What is a Hip Injection?

J.M. Willhite

A hip injection is a common medical procedure used by physicians and specialists, such as rheumatologists, for the diagnostic and therapeutic purposes of treating discomfort in the hip joint. Employed to diagnose and treat various forms of hip pain, a hip injection usually provides temporary pain relief that can last for months. Hip injections are a provisional treatment and should not be relied upon as a long-term pain management approach.

A hip injection can temporarily relieve pain around the hip joint.
A hip injection can temporarily relieve pain around the hip joint.

Generally administered to adults over 45 years of age, a hip injection is a relatively quick procedure considered to be a beneficial treatment for arthritis, bursitis, stiffness of the hips and legs, and other inflammatory conditions. The injection contains a time-release dosage of an anesthetic and corticosteroid mixture that numbs and eases discomfort in the hip joint area. The corticosteroid portion of the mixture acts as a synthetic hormone to block the production of substances that cause inflammatory responses, such as those produced during a body's reaction to the inflammation experienced with arthritis.

A hip injection can act as a diagnostic tool if the hip pain continues.
A hip injection can act as a diagnostic tool if the hip pain continues.

Conducted as an outpatient procedure, a hip injection is considered a diagnostic tool when the patient does not experience complete pain relief. Continued pain can be indicative of the pain originating from another area, such as the knee or lower back. The injection procedure is deemed therapeutic when the patient's pain is completely alleviated following the injection. When the pain completely dissipates, it is understood that the hip joint itself was responsible for the pain the patient was experiencing.

Hip injections may be beneficial for the treatment of arthritis.
Hip injections may be beneficial for the treatment of arthritis.

Prior to the actual injection, the hip joint area is cleansed with an iodine and alcohol mixture before a local anesthetic is administered. A small needle is inserted into the joint area with the guidance of fluoroscopy, or live X-ray, and contrasting dye, used to avoid nerve damage and ensure the needle reaches the expected joint area. The concentrated dosage of anti-inflammatory medication is delivered to the affected area and the needle is withdrawn.

Hip injections may be used in conjunction with physical therapy to manage osteoarthritis symptoms.
Hip injections may be used in conjunction with physical therapy to manage osteoarthritis symptoms.

The patient will generally remain lying on the table for a few minutes following the procedure. After a short period of time, the patient is asked to move normally to demonstrate if there is any remaining discomfort. Aside from temporary pain at the injection site, the patient should be pain free, although numbness, weakness, or tingling can affect the leg area for a brief period of time following the procedure.

Prior to a hip injection, a small needle will be inserted into the joint area with the guidance of an X-ray.
Prior to a hip injection, a small needle will be inserted into the joint area with the guidance of an X-ray.

As with any medical procedure, there is the risk of complication with hip injection treatment. Potential risks can include, but are not limited to, allergic reaction, post-injection redness, discoloration or swelling, and infection. Patients who are diabetic may experience a temporary increase in blood glucose levels.

Hip injections should not be relied upon as a long-term pain management option.
Hip injections should not be relied upon as a long-term pain management option.
Diabetic patients may experience a temporary increase in blood glucose levels following a hip injection.
Diabetic patients may experience a temporary increase in blood glucose levels following a hip injection.
X-ray may be used to help facilitate a hip injection.
X-ray may be used to help facilitate a hip injection.

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