In this episode, Principal Research Fellow at Latrobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, Dr Joanne Kemp PhD, talks about hip pain treatment and research.

Today, Joanne talks about the common causes of hip pain, the difference between men’s and women’s hip pain, and the outcomes for patients that “wait and see”. How can PTs design and conduct evidence-based treatment programs?

Hear about treating overachievers, referring out and using other treatments, and the upcoming Fourth WCSPT, all on today’s episode of The Healthy, Wealthy & Smart Podcast.


Key Takeaways

  • “It’s important that patients understand that exercise is good for them and is not going to cause damage.”
  • “With any strengthening program, you only need to do it 2 or 3 times a week to be effective.”
  • “It’s probably going to take 3 months for our rehabilitation programs to reach their full effect.”
  • “If you don’t get it right the first time, and if it takes you a little while to find your space, that’s actually okay, because it’s about the long journey, and you’ll get there eventually.”
  • “Don’t stress about failure. It’s about what you learn from that failure and how you adapt and change what you do.”


More about Joanne Kemp

Headshot of Dr. Joanne KempAssociate Professor, Dr Joanne Kemp, is a Principal Research Fellow at Latrobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre and is a titled APA Sports Physiotherapist of 25+ years’ experience.

Joanne has presented extensively on the management of hip pain and hip pathology in Australia and internationally. Her research is focused on hip pain including early onset hip OA in younger adults, and its impact on activity, function, and quality of life. She is also focussed on the long-term consequence of sports injury on joint health. She has a particular focus on surgical and non-surgical interventions that can slow the progression and reduce the symptoms associated with hip pain, pathology, and hip OA. Joanne maintains clinical practice in Victoria.


Suggested Keywords

Healthy, Wealthy, Smart, Pain, Hip Pain, Pain Management, Injuries, Research, Osteoarthritis, Exercise, Physiotherapy, WCSPT,

To learn more, follow Joanne at:



Twitter:            @joannelkemp



4th World Congress of Sports Physical Therapy.


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Read the Full Transcript Here:


Hey, Joe, welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy to have you on. I’ve been wanting to have you on this podcast for such a long time. So thank you so much.



Thanks, Karen. It’s great to be here, finally.



And of course, today we’re going to be talking about hip pain, hip pathology, that is your zone of genius. So let’s just dive right in. So let’s talk about some common causes of hip pain in adults. And does this differ between women and men?



