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Hip pain syndrome can be a serious condition!

10 August 2018

It’s the height of summer and adults are running around after their children and grandchildren, or enjoying a stroll along the seafront. Do you wish you were one of them? If hip pain is holding you back, a new medical procedure can help.

If you are suffering with a deep pain in your outer hip and struggling to sleep on your side at night, you may have what is known as lateral hip pain syndrome. It is more common in women, especially those aged over 40. It particularly affects people who have had long-term back pain or weak knees and ankles. The tendons in the hip may have been damaged and the pain may cause you to walk with a limp. Until now, there was no known cure. Traditionally, GPs may prescribe a steroid and local anaesthetic injection for bursitis (the medical name for the syndrome) and advise you to rest. This can work for some people, but if there is a problem with the actual tendon underneath, it may only provide temporary relief.

“The problem is the first injection will work really well but the effect will eventually wear off. The second injection won’t work quite so well, and the third one will barely make a difference,” says Mr Phil Stott, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Montefiore Hospital. “If not treated, the tendon can eventually tear or snap. If this happens, the pain will get better but suddenly you can’t walk properly and eventually this will lead to more back pain. Being able to sleep on your side is virtually impossible - I have seen this condition put a strain on relationships as couples can no longer share a bed.”

With his 23 years’ experience in orthopaedic surgery, Mr Stott has developed a new procedure to help repair the tendon. A donor Achilles’ heel tendon is weaved into the old hip tendon - a procedure similar to ligament reconstruction for knees. In the past, this operation was done using pig heart instead of donor Achilles’ tendon, but it had a 50% failure rate, with patients not being able to put weight on their feet for at least three months. There has not been a failure of the new procedure since it was developed five years ago. Also, patients can put some weight on their feet immediately and can be full weight bearing after six weeks with rehabilitation and physio.
“By the time they come to have an operation, people are often in a lot of pain and are desperate,” says Mr Stott. “This condition is better to catch early before the tendon snaps. If that happens, the muscles begin to give up and it is harder to repair. The person could end up always walking with a stick.”

If you suffer with outer hip pain:

  • Make an appointment with your doctor who may prescribe a steroid injection, or severe conditions may be referred to a specialist. Physiotherapy is usually the first line of treatment.
  • If you are a smoker – stop! Evidence has shown that giving up smoking can reduce and even cure the symptoms of this type of hip pain if the tendon hasn’t snapped.
  • Avoid taking Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen long term, as these can stop the tendon from healing. Try aspirin instead, with advice from your GP.

First published in Brighton and Hove Independent on 28 August 2018.

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