What is Hip Pain?

Pain in the hip is very common. Hip pain affects children and adults and can have a variety of different causes.

Chronic hip pain can change a life by limiting your ability to walk, sit comfortably or perform normal daily activities. When hip pain interferes with the ability to do the things patients need to do each day, it’s time to seek medical advice.

If you develop hip pain that persists, possibly with swelling or tenderness, a doctor can help you sort out the possible causes. The physician will thoroughly examine the patient, take down the health history, and order hip X-rays or other imaging to view the joint.


Pain may arise from structures that are within the hip joint or from structures surrounding the hip.

Hip pain may be caused by a variety of illnesses. Anything that causes systemic inflammation in the body may also affect the hip joint.

Here are some key causes of hip pain:


Osteoarthritis is a wearing down of the cartilage which actually allows the bones to glide smoothly over one another in joints such as the hip. It is one of the most common causes of hip pain in people over the age group of 65 years, usually triggering pain in the front of the thigh or the groin. As the cartilage wears away, the head of the thigh bone rubs directly against the inner hip socket. Splinters of bone and cartilage can interfere with normal hip movement.

Osteoarthritis is a wearing down of the cartilage which actually allows the bones to glide smoothly over one another in joints such as the hip. It is one of the most common causes of hip pain in people over the age group of 65 years, usually triggering pain in the front of the thigh or the groin. As the cartilage wears away, the head of the thigh bone rubs directly against the inner hip socket. Splinters of bone and cartilage can interfere with normal hip movement.

Hip Fractures

Older individuals are susceptible to breaking a hip during normal everyday activities if their bones are weak due to osteoporosis. Although osteoporosis chiefly affects women, men over 65 are also at risk. Hip fractures are medical emergencies and require immediate surgery.

In addition, younger active individuals can develop stress fractures of the hip. When muscles become fatigued, they fail to absorb the shock of impact from jumping and other activities, and forces are transferred to the bone itself, causing tiny cracks. Stress fractures in the hip joint can cause severe hip pain.


Bursitis is an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs protecting the body’s joints after an injury. Trochanteric bursitis affects the outer surface of the hip joint, producing pain while standing up, walking, climbing steps or driving, etc.


Insufficient blood flow to the bone can destroy bone cells, a process called osteonecrosis (also avascular or aseptic necrosis). Years of corticosteroid used to suppress the immune system for different medical conditions can cause osteonecrosis. The hip is the most common site affected by osteonecrosis.


The tendons–rope-like connective tissues connecting muscles to the bone at the hip and other joints–can become painfully inflamed by repetitive and strenuous movement. Tendonitis is a common sports injury, caused by overuse of the same parts of the body.


Strains are small tears in the muscle from overuse/irritation. Lower back strains can be caused by twisting, quickly turning, and “pulling” the muscles that support the spinal column. The back and hip muscles often become strained because the abdominal muscles are too weak to lend support.

Herniated Discs

Falls and heavy lifting can injure the discs, the “shock absorbers” in the spinal column. They separate and cushion the vertebrae, but as we age the discs become more brittle and can rupture, or herniate. Pain from a ruptured disc in the lower spine radiates down the nerve extending from the spinal cord to the leg (sciatica).

Septic Hip

Septic arthritis can develop in the hip during infancy and throughout childhood. Young immune systems may not be mature enough to kill bacteria that enter the bloodstream and settle in the hip, resulting in pain and limping. Fever, and warmth, and redness over the hip point to possible infection. There are other possible causes of hip pain, ensure to consult a doctor if you:

  • Cannot walk normally because of the pain
  • Cannot bend hip joint
  • Experience hip pain for many days
  • Notice any deformity or swelling in the hip or upper thigh
  • Experience hip pain during nights or while resting
  • Develop a fever, with redness and warmth over the hip joint


The doctor or physiotherapist can work out what is causing the pain in the hip joint. They might examine how you stand, how you walk, and what movements cause the pain. They may suggest blood tests and X-rays of the hip joint to diagnose the hip pain.


Most types of hip pain can be resolved with conservative care such as:


When the hip is inflamed, as in bursitis, tendonitis, or Arthritis, it’s important to rest the joint and avoid overusing it.

