When lateral hip pain becomes chronic, it can be difficult to get over it without help. Rest alone many times will not be enough because there may be changes in the tendon structure, such as collagen disorganization, increased vascularity, and alterations in the extracellular matrix, all of which inhibit the body’s ability to heal itself properly5,6. Although muscle weakness is the underlying cause, it is many times very difficult to start a strengthening program when the muscle tissue is in an unhealthy and weakened state, and any kind of exercise is painful.
So how can the vicious cycle of pain and weakness be broken? This is when physical therapy is needed. Deep tissue massage and dry needling (dry needling is the use of acupuncture needles to thread into the impaired tissue and generate a healing response) can be very effective in cleaning out unhealthy tissue and facilitating fibroblast proliferation and the regeneration of a new and vibrant collagen matrix7,8. Once this process starts to happen and pain is well controlled, then the application of a graded progressive exercise program9 to properly load the tissue will rebuild the integrity and strength that the gluteal muscles need in order to be fully rehabilitated. Also if there are structural issues at the knee, ankle or foot, they need to be addressed with hands-on therapy, proper footwear, orthotics, and specific exercises.
Many times in chronic cases of lateral hip pain, the lower back has become involved as well due to altered standing and walking mechanics. Osteopractic physical therapy can also address the lower back issues with spinal manipulation, massage, and dry needling. Although spinal manipulation is traditionally thought of as done exclusively by chiropractors, osteopractic physical therapists and osteopathic physicians are also trained in this technique.
If you are having persisting lateral hip pain despite trying the self help ideas listed above, fear not - Dr. Anna Staehli Wiser is here to help!