Nonsurgical Hip Dysplasia Treatment in Adults

Many nonsurgical treatments for adults with hip dysplasia focus on reducing inflammation or supporting joint health. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, often sold as a single dietary supplement, can be taken for joint health. Oral glucosamine comes from shellfish (although vegetarian options exist) and may help rebuild cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate is also a major component of cartilage. While both may reduce joint pain, there are conflicting reports about their effectiveness in treating osteoarthritis.

3-D rendering of inflamed hip
© iStockphoto/Sebastian Kaulitzki
Many noninvasive treatments for hip dysplasia aim toward reducing discomfort and pain.

Another alternative treatment is an anti-inflammatory diet, which may reduce inflammation. Ginger, garlic, turmeric and green tea can be added to the diet or taken as supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-inflammatory effects and can be found in fish and fish oil supplements, as well as in flaxseed, squash, collard greens, nuts, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. Certain foods in the nightshade family, on the other hand, can increase inflammation for people with joint problems. The most common edible nightshades are tomato, potato, eggplant and red pepper. Tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne and Tabasco sauce also contain nightshade alkaloids. A study to determine the efficacy of the anti-inflammatory diet, sponsored by the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, is currently underway [source: NIH].

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications come under the general heading of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Long-term, major use of NSAIDs can lead to gastrointestinal irritation or more serious intestinal and kidney conditions. While pain medication can help reduce the severity of symptoms, it does not halt the deterioration of the hip.

A doctor can also give steroid shots to reduce inflammation. The decrease in inflammation reduces the level of pain. The most common side effect is a condition called cortisone flare -- the injected cortisone crystallizes and becomes painful for a day or two. Some studies have shown that repeated use of cortisone can weaken tendons and soften cartilage, so a doctor may limit the number of injections. Many doctors consider cortisone injections to be a temporary solution on the path to surgery and may not recommend them.

There are also simple, physical steps a person can take to relive the pain associated with hip dysplasia:

  • Ice numbs the area and can help reduce inflammation. Do not leave ice on any location for longer than fifteen minutes.
  • Regular, low- or non-impact exercise such as swimming, aquatic therapy or cycling can encourage strength and range of motion. Strong muscles will act like shock absorbers and provide greater support for the hip. If you're starting an exercise program, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or physical therapist.
  • Yoga strengthens and stretches muscles and improves overall muscular health. The psychological benefits can also improve a person's well-being when coming to terms with the disability of hip dysplasia, which often presents itself at a relatively young age. However, it's important to choose a method that focuses on slow movement and optimal physical alignment, such as the Anusara or Iyengar methods. Hatha, gentle or basics classes are generally good for beginners. Avoid Vinyasa, Power Yoga and Hot Yoga, (unless you're experienced and able to modify poses to support the hip), as these classes will emphasize a faster pace with less focus on individual alignment.
  • The hip joint deals with three times the amount of force relative to body weight. For example, in someone weighing 150 pounds (68 kilograms), the hip will deal with 450 pounds (204 kilograms) of force. Weight loss for those who are overweight can significantly reduce the stress on the hip joint, since a 5-pound (2.3-kilogram) loss would result in 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) less force on the joint [source: Klapper and Huey]. Any weight loss program undertaken to support the hip should be with the supervision of a doctor or specialist.
  • Physical therapy, massage and bodywork can all help to increase muscular strength and flexibility in and around the joint and reduce joint pain. Regular physical therapy can strengthen individual muscles and teach the body how to better align itself, while massage and bodywork can increase range of motion and reduce pain by releasing muscles in spasm.

In adults, nonsurgical intervention can be useful for pain management when the joint hasn't deteriorated to a point that surgery is necessary. However, it's important not to prolong the waiting time beyond the point when the cartilage can support surgical procedures. Now, we'll take a look at those procedures.