Hip Dislocation & Instability


What Is Hip Instability & Hip Dislocation?

Hip instability is a loose or wobbly hip joint that’s usually caused by problems with the ligaments (the bands of connective tissue that hold bones or joints together).

In hip dislocation, the ball at the end of the thighbone is pushed out of the socket. This painful condition requires medical treatment.

An accident or injury can cause hip instability or hip dislocation. But in some cases, people are born with structural problems in the hip joint – called hip dysplasia – that can cause the hip joint to dislocate. If this is the case for you, doctors might identify dysplasia at birth, or it might not be noticeable until you’re older.

Whatever the cause of your hip problems, we can help. Our orthopedic specialists and sports medicine doctors will examine your hip and recommend appropriate noninvasive solutions like physical therapy or sports training for hip instability. We also offer advanced surgical options for hip dislocation or instability, from minimally invasive repair to total hip replacement.

The Aurora Difference

Expert Answers for Hip Instability & Hip Dislocation

Whether your hip instability or hip dislocation is due to an accident, sports injury, or congenital condition, we have the expertise and experience to get you moving again.

Our orthopedic team offers:

  • Expert treatment: Our team of more than 70 orthopedic and sports medicine doctors has years of experience and specialized training in joint care. That expertise means you can rely on us to find the cause of hip instability and recommend the right treatment for you.
  • Minimally invasive treatment options: Our surgeons offer hip arthroscopy – a minimally invasive procedure using small incisions – to tighten ligaments and stabilize the hip. Minimally invasive procedures cause less damage to your body than traditional surgery, leading to faster recoveries and a lower risk of infection after procedures. Learn more about minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.
  • Comprehensive care: You’ll find all the providers you need in our single, integrated health system. Here, our orthopedic specialists and sports medicine doctors work closely with primary care doctors and physical therapists to provide personalized treatment to help you move more comfortably and confidently.
  • Convenient locations: Locations across eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois mean you can find a doctor and physical therapist close to home. See our locations.


    When Should You See a Doctor for Hip Instability & Hip Dislocation?

    You should see an orthopedic or sports medicine doctor if you:

    • Hear snapping, clicking or popping sounds or sensations (crepitus) in any part of the hip
    • Experience hip pain or pain in the groin
    • Can’t put weight on your hip
    • Can no longer walk normally

    If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we can help. Start by taking this free hip joint pain assessment to see how much your hip instability affects your life. Then we’ll help you find an orthopedic specialist near you. You can use the results of your assessment to help guide your conversation with them, and they’ll help you create a plan for relief.


    What Causes Hip Instability & Hip Dislocation?

    Some people are born with conditions that make hip problems more likely. Others experience athletic injuries or car accidents, both of which can cause hip instability or hip dislocation.

    The most common causes of hip instability include:

    Injuries to Ligaments in the Hip Joint

    Ligaments in the hip joint may be stretched or otherwise damaged because of:

    • Traumatic events, like a motor vehicle accident
    • Rotational instability in dancers or athletes who use extreme ranges of motion

    Hip Dysplasia

    Some people are born with hip dysplasia, in which the ball of the hip joint is loose in the socket. This hip instability may lead to hip dislocation, where the joint slips out of the socket.

    Types of hip dysplasia include:

    • Developmental dislocation (or dysplasia) of the hip (DDH), usually diagnosed at birth or within the first year
    • Adult hip dysplasia, which may be identified when arthritis develops or when a person experiences a dislocated hip

    Genetic Syndromes

    Genetic or inherited syndromes can affect body structures and make hip dysplasia or hip dislocation more likely. These include:

    • Down syndrome, which causes looser ligaments and muscles
    • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes loose or hyperextensible joints (joints that move beyond a normal range)

    Diagnosis & Treatment

    What to Expect at Your Doctor’s Appointment

    If you’re experiencing hip pain and instability, your doctor will perform a complete physical exam and discuss your symptoms and medical history.

    To understand the cause of the hip instability and find the best treatment for you, your doctor may order tests including:

    • X-rays: These images let your doctor see the fit and condition of bones in your hip joint. X-ray images also help your doctor check for a dislocated hip or other issues.
    • Arthrogram: An arthrogram uses dye injected into the hip joint before X-rays or other scans. This dye helps your doctor clearly see details of the joint’s condition.
    • Computed tomography (CT): A CT scan provides images from many directions, which gives a more detailed view of the hip joint.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI scans provide a good visual of the soft tissue in and surrounding the hip joint, including the ligaments.

    Treatments for Hip Instability & Hip Dislocation

    Our doctors will recommend a treatment plan based on the condition of your hip and your overall health. With each of their recommendations, they’ll focus on relieving pain and improving your hip’s function. Find out more about our treatments for hip pain.

    Our doctors may suggest treatments like:

    • Rest or moderate exercise
    • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles around the hip and improve mobility
    • Minimally invasive surgery – like arthroscopic hip surgery – to tighten the ligaments in the hip
    • Hip preservation surgery for hip dysplasia – a procedure called PAO (periacetabular osteotomy) that reshapes the hip socket so you can avoid total hip replacement
    • Total hip replacement surgery with an artificial hip joint to restore motion and stability

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