Yeah, look, it’s a great question. And I think probably, we, I think we’re starting to change our perspective on that difference between men and women and the causes of hip pain. I think that previously, we’ve sort of been very aware of the burden of hip pain in men and particularly young male athletes that there’s been, you know, a growing body of research that’s looked at at the prevalence and burden and causes of hip pain in young men. And probably that’s led to a misconception that it affects men more than women. But it’s only really that the research has been done in men, less and less so in women, like we see across, you know, the whole medical space. So if we think about the common causes of hip pain across the lifespan, when we’re looking in sort of the adolescent and young adult population, you know, typical causes can be things like hip dysplasia, and that’s actually is more common in women or young girls and women than boys and men so probably affects three times as many girls and women as it does men. And I think the prevalent when we’re you know, the prevalence is perhaps higher than we previously thought. So, some studies are suggesting that up to 20% of adults have some form of hip dysplasia are shallow, hip socket shallow, so turbulent, and, and that that does lead to an increased risk of developing hip osteoarthritis in later life in later life. And even as young adults, sometimes we see patients with hip dysplasia, presenting with arthritis who need to go to hip replacement at a really young age in their 20s and 30s. So, hip dysplasia is a really common one. Another one that we’ve heard a lot about in the last 10 years is femoral acetabular, impingement syndrome, or FAI syndrome. So that’s traditionally thought to be where there’s impingement between the ball and the socket, either due to extra bone on the ballpark of the hip, which is can morphology or deep or retroverted socket, which has pencil morphology. And that’s probably where a lot of the studies have been done, particularly in that young male adult adult population. But what we’re now seeing when we look at the big cohorts, particularly of patients that end up presenting to hip arthroscopy is that it’s about 5050. It’s about 50% men and 50% women. So that burden is pretty equal across men and women. And that’s another thing that does lead to an increased risk of hip osteoarthritis in later life. But the risk is not quite as high in FAI syndrome as it is in hip dysplasia. And it certainly is, it tends to be a slower burn. So these patients present for their hip replacements probably in their 50s and 60s, whereas hip dysplasia, we’re seeing these patients in their 20s and 30s, with hip osteoarthritis. So that’s probably the second most, the you know, the second cause in that younger age group. Then as we move into older adults, so sort of, you know, people 35 Plus sort of middle aged and older adults, that’s where we really see hip osteoarthritis presenting itself, and it can be due to dysplasia or FAI syndrome. But it can also just sort of be that idiopathic arthritis that might be due to occupation, lots of different things. And again, that’s reasonably equal men and women, but we do see women probably having a little bit more arthritis than men and more women going to hip replacement than men. And the outcomes for hip replacement are not as good in women as they are in men. So that burden is still probably skewed towards being higher in women than men. And then the other cause of hip pain that we see particularly in the middle age and older women is other gluteal pathologies or lateral hip pain, sometimes called you know, TRAQ, enteric, besides gluteal, tendinopathy, gluteal tendinitis, it has lots of different names. But that’s a burden that definitely disproportionately affects women, over men. And particularly, once women get into that perimenopause, or menopause or post menopausal age group, there seems to be a relationship with with with hormones and with estrogen levels and the likelihood of gluteal tendinopathy becoming symptomatic as women sort of transition through that change. And so that’s another really common cause. And we’re now starting to be aware that often these women will present with combined hip osteoarthritis and gluteal tendinopathy. And that’s where it can get really, really, really tricky as well. So yeah, look, it does. There’s different, you know, different things that you see across the lifespan, but the burden is definitely I think, disproportionately higher in women than in men in a number of those conditions.



Yes, and I am firmly In the last group that you mentioned, I am just getting over, if you will, getting over gluteal tendinopathy, where I have to tell you it that is some serious pain. And, you know, when you’re a physical therapist and you have people coming in, and they’re explaining their pain to you, and you try and sympathize or empathize now I’m like, it is painful. Like I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t stand for more than like, four minutes. Yeah,



at least I’ve had the same thing. And, and I’ve been lucky that mine, I was sort of able to get on to it, knowing what it was and what to do fairly quickly. But it’s very, and I think this is the thing with hip pain until you’ve had hip pain, whether it’s glute tendinopathy, or intra articular, hip pain, it’s really disabling. And it really affects everything you do in life, you can’t sit without hurting, you can’t walk without it hurting, you can’t stand without it hurting, you can’t lie on your side, without it hurting, you’re getting in and out of the car, getting dressed, you know, trying to put your shoes on, it just affects every aspect of your life. And you know, and the pain can be quite intense and severe. So it does. You know, for people who are affected by hip pain, the burden is huge. And we see it reflected in the studies as well, where if you look at outcome scores for quality of life, young people with things like displays your FAI syndrome, their quality of life scores are as bad as people who have hip arthritis who are waiting for hip replacement. So it does, it’s very, when you’ve got it, it’s very, very impactful. And I think people until you’ve experienced it, perhaps people underestimate how bad it can be.



Yeah, and it can be really, like you said, it’s very, very disabling. And it also can can make you very nervous. So you know, when these patients come in to see you. So as the physio, when these patients come in to see you, it really behooves you to sit and listen and really get that whole story so that you can make that differential diagnosis as best you can, if you don’t have the diagnostic test to back it up, which often happens. Yeah, absolutely.



And I think that’s the thing when the patient’s present to you, and they’re complaining of pain in that hip area, you can’t just go to one test or one scan and say, Oh, it’s definitely these, it’s actually there’s lots of pieces of the puzzle puzzle that you’ve got to put together, it can be really complex, and you absolutely have to listen to the patient. And I think fear, like you just said, is a huge thing. And we’ve seen this in our some of our qualitative work that’s currently under review, but others as well that these patients are terrified to move, or to do exercise because they think it’s going to hurt more. And they’re really scared that it’s going to cause more damage. And, and the irony is that exercise is the thing that we know is like is going to make them better. And once they get moving, they do feel better, but they’re so scared to move because they’re scared, they’re gonna break something or make it worse or end up needing a hip replacement that they they don’t they don’t move. And it fear is a huge problem, you know, with these people.



