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What Is Hip Instability?

Your hip is a deep ball-and-socket joint where your thigh bone fits securely into your pelvis. When you have hip instability, your thigh bone may feel like it doesn’t fit into the hip socket securely. Instead, it may shift or feel painful when you move.

You may have hip instability because the socket in your hip joint is naturally shallow. Or, you may have a condition or injury that leads to instability. You may also develop hip instability because your tissues didn’t heal well after hip surgery. Anyone can get hip instability, but it’s slightly more common in females.

Why Choose University of Utah Health for Hip Instability Treatment?

At U of U Health, our team in the Hip Preservation Program is among the most experienced in the nation and the most experienced in the Mountain West region by surgery volume. When you choose us for your care, you are coming to the only team in the region that specializes solely in hip injuries. We have the most comprehensive orthopedic team, including orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, and other subspecialists.

We have a dedicated radiology team with extra training in evaluating musculoskeletal conditions. This is a rare specialization for radiologists, and we are the only ones in the region with these specialty-trained clinicians. Our orthopedic specialists are active researchers who publish papers, offer clinical trials, and teach medical students and other physicians-in-training. We can offer eligible patients the most advanced, promising treatments through clinical trials unavailable elsewhere in the region.

Hip Instability Symptoms

The most common symptom of hip instability is pain around your hip joint or in your groin. Hip instability may also cause your hip to feel unstable and loose. It may feel like your hip joint shifts out of place when you walk.

What Does Hip Instability Feel Like?

Hip instability may feel like you have a lack of control over your joint. When you move your hip, you may feel:

  • clicking,
  • grinding,
  • pain, or
  • a sensation that the joint catches.

When to See a Hip Specialist

See a health care provider for a diagnosis any time you have hip symptoms that interfere with your life.

Some patients still experience hip pain after hip surgery if soft tissues don’t heal properly. Schedule an appointment with one of our specialists if you still have pain nine to 12 months after your original surgery.

Find A Hip Specialist

Diagnosing Hip Instability

At your first appointment, one of our hip specialists will ask you about:

  • your symptoms;
  • your medical history, including previous hip surgery; and
  • other conditions (such as hip dysplasia), which may put you at higher risk for hip instability.

During the appointment, one of our hip specialists will perform specialized hip tests where they maneuver your hip in specific ways to check for hip instability.

We may use imaging tests to get a closer look at your hip joint and surrounding tissues, such as:

What Causes Hip Instability?

Some of the most common hip instability causes include:

Hip Instability after Surgery

A band of fibrous tissue (hip capsule) around your hip joint helps stabilize your hip. Sometimes, this tissue doesn’t heal properly after hip surgery, leading to hip instability.

Hip Instability during Pregnancy

Hip instability during pregnancy is natural. As your body prepares for childbirth, it releases hormones that loosen your pelvis.

You can usually practice physical therapy or hip instability exercises during pregnancy, as recommended by your health care provider. Your provider typically won’t recommend surgical treatment for hip instability while you’re pregnant. 

Hip Instability Treatment

We will typically treat you with nonsurgical options, including temporarily stopping activities that worsen your hip pain or over-the-counter medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Hip Instability Physical Therapy

Physical therapy uses prescribed exercises to strengthen your core, pelvis, and hip. It is one of the most effective, widely used treatments for hip instability. These exercises often result in decreasing pain while also strengthening your muscles.  

Hip Stabilization Surgery

If your symptoms don’t improve with nonsurgical treatment, we may recommend surgery. Our hip specialists tailor surgery to address the underlying problem causing the pain. Some surgery options focus on repairing or replacing damaged tissue around your hip joint. Other surgeries focus on improving hip mechanics.

Our hip preservation team uses both arthroscopic surgery and open surgery options to treat hip instability.

Schedule an Appointment with Our Hip Specialists

Seek treatment early to find hip pain relief. Call 801-587-7109 to schedule an appointment with our hip specialists. You don’t need a referral, although it’s always a good idea to check with your insurance before your appointment.

To refer a patient to our Hip Preservation Program, please complete our physician referral form or call 1-866-850-8863 to speak with a physician referral specialist. 

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