What is hip pain?
The hip joint is designed to withstand repeated motion and a fair amount of wear and tear. This ball-and-socket joint — the body’s largest — fits together in a way that allows for fluid movement.
Hip pain is a common complaint that can be caused by a wide variety of problems. The precise location of your hip pain can provide valuable clues about the underlying cause.
Problems within the hip joint itself tend to result in pain on the inside of your hip or your groin. Hip pain on the outside of your hip, upper thigh or outer buttock is usually caused by problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround your hip joint.
Hip pain can sometimes be caused by diseases and conditions in other areas of your body, such as your lower back. This type of pain is called referred pain.
How common is hip pain?
Hip pain is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of hip pain?
Depending on the condition that’s causing your hip pain, you might feel the discomfort in your:
- Inside of the hip joint
- Outside of the hip joint
Sometimes pain from other areas of the body, such as the back or groin (from a hernia), can radiate to the hip.
You might notice that your pain gets worse with activity, especially if it’s caused by arthritis. Along with the pain, you might have reduced range of motion. Some people develop a limp from persistent hip pain.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor immediately if your hip pain is caused by an injury and is accompanied by:
- A joint that appears deformed
- Inability to move your leg or hip
- Inability to bear weight on the affected leg
- Intense pain
- Sudden swelling
- Any signs of infection (fever, chills, redness)
What causes hip pain?
Hip pain may be caused by arthritis, injuries or other problems.
- Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Septic arthritis
- Hip fracture
- Hip labral tear
- Inguinal hernia
- Meralgia paresthetica
- Advanced (metastatic) cancer that has spread to the bones
- Bone cancer
What increases my risk for hip pain?
There are many risk factors for hip pain, such as:
- Your sex. Women tend to experience more hip pain than men
- Chronic medical conditions. Endocrine disorders, such as an overactive thyroid, can lead to fragile bones. Intestinal disorders, which may reduce your absorption of vitamin D and calcium, also can lead to weakened bone and hip fracture. Cognitive impairment also increases the risk of falling.
- Certain medications. Cortisone medications, such as prednisone, can weaken bone if you take them long term. Certain drugs or certain combinations of medications can make you dizzy and more prone to falling.
- Nutritional problems. Lack of calcium and vitamin D in your diet when you’re young lowers your peak bone mass and increases your risk of fracture later in life. Serious eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, can damage your skeleton by depriving your body of essential nutrients needed for bone building.
- Physical inactivity. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, help strengthen bones and muscles, making falls and fractures less likely. If you don’t regularly participate in weight-bearing exercise, you may have lower bone density and weaker bones.
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Both can interfere with the normal processes of bone building and maintenance, resulting in bone loss.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is hip pain diagnosed?
Making the diagnosis of the cause of hip pain begins with the health-care professional talking with the patient, their family, or caregivers and taking a careful history of the what, where, and when of the pain as well as reviewing any other underlying complaints. By factoring in the past medical history of the patient, the health-care professional can make a differential diagnosis or list of what potential causes might be considered. The physical examination helps refine that list, and tests may be done to confirm a specific diagnosis.
Sometimes the diagnosis is evident. The patient fell, hurt their hip, can’t bear weight, and X-rays show a fractured hip. Sometimes the diagnosis requires more searching and may take time and repeat visits to find the source of the hip pain.
Aside from the history of the pain, other information looking for a systemic illness may be helpful in finding the cause of pain. A review of past medical history, including medications, may give direction to assessing the situation.
- Physical Examination: The physical examination for hip pain most often will focus on the hip, leg, and back, however, the rest of the body will not be ignored; a health-care professional will look for associated findings that may help explain the patient’s complaints. Observation of the hip at rest and while standing or walking, palpation (or feeling) of the hip and surrounding structures, testing for range of motion and strength, and checking for sensation and pulses all may be appropriate.
- Imaging: Many times plain X-rays of the hip and pelvis are done to look at the bones and the joint spaces. In a fall, this may diagnose an acute fracture, but occasionally, the break cannot be seen on routine films. If the suspicion for fracture is high, computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MRI) imaging may be considered to confirm or disprove that a fracture is present, even in the presences of normal plain X-rays. The bone fracture may be occult (hidden).
- Narrowed joint spaces and arthritis can be seen on plain X-rays and help confirm the diagnosis of osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease.
- When looking for cartilage or labrum tears in the hip, an arthrogram may be done, in which a radiologist injects contrast dye into the hip joint using a long thin needle. Usually, MRI images are taken to look at the joint surfaces outlined by the dye. With the test, a local anesthetic is injected prior to the dye. It is helpful to know if the anesthetic resolves the pain, because if so, it may confirm that the source of the pain is from within the joint.
- A bone scan may be performed to look for inflammation. Radioactive dye is injected intravenously, and the whole body is scanned. The radiologist looks for abnormal accumulations of the dye that may help establish a diagnosis. This might be helpful in determining whether it is a single hip joint that is involved or whether multiple parts of the body are also inflamed.
- Blood Tests: If the health-care professional is concerned that a systemic (body-wide) illness is the cause of the hip pain, blood tests may be ordered. Some markers for inflammation include elevation of the white blood cell count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and C-reactive protein (CRP). These are nonspecific tests but can help direct further testing based upon the clinical situation. A white blood cell count may also be helpful as a screening test for infection and inflammation.
How is hip pain treated?
You may not need to see a doctor if your hip pain is minor. Try these self-care tips:
- Avoid repeated bending at the hip and direct pressure on the hip. Try not to sleep on the affected side and avoid prolonged sitting.
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) may help ease your hip pain.
- Ice or heat. Use ice cubes or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to apply cold treatments to your hip. Conversely, a warm bath or shower may help prepare your muscles for stretching exercises that can reduce pain.
If self-care treatments don’t help, make an appointment with your doctor.
When osteoarthritis becomes so severe that the pain is intense or the hip joint becomes deformed, a total hip replacement (arthroplasty) may be a consideration. People who fracture their hip sometimes need surgery to fix the fracture or replace the hip.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hip pain?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hip pain:
Exercising the hip joint with low-impact exercises, stretching, and resistance training can reduce pain and improve joint mobility. For example, swimming is a good non-impact exercise for arthritis. Physical therapy can also help increase your range of motion.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
- hip pain: Causes and Treatment. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/hip-pain-causes-and-treatment#1. Accessed 6 Feb 2017
- hip pain. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/hip-pain/basics/definition/sym-20050684. Accessed 6 Feb 2017
- hip pain. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/hip_pain/article_em.htm. Accessed 6 Feb 2017
Review Date: July 18, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019