that are older, it is important to minimize the risk of falling and breaking a hip and sustaining other injuries related to a fall. Preventive measures include wearing personally sized arch supports and quality footwear, using a cane or walker for stability if needed, and making certain that walking areas are free of clutter. For individuals of all ages, it is important to maintain good strength, flexibility, and posture throughout life to allow the hip to move and function normally.