A Closer Look at Hip Abnormalities: Screening Kids and Pre-emptive Exercises for All Ages

PHOTO: Mother cradles newborn babys feet in this undated file photo.PlayGetty Images
WATCH Screening Kids for Hip Abnormalities

When a doctor told "GMA" co-anchor Lara Spencer that she needed a hip replacement, Spencer -– an active woman in her 40s -– was shocked.

"It was so upsetting. I was like 'what?'" she said, recalling her reaction to the news last year.

Spencer was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, also known as developmental dysplasia of the hip, or DDH, which led to painful arthritis. Her doctors told her that she had probably had DDH since birth.

About 10 percent of all hip replacements are due to DDH, according to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. Advances in medicine though are making hip replacements due to the condition rarer.

Today, every baby is screened for DDH. If it's detected, early intervention helps avoid surgery later in life.

"Hip dysplasia is one of the more common congenital things that children are born with ... so, it is an important part of the newborn exam. And there's a lot more awareness and discussion of it for pediatricians and orthopedic surgeons, because it is treatable," said Dr. Ernie Sink, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.

Some newborns are at higher risk for the condition, including those with a family history of DDH, babies who are born breech – that is, buttocks or feet first -- or those born with a dislocated or loose hip. An ultrasound can reveal the problem.

About one to two babies per 1,000 are born with DDH in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Emily Mench was born breech and diagnosed at birth with DDH.

"The doctor at the hospital was checking (her) legs and felt like he was able to pop it out," Sara Kim, the mother of the 1-year-old girl, told ABC News, adding: "He described it as a shallow hip socket."

Emily was fitted with a Pavlik harness when she was just two days old. She wore it around the clock for two months to reposition her hips correctly. Doctors say she's now on track.

"She's got a clean bill of health," Kim said, adding that the child's doctor doesn't expect Emily to have any future problems related to the DDH. "She's not going to have any hindrances, which is a great outcome."

Osteoarthritis

Another source of joint pain is osteoarthritis, which affects nearly 30 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors now say there are ways to prevent, or at least delay, the most severe symptoms of osteoarthritis.

“The prevailing thought is that if you keep your muscles strong, flexible and good balance you are going to prevent abnormal joint stresses,” Erica Fritz, manager of orthopedic physical therapy at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, told ABC News.

A crucial part of exercising is getting assessed by a doctor or physical therapist so you perform exercises appropriate for your condition, according to Fritz.

Todd Wilkowski, founder and CEO of Performance PT in Greenwich, Conn., joined “GMA” to demonstrate hip-strengthening exercises. Wilkowski is the physical therapist who trained Spencer before and after her hip replacement surgery.

Hip-Strengthening Exercises:

SEATED ROW WITH THERABAND: This exercise strengthens the upper back and shoulder muscles while also achieving activation of all of your core muscles as you try and maintain and upright trunk posture. Perform two to three sets of 10 reps with a two-second hold as you pinch your shoulder blades.

PLANKS: This is a building block exercise we use to get maximal core muscle activation. Start with the standard plank position on elbows and toes and then add a slight bend in your knees and engage your abdominal muscles. Hold 20 to 30 seconds for five reps. To make the exercise more difficult, increase the length of time you hold the plank to 40 to 60 seconds.

SIT-TO-STAND SQUATS: This is an exercise for strengthening the lower body muscles (glutes, quadriceps, calf) as well as working core muscle stabilization as you slowly move through the exercise. Perform two sets of 10 reps. To make the exercise more difficult, increase repetitions or lower the height of the chair if your joints tolerate.

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