Yeah, I mean, even myself as a physio I knew I needed to exercise, I sort of outsource my physio exercises to a friend of mine, Ellie summers, who’s on the, on the west coast here in the United States, and she sent me exercises and even doing them, like it’s not super comfortable. But within a month, I felt so much better. And now, you know, I’m back to running on the treadmill and doing all the things. But oftentimes, these patients and I may be wrong, but they’re not sort of picking up on this within the first month of pain, you know, they might say, Oh, um, it’ll go away. Let me give it another couple of weeks and have a couple of weeks. Whereas I was like, Okay, this is really painful. I’m getting to a doctor asap and starting these exercises ASAP. So what have you seen, even through the literature about when patients start to seek out care for this? And how can that affect their outcomes?



I think it’s one of the things with hip pain that patients often will just leave it and they’ll wait and see. And so we do know that in the younger age group, like if you think about FAI syndrome, for example, people will often not present for two or three years, they will pull up with the pain because it kind of comes and goes so they’ll have a flare up, they’ll be bad for a few weeks, it’ll go away for a few weeks and have another flare up. And so because it’s coming and going, they, I guess remain optimistic. It’s human nature to be optimistic that it’s going to get better by itself. And so it can often be a couple of years. We see this in the literature, you know, two or three years, but I see that in my clinical practice. And I’m sure you do, too, Karen, that patients, they’ll come to you and they’ll say, oh look, I’ve had this for two or three years, I was waiting for it to go away and now it’s you know, suddenly getting worse and that’s when they seek out care. And I think too, you know if we think coming back to what we were talking about with women is that these problems affect women who are really busy so they are often have busy careers. They’re looking after families often, they they might be studying as well. They’re juggling lots of things. So for them to try and fit in the medical care or, you know, physio care or whatever they need. It’s really hard for them to find to make the time to do that. And I think that that’s probably why they potentially delay seeking, seeking treatment as well.



Yeah, so many factors go into it. But bottom line is it hurts. Now, how let’s talk about the physio side of things. So how can PTS design and conduct an evidence based treatment program? For, we’ll say, for adults with hip pain? Yep.



So I think we probably the first thing is to set really good expectations for the patient. So often patients will come potentially looking for the quick fix. And so I think it’s important that right up front, we say to our patients, that it does take a while for things to work, you should be starting to improve over that time, but they need to be committed to an exercise program that we know needs to be now at least three months long. So I think both the therapist and the patient need to be prepared for that longer term commitment as well. So I think that’s the first thing is setting expectations, right. And then around those expectations, it’s also really important that patients understand that exercise is good for them and is not going to cause damage. So you’re really trying to get the confident to be able to exercise part of that is an understanding that it will like you just said like when you did your exercises, it’s not super comfortable. But that’s okay, they need to they don’t want to be in a lot of pain, but they will probably have some pain and that that’s actually okay and normal to have that. And it doesn’t mean that they’re causing more damage. That’s just a normal part of the body adapting to the exercise process. Sometimes I find with patients to you in order to convince them of that, because sometimes they’re a bit skeptical, they don’t quite believe you that they give you know, they will do exercises for a week, just look, just have a week off the exercise and see what happens to your pain. And what they find is pain is no better when they’re not exercising. But sometimes it’s worse, it’s usually worse or the same. And so then they’re like, Oh yeah, now I understand the exercises and actually making my pain any worse. And so sometimes you might need to do that to get them to buy in. So I think getting them to buy into the timeframe the commitment that they’re going to need to do and the fact that they will have a bit of pain, that’s probably the biggest thing, then once you’ve done that, then you can start to develop your exercise program and the foundations of our exercise program. I like to think of it as being sort of two pronged. So the first one is the local exercise that we’re doing for the hip joints. So that’s where we do a lot of our strengthening exercises. So strengthening up the muscles around the hip. So the hip abductors, and the adductors flexes in the extensors. But then also really focusing on the core and the trunk is important because that controls the acetabulum, which controls the socket. So putting that in and then you know functional exercises as well. So teaching them how to do things like squats and lunges and going up and down stair. So our local rehab exercises should have primarily a strength focus, they might also need to have a range of motion focus as well. But we need to be careful with ranges of motion because sometimes those ranges of motion might be provocative for patients. So going into a lot of rotation or a lot of flexion could provoke pain. So strength is probably our big biggest focus. But then the second prong of our rehab program should be around general fitness in general activity. So you know, we know that the physical activity guidelines say that everybody should be doing 150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, then that’s just to be a healthy person, regardless of whether you’ve got a sore hip or not. So I think trying to get them to do general fitness, cardio, whatever you want to call it alongside their hip specific rehab is, is the thing that you need to do. And then what I try and do is I try and make that hip specific rehab, sort of normalize it as fitness training, rather than rehab. Because people get, they’re going to be like, don’t want to do rehab, everyone gets bored of rehab, you know, at home with your little bands. So trying to get them to do things like you know, incorporated as part of their twice a week strength training, where they go to the gym, for example, is really important. And with any strengthening program, you only need to do it two or three times a week to be effective. So people don’t have to do it every day. So I think that’s important too to for them to know, they’ll get they’ll have days off where they don’t have to do it. But to find two or three days a week where they can commit to this the strengthening component of the program, the cardio fitness component of their program can fit in around their schedule. And something that I really like to do with patients is to sit down and actually look at their weekly schedule and help them schedule it into their diary. So don’t just say to them, you go do this, you know, five times a week, you actually have to fight help them find those chunks of time where they can do it and they can find 30 minutes in their day to be able to commit to that exercise program.



