Acupuncture for Hip Pain

Acupuncture for Hip Pain

            Hip pain is a common condition treated in most acupuncture practices, especially since the prevalence within the general population is 10% and only increases with age. There are many aspects of hip pain that can benefit from the treatment of acupuncture that western medicine has yet to fix completely. Many patients flock to acupuncture to get the pain relief that they have been chasing, and it has proven to be a helpful modality amongst many patients across the country.

Hip Pain in Western Medicine

            The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that is held together by muscles, and secured by bones and tendons. While there can be pain in other areas of the body which radiate to the hip, and depending on the condition causing the hip pain, there are several areas that are common places of discomfort in those with hip pain.

Symptoms of Hip Pain:

  • Groin

  • Inside the hip joint

  • Outside the hip joint

  • Thigh

  • Buttocks
Along with the pain can come a decrease in range of motion that may worsen with activity or maintaining a sedentary lifestyle depending on why the patient has hip pain. As stated, there is no one-size-fits-all cause to hip pain, and it can be from a variety of causes.

Common Causes of Hip Pain:

  • Hip Bursitis (outer hip) – inflammation of the hip bursae

  • Hip Tendonitis – trauma to the connective tissues in the hip joint

  • Hip Muscle Strain – the muscles that make up the hip joint gets stretched past the range of motion causing swelling and pain.

  • Hip Arthritis Pain/Osteoarthritis of the Hip – pain in the hip joint can occur from wear and tear over a long period of time leading to a breakdown in the cartilage surrounding the hip joint and inflammation in the joint.

  • Sciatica in the Hip – compression of the sciatic nerve causing pain travelling to the hip.

  • Hip Dysplasia – this can be something a patient is born with when the socket of the joint doesn’t fit around the ball of the joint causing instability, dislocation, pain in the hip & groin, damage to the cartilage, and increased risk of osteoarthritis of the hip.

  • Piriformis Syndrome – tight muscles in the buttock compressing the sciatic nerve causing pain & numbness.

  • Hip Fracture – more common amongst the older population, causing pain in the lower back, groin, and down the leg and knee.

  • Sacroiliac Joint Pain – these joints connect the hip bones to the tailbone and lower spine. Too much or too little movement can cause decreased range of motion and pain across the hips and lower back.
These are just some of the more common possible causes for hip pain, and western medicine doctors can do various tests to determine the exact cause including MRI, X-Rays, CT Scans, and blood tests. Hip pain can affect people at any age, however, it can be difficult, even with these tests, to determine the exact root cause of the issue because there are so many different possible causes. Being that acupuncturists usually take a deeper dive into not only the quality, location, and when the pain occurs, but also overall health habits, it is easy to see why eastern medicine has a way of getting to the root issue of hip pain.

Hip Pain & Acupuncture

            Acupuncture works for the treatment of hip pain by releasing tight muscles to encourage blood circulation and oxygen throughout the hip muscles and joints. Acupuncture can treat various types of hip pain including arthritis, sciatica, and bursitis to name a few.

Acupuncture Treatment/TCM Theory on Hip Conditions:

  • Hip Arthritis – stagnation of Blood and Qi causing stiffness and pain of the joints and muscles. Pathogenic factors are Heat, Cold, and Wind, and imbalances in the gallbladder, stomach, spleen, and kidneys can also contribute to hip arthritis (bi syndrome hip pain).

  • Hip Sciatica – obstructions in the flow of Qi through the gallbladder and bladder meridians. Acupuncture treatment will decrease inflammation in the surrounding tissues allowing for the nerves to heal.

  • Hip Bursitis – a beneficial treatment option would be using local points surrounding the stomach meridian (surround the dragon), using the kidney meridian to enhance results.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine the root issue of hip pain because there is often referred pain in the pelvis and groin region involving limited range of motion and stiffness along with the pain. It is beneficial for the acupuncture provider to test hip flexion in which many imbalances can be found involving hip pain.

Hip Pain Imbalances:

  • Liver Qi Stagnation, Liver Yin Deficiency, & Liver Blood Deficiency – imbalances in the Liver can result in dysfunction in the Gall Bladder meridian which can increase chances of hip degeneration and inflammation.

    • Helpful points – GB34 on the affected side (influential of the tendons), LV3 on the opposite side (supports Liver function)

  • Kidney Deficiency – common with hip pain, however treating this alone isn’t commonly done or as effective for hip pain, especially arthritis.

  • Bi Syndrome – also a common diagnosis in regards to hip pain. Pairing this diagnosis with an herbal prescription is especially helpful.
Although there are many point patterns that can be used depending on the patients presenting TCM pattern, there are many points that are helpful in most hip pain conditions.

Acupuncture Points for Hip Pain:

  • GB29 – Ju Liao

  • GB30 – Huan Tiao

  • GB31 – Feng Shi

  • GB34 – Yang Ling Quan

  • GB37 – Guang Ming

  • GB40 – Qiu Xu

  • GB44 – Zu Qiao Qin

  • BL40 – Wei Zhong

  • BL57 – Cheng Shan
Ultimately, the goal in acupuncture treatment for the hip, as with most pain conditions, is to increase the blood flow to the affected area, and reduce pain and/or swelling in the joint. Between local and distal acupuncture points, and internal organ imbalances, TCM diagnosis and treatments are able to get to the root issue of a patient’s hip pain.

Acupuncture & Hip Pain

            Hip pain is a common condition especially in those over 45. According to a report from the CDC, the number of total hip replacements tripled for patients in the 55 – 64 age group from 2000 – 2010. Additionally, hip procedures in general increased 205 percent for patients in the 45 – 54 age group. Modalities like acupuncture could be the key in intervening to reduce the number of patients needing hip surgery, and equally as important, before patients in their 20’s and 30’s will need hip surgery. With acupuncture treatment, decreasing these numbers could be possible and necessary.
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