The shoulder and hip joints are two of the most important joints in our body. They are our only “ball and socket” joints and give us incredible range of motion, but can easily become unstable and dislocated or broken. Without our hips and shoulders, we wouldn’t be able to walk upright, carry heavy loads or use hunting and gathering tools that have made us the humans we are today. In youth it is easy to take these functions for granted, but as we grow older and incur injuries, their value becomes more apparent.
Our hips are one of our skeletal features that evolved to make us the predominant species on Earth. Not only do they allow us to walk upright, but they also accommodate babies with big brains and make childbirth less harmful to mothers. The pelvis and femur bones are some of the major blood cell producers as well, as they contain a large amount of the marrow where blood is formed.
Damage to the hips can be immobilizing and at times, life-threatening. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one out of three adults die within a year of suffering a hip fracture. A broken pelvis may increase a patient’s risk of blood clots due to their immobility, which in turn may lead to stroke or heart failure. In addition, pelvic fractures may lead to infections from bed sores, as well as a decline in overall mental and physical health.
According to a study by the University of California at San Francisco, the human shoulder is unique in its shape and ability to throw items. This ability made it possible for our ancestors to hunt for and protect the family group at a distance, thereby reducing the chance of death or injury. Despite the common metaphor that broad shoulders are made to bear burdens, shoulders are not meant to support weight like the hips, but to have an excellent range of mobility.
One of the downsides to this tremendous mobility is the ease with which the shoulder may be dislocated. In contrast to the hip, which is formed by two primary bones, the shoulder is formed where the humerus meets a few smaller bones that form the socket part of the joint. These more fragile bones may be broken by dislocation injury, or with time, if overused with repetitive motions.
Pain and Injuries
Along with the wide variety of activities our hips and shoulders make possible, there are many ways in which they may become damaged and painful:
- Falls – especially in elderly patients with older, brittle bones
- Osteoarthritis – brought on by age and wear on the cartilage of the joints
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – an auto-immune disorder in which the immune system attacks the joints
- Sports injuries – common with baseball players and generally followed by arthritis
It is vitally important that any pain or injury to either shoulders or hips is examined by a medical professional to determine the best path to recovery. Disregarded injuries may lead to further damage, critical infection and chronic pain.
Joint Arthroplasty, or joint replacement surgery, may be an option considered to stop chronic pain and restore mobility. Generally, joint replacement is contemplated only after less invasive treatments are tried. The joint parts used in arthroplasty are made of special metal and plastic which are attached to the existing bone and tissue. In the case of hip replacement, our DOCS Health team uses robotic aid to improve placement precision and recovery time for our patients.
If you have experienced injury or dislocation of your hip or shoulder, or pain of any kind, contact us at DOCS Health to schedule a consultation. We have an experienced team using state-of-the-art technology to relieve pain and help you live a mobile, healthy life.