Hip pain can become a more noticeable problem as we age. The pain can be the result of several factors. It can be due to hip bursitis or arthritis, or it could also be the result of an "out-of-balance" body structure.
Exercise students who have hip pain seem to have it whether or not they exercise. Sometimes, the pain gets worse when sitting for long periods of time, and it can be especially painful getting out of a chair.
If you are really into exercise, a person who seldom misses a day of sweat, you will have more of a chance to end up with a hip bursitis problem. Hip bursa sacs are filled with a protein-rich synovial fluid that lubricates and separates two moving parts within the hip joint. When you overdo your impact moves in exercise, as in a longer run or an increase in the range of motion of your hip, you may cause irritation, which can increase the amount of fluid in the bursa sac and cause it to swell; thus, the pressure, pain and the loss of range of motion.
The pain will be in the bursa area between the ilioitibial band and the greater trochanter of the femur. That's about 4 inches down from the top of your hip on the outside.
If you have one longer leg - one higher hip - or you are generally out of balance structurally, you will put more pressure on one hip than another, and it will be in that hip that you will feel pain. Manually shifting gears in a car puts a strain on one hip continuously, a heavy purse slung over a shoulder, constantly carrying kids on the same hip, or groceries balanced on the same hip - all of these factors can cause low-grade hip pain.
Hip pain from arthritis is not classified as an overuse injury. It is a progressive degeneration of the hip joint structure and needs to be treated differently. Maintenance of joint flexibility and moderate types of movement will sometimes help relieve the pain of hip arthritis. Slow your movements, do low-impact moves, and concentrate on range of motion. Do your exercise in a chair if that relieves the pressure on the hip joint. Talk to your doctor about medication and heat application.
A doctor's advice on how to handle hip pain is important before it becomes acute, whether you have the low-grade chronic type or the sharp pain of hip bursitis. A change of movement or a change in structural distribution may be all you need to relieve your pain.
• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the senior center.