MRIs, x-rays, and other imaging technologies allow us to see the bones, muscles, cartilage, and other tissues that make up your hip. Scans and images can help doctors and researchers identify serious problems in the body that need attention.

But do the results of those images tell you why you have pain?

Imaging has a very important place in medicine. But research shows that there isn't always a direct link between imaging results and your symptoms. In other words, the results of your scans are often not the reason for your pain. Let’s take a look at some of the latest statistics:

  • A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that of 45 participants with no history of hip pain or injury, 73% had abnormalities on their imaging results and 69% had labral tears. [1] This shows that even though your hips may display changes, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will cause pain.

  • The Framingham Study, a large and influential study on osteoarthritis (OA), found that of 946 people, only 16% of those with frequent hip pain showed evidence of OA on an x-ray. Additionally, just 21% of hips with x-ray evidence of OA were reported as painful. [2]

  • Another large study of osteoarthritis, the Osteoarthritis Initiative study, had similar findings. Of the 4,366 patients studied, only 9% of those with reported hip pain showed signs of OA in their x-ray images and only 24% of those with image-diagnosed OA reported chronic hip pain. [2]

We know that everyone’s experience of pain is different because everyone carries different factors in their backpack.* We also know our hips are unique. Even so, you may still be wondering why you have pain if it’s not directly related to what imaging shows.

In previous articles we’ve talked about why persistent pain is complex and why there is no single solution for treating long-term pain. It takes time to address the various factors in your backpack, calm your pain system, and retrain your body.*

Remember that there is always something you can do to improve your hip health. Movement and knowledge will get you there. With patience, consistency, and courage, you will slowly get better. In future lessons we’ll teach you how to focus on the great things your hips allow you to do and to feel safe moving more despite “abnormalities” on your scans.

* We added a video and additional content to the article “Rethink Your Pain,” which you read in a previous playlist. In case you missed it, be sure to take a look at “Rethink Your Pain” in the Library of your Hinge Health app for important background information and context.

Key Takeaways

  1. Results from imaging technologies like MRIs & x-rays don't always reflect symptoms.

  2. It is common for people without any pain or symptoms to have abnormal findings on their scans.

  3. Don't rely on scans alone. There is always something you can do to take control of your pain.

References:

  1. Register, B., MD, Pennock, A. T., MD, Ho, C. P., PhD, MD, Strickland, C. D., MD, Lawand, A., MD, & Philippon, M. J., MD. (2012). Prevalence of abnormal hip findings in asymptomatic participants: a prospective, blinded study. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(12), 2720-2724.

  2. Kim, C., Nevitt, M. C., Niu, J., Clancy, M. M., Lane, N. E., Link, T. M., . . . Guermazi, A. (2015). Association of hip pain with radiographic evidence of hip osteoarthritis: diagnostic test study. Bmj.

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