Yeah, I really love that you said to emphasize that the strength thing has to be done two to three times a week, because oftentimes Well, I mean, I’m in New York City where you have a lot of is like very driven, sort of type A folks. And they think if you’re not doing it every day, then it’s not working. Yeah, you know, so to be able to reframe that for them and say, Hey, listen two to three times a week is what our goal is, and be very forceful on almost holding them back. Do you have any tips on how to hold people back? For those folks? Who are the overachievers?



It’s hard. Yeah, it’s really tricky, isn’t it? I think sometimes I think people have to learn for themselves. So you kind of have to let them find out the hard way, maybe, and be prepared with some painkillers to settle things down. But ideally, you don’t want to do that, if you can help it, I think, I find that presenting the evidence can be really, really helpful. So you know, talking about the strengthening guidelines that that show that two to three times a week is where you’re going to get the maximum effect of strength. And if you do more than that, it’s not going to really add to that you’ll have already sort of hit that ceiling, and potentially give them something different to do on those other days, if you don’t want them doing strength training two to three times a week. If there’s someone who wants to do something every day, helping them find other things on those other days, so perhaps, you know, mixing it up with some cycling, walking or jogging, if they are able to do that some swimming, you know, sometimes, you know, it might be appropriate or safe for these patients, if they enjoy things like yoga or pilates, they can do that if it if it doesn’t hurt in addition to their other things. So I think those type A personalities, you might need to fill the space on those other days. Give me something else to do.



Yeah, I think that’s great advice. And now, sometimes, as physiotherapist we have to refer out. So when is it appropriate to refer out or to use other treatments such as surgery? How do we navigate that as a physio?



