What Is Hip Pain?
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.
What Are the Causes of Hip Pain?
Hip pain can be caused by a number of
injuries or conditions.
The most common cause of acute hip pain is
inflamed tendons, or tendonitis, often caused by overexercising. This condition
can be very painful, but usually heals within a few days.
The most common cause of long-term hip pain
is arthritis, or joint swelling. Arthritis can cause pain, stiff and tender
joints, and difficulty walking.
There are two main types of arthritis:
osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis can be caused by
age-related wearing down of the cartilage that surrounds the joints, or it
could be caused by an injury or infection to the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is
caused by the body’s own immune system launching an attack on the joints. This
type may eventually destroy joint cartilage and bones. Osteoarthritis is much
more common than rheumatoid arthritis.
Another possible cause of hip pain is
trochanteric bursitis. This condition occurs when the bursa (a liquid-filled
sac next to a joint) over the hip joint becomes inflamed. Trochanteric bursitis
can be caused by any number of factors, including hip injury, overusing the
joints, posture problems, or another condition such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Hip fractures are common in the elderly and
in those who suffer from osteoporosis, 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 a number of complications that
can arise from a fractured hip, such as a blood clot in the leg. A hip fracture
may require surgery to correct, and you will most likely need to do physical
therapy to recover.
Less Common Causes
There are a number of other, less common
conditions that can cause hip pain, too. These include snapping hip syndrome
Snapping hip syndrome (most commonly found in
dancers or athletes) is characterized by a snapping sound or feeling in the
hip. This snapping may occur when an individual is walking or getting up out of
a chair, for example. The condition is usually painless, but can, in some
cases, cause pain. Snapping hip with pain is usually a sign of cartilage tear
or fragments of material in the hip.
Osteonecrosis (also called avascular
necrosis) occurs when blood doesn’t reach the bones, either temporarily or
permanently. This can lead to the loss of bone tissue. Eventually, bones may
break or crumple. It’s not always known what causes osteonecrosis, but joint
injury, heavy use of steroid medications or alcohol, and cancer treatments may
put you at greater risk for this condition.
When Is Emergency Care Needed for Hip Pain?
Contact a doctor regarding hip pain that
lasts longer than a few days so that a treatment plan can be created and any
pain can be managed. However, you should contact a doctor immediately if:
- the hip is bleeding or you can
see exposed bone or muscle
- a popping noise occurs
- the hip joint appears deformed
- the hip can’t bear weight
- there is a large amount of
- the pain is severe
Prompt medical attention is needed for hip
pain accompanied by any swelling, tenderness, soreness, warmth, or redness.
These may be signs of serious conditions, including septic arthritis, a joint
infection. Left untreated, septic arthritis can lead to deformed joints and
How 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 be required to walk around to let your
doctor observe the joint in motion.
To diagnose arthritis, your doctor will
perform a number of fluid and imaging tests. Fluid tests involve taking samples
of blood, urine, and joint fluid for testing in a laboratory. Imaging tests may
include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) scans, and ultrasounds. Imaging tests will provide your doctor with
detailed views of your bones, cartilage, and other pertinent tissues.
How Is Hip Pain Treated?
The treatment of hip pain depends on what’s
causing it. 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 arthritis is diagnosed, you will be
prescribed medications to relieve pain and stiffness. You may also be referred
to a specialist who can offer further advice, and a physiotherapist for
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, the damaged hip joint is replaced 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 alternative treatment.
Possible holistic therapies include seeing a
chiropractor for an adjustment, or having acupuncture, which involves the
placement of very small needles into key body areas to promote healing.
What Is the Outlook for Hip Pain?
Hip pain can usually be successfully managed
when the cause is identified and the pain treated correctly. For very minor
injuries and exercise related accidents, no treatment may be necessary, and
your hip may return to normal soon.
However, for more serious conditions, such as
arthritis and fractures, symptoms are likely to worsen until they are treated,
so talk to your doctor so they can help you with a treatment plan.