I'm 56, postmenopausal, and noticing a sudden change in my hip flexibility. My older sister has pretty bad hip arthritis. She started having this same change when she was around my age. Does it sound like I'm going to get arthritis too?
Arthritis is a very common problem for adults 55 and older. In fact, it's estimated that up to one in four (25 per cent) of older adults will be diagnosed with this condition. Early and accurate diagnosis is the number one key to stay as functional and independent as possible for as long as possible.
For women who are postmenopausal, declining estrogen levels are linked with changes in soft tissue. Decreased blood circulation of estrogen contributes to reduced elasticity of ligaments and joint capsules. In the hip, ligaments surround the joint forming a capsule to support and stabilize the joint. With less estrogen available, these structures tighten up and become less supple or flexible and inflexible.
The change in your flexibility could also be caused by a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle. But before you assign blame or cause to your problem, it might be a good idea to see your primary care physician for an accurate diagnosis.
If it turns out that you do have osteoarthritis, in order to prevent disability pay attention to good nutrition, getting enough fluids, and exercise. These four step in self-care are all equally important. With or without early signs of arthritis, if you are overweight, weight loss is always advised. See a physical therapist for help with an exercise program designed to help you maintain flexibility, joint motion, strength, and endurance.
Thomas G. Sutlive, PT, PhD, OCS, et al. Development of a Clinical Prediction Rule for Diagnosing Hip Osteoarthritis in Individuals with Unilateral Hip Pain. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. September 2008. Vol.38. No. 9. Pp.542-550.
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