It’s tricky. And I think the most important thing is that that has to be a shared decision that we make with our patients. And at the end of the day, they will have their beliefs and their priorities that will probably take them in certain directions. Having that three month rule is a good rule, I think that we know it’s probably going to take three months for our rehabilitation programs to reach their full effect. But but it doesn’t mean to say you keep doing things for three months, if you’re not getting any improvement, we really want to see them starting to head in the right direction, probably within around about four weeks. Within, you know, two or three treatments, you should be starting to see some change even though we know it’s gonna take longer than that to get the full effect. I think that if you’re not seeing change within that first month or so, you have to start asking yourself questions about well, why why why aren’t I getting changed? Do I need to look at this and red flags here? Do I need to potentially refer the patient to their GP? For some imaging, we know that, you know, people have a history of cancer, that breast cancer and the gynecological cancers and prostate cancer really caught the hip joint is a really common point from you know, where the cancer metastasizes. So, I think bearing in mind our red flags, you know, women with guide other gynecologic non cancer, but other gynecological issues, you often get pain in that same area. So, being open minded about some of the non musculoskeletal causes of pain and being prepared to refer on if someone’s not improving in that time is important. Imaging, you know, we don’t want to jump to imaging straightaway, it’s not always necessary, but it is sometimes it is necessary. And I think don’t be frightened to refer for imaging. If someone’s not improving. The one thing that I and it’s different in every country and our health systems are all different. But here in Australia as physios, we can refer for imaging, but I if I’m if I’m suspicious that there’s a red flag, that’s a medical thing that’s outside my scope of practice, I will refer them to the GP for the GP to refer for imaging. And the reason for that is I if you refer for imaging, you need to be able and confident to tell the patient the results of their imaging and interpret them and then refer them on for appropriate care now, for those medical things. I think as physios that’s way outside our scope of practice and we shouldn’t be you know, if the scan comes back with cancer, like we can’t that’s way outside our scope and we shouldn’t be having to to explain those results to patients, I think only refer for imaging yourself with your confidence of what you’ll be able to interpret those findings. So don’t be afraid to refer to the doctor. Some patients often need pain relief as well or anti inflammatory. So that’s, you know, if you’re not getting improvements in that four weeks, you may need to refer them to the doctor to get pain relief or anti inflammatory medication. Things like injectables again, we don’t want to inject give people lots of injections but we know that the hip joint is often sign up at green flame. So you know a judiciously used cortisone injection can be helpful in in some cases. So I think it’s been not afraid to refer on you know, when you just turn the video off, when you need when you need to, to, you know to those other things and then surgery is probably your last resort, but There are a small number of people who will potentially need surgery as well. So, but you wouldn’t actually be looking at surgery until you really finish this full three months of rehab.



Yeah, that all makes perfect sense. And now as we kind of start to wrap things up, where there, is there anything that you know, we didn’t cover, that you would really like the listeners to know, or to take away, whether that’s from the literature or from your experience when it comes to hips?



Yeah, I think, look, I think we’ve covered most things. But I think what it is, is just being really confident to prescribe a good quality exercise program. And if you don’t feel like you have the knowledge or skills to do that, don’t be scared to either refer to a colleague who who might have more knowledge or skills, or to, you know, to look up the evidence with, you know, that the evidence is has really grown in the last couple of years. And we published a consensus paper in V jsme, 2020. That was a consensus paper on what physio treatment for hip pain in young and middle aged adults would be. So that’s a really good resource, it’s got some some good examples in that paper of the types of exercise that you should be doing. And then my colleague from the US might Raman also lead a consensus paper in that same series on the diagnosis and classification of hip pain. So that’s another really good resource that you can go to that will help you clarify the different diagnosis in the hip and what what what sort of things you can do to confirm your clinical suspicion and your diagnosis.



Perfect. And now, you will also be speaking at the fourth World Congress of sports, physical therapy in Denmark, which is August 26th, to the 27th, you’re doing to sort of 15 minute 15 minute talks repeated twice. So one talk repeated twice. On the second day of the conference, can you let the listeners know a little bit more about that. And if you have any sneak peak that you want to share?



Yeah, so I’m going to be doing that talk in combination with a with a great colleague of mine, a Danish colleague, Julie Jacobson. And so we’re going to be talking about hip pain in women specifically. So looking at the common causes of hip pain in women and as as physios, or physical therapists, what we should be doing to manage to manage that, because it’s a congress of sports, physio, or sports, physical therapy. It’ll be slanted probably towards the younger, more athletic population. But I think there’ll be some really great takeaways for anyone treating women in particular with hip pain. So we’re going to be really, I think, trying to focus on what it is about women with hip pain that’s unique and different to men, and really helping the therapist develop a rehab program that really targets the things that are important for women. So the impairments that women have the physical impairments, but also really targeting some of those, you know, we’ve got to think about the biopsychosocial model. So some of the psychological challenges that people with hip pain have that we’ve sort of touched on in terms of being fearful to move, but then the social challenges too, because we know that we do live in a gendered environment. And it’s no different for women with hip pain, where they might face additional barriers to, you know, in this the way society is constructed to be able to access the best care. So it’s also helping helping the clinician really become an help patients navigate some of those challenges as well.



