Q:Since the start of work from home and being more sedentary than my usual routine, I noticed some new pains in my hip area. Do you think this could be related to sitting for more hours of the day? What are some things I can do to alleviate the pain? When would it be time to speak with my doctor?
Just like Otis Redding who was “sittin‘ on the dock of the bay, watchin‘ the tide roll away,” many of us are sitting way too many hours of the day due to working at home during the pandemic.
I have seen many patients who tell me that they no longer have the same exercise routine as gyms are closed, and they don’t have the motivation to move as much when they are stuck in front of a screen during a Zoom meeting.
With a more sedentary lifestyle, various orthopedic complaints of all kinds, including hip pain, start to appear.
Stiffness in your hips after prolonged sitting is not a reflection of getting old. Often this discomfort is due to your hips and legs being in the same position for an extended period of time. You can start to lose strength in your hips after months of sitting for hours on end, and poor posture while sitting may further exacerbate this discomfort.
Hip pain can be caused by a number of different conditions, and if not getting better within a couple weeks of conservative therapies, it is important to see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis. If you have arthritis of the hip, the joint is inflamed and can definitely be worsened by sitting too long and inactivity in general.
Osteoarthritis is the breakdown of cartilage in the hip joint that comes with normal wear and tear. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is the body’s own immune system attacking the tissues in the joints themselves.
Another painful hip condition is bursitis, which is inflammation of the fluid filled sac between the bones of the hip joint whose function is to reduce friction during movement. Muscle strains and sprains and hip impingement are all conditions that can result in hip pain when sitting too long and need a doctor to give you the right diagnosis and treatment plan.
You can do a few things to alleviate the pain before seeing a doctor, including moving more, stretching, applying ice and heat to the affected areas, and trying over-the-counter pain relievers for a short period of time to see if this solves the problem.
The best thing is to take frequent breaks from your sitting position and walk around. Consider getting a stand-up desk, and don’t forget about wearing good shoes with support and cushion in them.
If your hip pain does not improve with some of these methods, see your doctor to find out the source of the pain and get the right treatment plan. The doctor will examine you, and may do X-rays or other imaging, and consider bloodwork as well.
Depending on the cause of the pain, medication and/or physical therapy can often help. Red flags to see your doctor sooner would be severe incapacitating pain, numbness, tingling, leg weakness or fevers.
While Otis was “sittin‘ in the morning sun” and still “sittin‘ when the evenin‘ comes”, this is a set-up for chronic hip pain. Otis needs to walk up and down that dock and get his blood flowing and stretch his hamstrings. But I guess that would be a totally different song.
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