I’ve treated a lot of patients for osteoarthritis of the hip, and I’ve generally gotten a good response. By the word “good’ I mean a reduction of pain.
Osteoarthritis develops from wear and tear of the ball and socket joint of the hip. The cartilage deteriorates over time which can eventually result in bone rubbing on bone. Sometimes bone spurs, called “osteophytes,’ will grow outward as a result of friction, and this will limit the mobility of the joint.
The generally practiced way of managing the pain of osteoarthritis of almost any joint is with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The typical patient seeking my services for osteoarthritis is over 50 and is no longer getting acceptable relief with NSAIDs or is trying to avoid unwanted side-effects.
The pain of osteoarthritis of the hip is usually felt in the groin area. When I apply pressure to the area as part of the exam, the patient usually feels some pain. My method of treating the problem involves stimulating acupuncture points in the groin area and also using distal points along the main acupuncture meridian that traverses the groin area, all the way down to the foot. I will run a mild electrical current (it doesn’t hurt) from the painful area to a more distal point near the medial knee or on the medial aspect of the lower leg. After a few treatments, there is usually less pain. There will also often be pain on the lateral part of the hip and leg as well, and in this case I also work on the most painful areas around the greater trochanter and down the lateral side of the leg. Both of these areas are addressed in each treatment.
Osteoarthritis of the hip has different levels of severity, so it is difficult to say how many treatments are needed. I recommend to my patients that they try four initial sessions, generally two per week for two weeks, and based on their response, we make a mutual decision on whether to continue. If the answer is yes, I treat weekly until there is satisfactory pain relief for a week. We then space the treatments out to one every two weeks, and then hopefully one every three or four.
Most of the time, when pain relief is successful, the patient will need periodic maintenance visits—say, a treatment every three to four weeks, or hopefully fewer. This is because the necessities of life demand a certain level of activity that involves movement of the hip joint, and acupuncture does not stimulate the regrowth of cartilage or eliminate bone spurs, meaning that even though there is less pain, the underlying joint issue still exists.
There are a couple of joint mobility exercises developed by an innovative Russian physician—very famous in his own country— which I feel slow down the progression of hip osteoarthritis, provided the patient still has decent hip mobility. I am always glad to teach these and in fact do them myself, along with exercises for other joints, to prevent the development of arthritis.