I look forward to it. It sounds great. Now are what is there anything that you’re looking forward to at the conference in Denmark? Have you looked through the program? Are there talks that you’re looking forward to?



I look, there’s there’s going to be so many great talks there. Like it’s such a I can’t believe how many how much they’ve packed into two days, like for two day program, I’m actually really excited. by so many of the different tools, I think the thing I’m most excited about is after two years, it’ll be nearly three years by then that we’ve actually been able to see each other face to face, just to have the opportunity to catch up face to face with so many great colleagues that I’ve worked with before, but also meet new colleagues as well, and have the chance to travel to beautiful Denmark. You know, I haven’t been to the conference venue, but it looks amazing being on the coast. In summer, it’s going to be beautiful. I know the conference Organizing Committee has got a great social program as well organized and the Danish conference dinners are always a highlight, I think of any program. So I’m really excited about that as well. Yeah, I just I just can’t wait.



Yeah, it’s it. You have the same answer that so far everyone has said as they just can’t wait to be in person and to network and to hang out with people and to meet new people. So you’re right along with everyone else that I think a lot of the other speakers that are going to the conference, and now where can people find you if they have questions, they want to see more of your research, where can they go?



So, um, so I’m on Twitter, so my Twitter account is at Joanne L. him. So L is my middle initial. And you’re welcome to send me a message via Twitter. But you can also contact me via email. So my email address is the letter And then our sports medicine allotropes sports and exercise Medicine Research Center has a has a webpage and a blog page where a lot of our research is highlighted there as well. So if you just Google up Latrobe, Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Center, that’s the first thing that will pop up as well. And we have a lot of, you know, a lot of really good information. We’ve got a really our Research Center has a really strong knowledge translation arm and so a lot of my colleagues, which credit to all my colleagues who work in this space, have developed a lot of really great resources to infographics, videos of exercises, lots and lots of different things that can be found on our on our research, our centers, webpage and blog page as well. So lots of good resources there.



Excellent. And we’ll have links to all of that in the show notes for this episode at podcast at healthy, wealthy So one click will take you to all of the resources that that Joe just mentioned. And last question that I ask everyone is knowing where you are now in your life and in your career? What advice would you give to your younger self? So maybe straight out of physio I pick pick a year, any year you’d like?



It’s great question. And it’s funny because I was actually talking to my son’s girlfriend the other night, who’s at university, and she’s finding it stressful and hard. And I actually shared with her something that I’m not afraid to share that I actually nearly failed my first year of university, because I was too busy enjoying the social aspect of uni life. And I think what I would say to my young, and that stressed me out and really upset me at the time. And I think what I would say to my younger self is if you don’t get it right the first time. And if it takes you a little while to find your space, that that’s actually okay, because it’s about the long journey, and you’ll get there eventually. And so if you hit hurdles and bumps and you don’t, you’re not always successful every time, it actually doesn’t matter. Because as long as you keep on trying, you’ll you’ll get there in the end. So don’t don’t stress about failure. It’s about what you learn from that failure and how you adapt and change what you do.



What excellent advice. Thank you so much. And thank you for coming on to the podcast. This was great. And I think the audience now has a better idea of what to do with their patients when they have hip pain. And if they don’t, they can head over to Latrobe, they can go over to the website and get a lot of great resources from from you all and also look up a lot of your research. And if we can also put your Research Gate. Yeah, we can put that up in the show notes as well if that’s okay, so that way people can kind of get a one stop shop on all of your research because it’s extensive. So we’ll have that up there as well. Thanks, Karen. Thank you so much. And everyone. Thanks so much for tuning in listening and we hope to see you in August in Denmark at the fourth World Congress Sports Physical Therapy again, that’s August 26 and 27th. If you haven’t registered, I highly suggest you get on it and hopefully we’ll be able to see you in Denmark. So I look forward to seeing you then. And everyone have a great couple of days and stay healthy, wealthy and smart.

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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
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