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Hip Dislocation vs. Hip Sprain: How to Tell the Difference

Hip injuries can be serious, so trust the experts at Princeton Sports and Family Medicine, P.C. in Lawrenceville, New Jersey who specialize in sports medicine and treating hip pain

Let’s look at what occurs during a dislocation compared to a sprain so you know what to expect from treatment and aftercare perspectives. 

Hip sprain

A sprain affects ligaments — the tough and flexible connective tissues that join bones together in joints to provide stability through movements. When the injury occurs, a ligament is stretched beyond its limit, compromising its ability to hold the joint together. 

When you have a hip sprain, you’ll feel pain in the area around the injured ligament. There may also be stiffness, tenderness, and muscle spasms. You could also see bruising in the area. Your hip muscles might seem weaker.  

A hip strain can also produce these symptoms. This similar injury occurs when muscle tissue is torn due to trauma. 

Hip dislocation

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The upper bone of the leg pops out of its socket at the time of injury. 

Hip dislocations can be complete or partial and mild or severe. The most apparent symptom of dislocation is severe pain, along with visible changes in hip and leg alignment. 

You may be unable to move or bear weight on that leg. You might lose feeling in the leg and foot if nerves are affected. Bruising and swelling are also common. 

How to tell the difference between dislocation and sprain

The hip is one of the most stable joints in the body, and it’s very difficult to dislocate. When the initial injury occurs, tears or strains can affect surrounding soft tissue, including blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and ligaments. 

Without prompt treatment, a hip dislocation can lead to lingering complications because of the associated soft tissue damage. 

Alternatively, all but the most severe hip sprains usually respond well to conservative and nonsurgical treatments, including rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE method), and physical therapy. 

If your hip hurts, consult with the experts at Princeton Sports and Family Medicine, P.C. Contact our office by phone or online to request an appointment today.

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