Hip pain is the general term for pain felt in or around the
hip joint. It isn’t always felt in the hip itself but may instead be felt in
the groin or thigh.
Causes Hip Pain?
Certain injuries or conditions can cause hip pain.
The most common cause of acute hip pain is inflamed tendons,
or tendonitis. This is often due to too much exercise. This condition can be
very painful, but it usually heals within a few days.
The most common cause of long-term hip pain is arthritis. Arthritis
can cause pain, stiff and tender joints, and difficulty walking. There are
various types of arthritis:
- Osteoarthritis can be the result of age-related
wearing down of the cartilage that surrounds the joints.
- Trauma to a joint, like a fracture, may cause
traumatic arthritis similar to osteoarthritis.
- Infectious arthritis is due to an infection in
the joint causing the destruction of cartilage.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is due to the body’s immune
system launching an attack on the joints. This type of arthritis may eventually
destroy joint cartilage and bones.
Osteoarthritis is much more common than rheumatoid
Another possible cause of hip pain is trochanteric bursitis.
This condition occurs when the bursa, which is a liquid-filled sac near the hip
joint, becomes inflamed. Any number of factors can cause trochanteric bursitis,
including hip injury, overuse of the joints, posture problems, or other
conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. This is much more common in females
than in males.
Hip fractures are common in older adults and in those who have
osteoporosis, which is a weakening of the bones due to age or other factors.
Hip fractures cause very sudden, severe hip pain, and they require immediate
medical attention. There are complications that can arise from a fractured hip,
such as a blood clot in the leg. A hip fracture usually requires surgery to be
corrected. You’ll most likely need to have physical therapy to recover.
Less Common Causes
There are other, less common conditions that can cause hip
pain. These include snapping hip syndrome and osteonecrosis, or avascular
Snapping Hip Syndrome
Snapping hip syndrome, which most commonly occurs in dancers
or athletes, is characterized by a snapping sound or feeling in the hip. This
snapping may occur when you’re walking or getting up out of a chair, for
example. The condition is usually painless, but can cause pain in some cases.
Snapping hip with pain is usually a sign of cartilage tear or fragments of
material in the hip.
Osteonecrosis, or avascular necrosis, occurs when blood
doesn’t reach the bones, either temporarily or permanently. This can lead to
the loss of the supporting bone. The cartilage in this disorder is normal
initially but will eventually collapse as it progresses. Eventually, bones may
break or crumple. It’s not always clear what causes osteonecrosis. Joint
injury, heavy use of steroid medications or alcohol, and cancer treatments may
put you at greater risk for this condition but the cause is never determined in
Should I Seek Emergency Care?
Contact your doctor regarding hip pain that lasts longer
than a few days. Your doctor can come up with a plan to manage pain and treat
your condition. However, you should contact your doctor immediately if the hip
is bleeding or you can see exposed bone or muscle, a popping noise occurs, or
you can’t bear weight. Also, seek immediate help if your hip joint appears
deformed or is swollen, or if you have severe pain.
Prompt medical attention is necessary for hip pain
accompanied by any of the following:
These may be signs of serious conditions, including septic
arthritis, which is a joint infection. If it’s left untreated, septic arthritis
can lead to deformed joints and osteoarthritis.
Is Hip Pain Diagnosed?
For pain that could be related to a condition such as
arthritis, your doctor will ask you a range of questions. Is the pain worse at
a particular time of day? Does it affect your ability to walk? When did your
symptoms first appear? You may need to walk around to let your doctor observe
the joint in motion. They’ll measure the motion in the normal and abnormal hip
and compare the two.
To diagnose arthritis, your doctor will perform fluid and
imaging tests. Fluid tests involve taking samples of blood, urine, and joint
fluid for testing in a laboratory. Imaging tests may include:
- CT scans
- MRI scans
Imaging tests will provide your doctor with detailed views
of your bones, cartilage, and other tissues.
Are the Treatment Options for Hip Pain?
The treatment of hip pain depends on the cause. For
exercise-related pain, rest is usually enough to allow the hip to heal. This
type of pain is typically gone within a few days.
If you have arthritis, your doctor will prescribe
medications to relieve pain and stiffness. Your doctor may refer you to a
specialist who can offer further advice and a physical therapist who can show
you how to do exercises to help keep the joint mobile.
For injuries, treatment typically involves bed rest and
medications, such as naproxen, to relieve swelling and pain.
Hip fractures, malformation of the hip, and some injuries
may require surgical intervention to repair or replace the hip. In hip
replacement surgery, a surgeon replaces the damaged hip joint with an
artificial one. Although hip replacement surgery will take some physical
therapy to get used to the new joint, this is a common surgery that’s most
Some holistic therapies can provide relief from hip pain.
Make sure you discuss treatment options with your doctor before undergoing any
Possible holistic therapies include seeing a chiropractor
for an adjustment or having acupuncture. This involves the temporary placement
of very small needles into key body areas to promote healing.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
After you know the cause of your hip pain and treat the pain
correctly, you can successfully manage it. For very minor injuries and exercise-related
accidents, no treatment may be necessary and your hip may soon return to
However, for more serious conditions, such as arthritis and
fractures, the symptoms are likely to worsen until you receive treatment. Talk
to your doctor so they can help you with a treatment plan.