When hip pain is more painful than it should be, the hip has stopped trying to heal itself and is calling for treatment

Ross Hauser MD

Ross Hauser, MD

Obviously if there is degenerative elements in the hip, loss of cartilage, bone on bone destruction, hip instability causing soft tissue structural damage, there will be pain. But in a diseased hip environment, our bodies pain mechanism is accelerated as a warning signal that something needs to be done.

Before you read on, if you have questions about your hip pain, you can get help and information from our Caring Medical Staff.


Medical University researchers in Greece sought to explain this phenomena of our bodies creating more pain sensation than what the structural damage would indicate. In this research the doctors focused on the acetabular labrum of the hip. They speculated that in Grade III and Grade IV hip osteoarthritis, the labrum sends more pain signals to the brain and possibly the labrum itself is orchestrating an accelerated degenerative process.(1)

First, what is the hip labrum and what does it do?

In our article Doctors question Hip Labrum SurgeryDanielle R. Steilen-Matias, MMS, PA-C writes that:

The hip labrum is an important ring of cartilage that holds the femoral head, or top of the thigh bone, securely within the hip anatomy. It also serves as a cushion and shock absorber to protect the hip and thigh bones. Damage or  degeneration to the labrum causes pain and joint instability and bone overgrowth in attempt to stabilize the area.

Why some patients had more pain than they should

Writing in the Journal of orthopaedic surgery, the Greek doctors looked at the normal acetabular labrum of the hip and the relationship between free nerve endings (pain detectors) and mechanoreceptors (sensors that detect pressure and other things that may cause pain). Then they looked at the free nerve endings and mechanoreceptors in the hip labrum of patients with hip osteoarthritis. The purpose was to see why some patients had more pain than they should.

The pain signalling mechanism changed

A finding that the researchers found so remarkable was that the hip’s pain signalling mechanism changed during the progression of hip disease. The free nerve endings localized themselves to the central part of the hip labrum and the mechanoreceptors localized themselves to the out edges of the hip labrum. The mechanoreceptors then began a “conversion” to turning themselves into free nerve endings so more pain messages can be stimulated to the brain.

The conversion of the hip’s energy to sending pain messages, reduces the hip’s ability to heal

Perhaps the best way to explain this is that the hip is a sinking ship and the hip pain messaging center is converting the remaining ship’s energy into sending more and repeated frantic SOS calls to the brain. It could be possibly thought that the conversion of the hip’s energy to sending pain messages, reduces the hip’s ability to heal.

This is truly a fascinating subject, and while the Greek team suggests more research into their hypothesis, one can clearly see that what we are discussing is a whole joint or whole hip organ failure and that the hip is crying out for treatment.

Our website is filled with other articles on hip pain other than those highlighted in the research above:

If you have questions about your hip pain, you can get help and information from our Caring Medical Staff

1 Kapetanakis S, Dermon A, Gkantsinikoudis N, Kommata V, Soukakos P, Dermon CR. Acetabular labrum of hip joint in osteoarthritis: A qualitative original study and short review of the literature. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery. 2017 Oct 10;25(3):2309499017734444.

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