Ice and Heat

  • Ice packs are often useful to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and reduce muscle spasms. When applying the ice, ensure to use something like a wet flannel between the ice pack and the skin for protection. Ice should be applied for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Heat causes blood vessels to dilate (expand) which brings more blood into the area to stimulate the healing of damaged tissues. It also has a direct soothing effect and helps to relieve pain and spasm. It can also ease stiffness by making the tissues supplier and is therefore useful to do before stretching.


  • Once a doctor diagnoses the cause of the hip pain, physiotherapists can show the stretches and exercises to increase the flexibility and strength in the hip.
  • For problems such as bursitis, they can use ultrasound and massage techniques.
  • Physiotherapists can also advise about helpful aerobic exercises, such as swimming, aqua therapy, or cycling, that won’t aggravate hip pain as high-impact activities would. The patient may be advised to lose weight to relieve pressure on the joints. Finally, physiotherapists will show the proper ways to sit, stand, lift and sleep which will help to avoid aggravating hip pain.

Pain Relievers

Anti-inflammatory medicines can be purchased over the counter to relieve hip pain if needed.


Steroids may be injected for hip problems caused by inflammation, which will help to settle the inflammation down. When swelling is severe, fluid may need to be drained from the hip.

Weight control

Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight in the case of overweight is good for the joints. Excess weight stresses the weight-bearing joints, such as the hip joint which contributes to cartilage damage. In addition, fat cells are believed to produce inflammatory cytokines that contribute to arthritis.

Surgical Options

Hip problems like osteoarthritis will tend to worsen with the patient’s age, and eventually, conservative measures may not be enough to control the pain. At that point, the doctor may recommend undergoing surgery to get relieved from pain.

Common surgical options include

  • Hip Replacement Surgery
  • Hip Resurfacing Surgery


Preventing hip pain involves maintaining good hip joint health and reducing the risk of injuries. Here are some unique prevention tips for hip pain:

  • Mindful Sitting: If you work a desk job or are seated for long periods of time, try mindful sitting. Maintain a level foot on the floor, sit in a chair with enough lumbar support, and ensure that your hips are just above your knees. Alter your seating position on a frequent basis to avoid stiffness.
  • Hip-Opening Exercises: Incorporate hip-opening exercises into your routine, such as yoga or Pilates. These exercises can help improve hip flexibility and reduce the risk of tight hip muscles contributing to pain.
  • Adequate Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is important for joint health. Proper hydration helps maintain the lubrication and cushioning within the hip joint. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Balanced Diet: Maintain a healthy diet that is rich in minerals that promote bone and joint health, like calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients are necessary for the maintenance of robust bones.
  • Proper Footwear: Choose supportive and well-fitting footwear that provides adequate arch support. Proper shoe selection can help with overall posture and alignment, reducing the risk of hip pain.
  • Posture Training: Be conscious of your posture, both when sitting and standing. Proper posture can alleviate stress on the hips and lower back. Consider posture training exercises or ergonomic assessments if needed.
  • Weight Management: Maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Excess weight can put extra strain on the hip joints, increasing the likelihood of pain and degenerative problems.
  • Gentle Stretching: Incorporate gentle stretching into your daily routine, particularly after periods of prolonged sitting or physical activity. Focus on stretches that target the hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • Cross-Training: By including a range of physical activities into your training routine, you can avoid overuse of the hip joints. Cross-training can help distribute the load on the hips and reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries.
  • Proper Lifting Techniques: When lifting heavy objects, use proper lifting techniques. Bend your knees, not your waist, and engage your core muscles. This technique reduces strain on the hip joints.
  • Fall Prevention: Hip fractures are a common cause of hip pain in older adults. Take steps to prevent falls by ensuring good lighting, removing tripping hazards in your home, and using assistive devices if necessary.
  • Strengthen Hip Muscles: Focus on strengthening the muscles that support the hips, such as the glutes and hip abductors. Strong hip muscles provide stability and reduce the risk of injuries.

When to visit a Doctor?

You may not need to see a physician if your hip pain is minor. Try these self-care tips:

  • Rest: Avoid repetitive hip flexions and applying direct pressure to the hip. Avoid sleeping on the affected side and sitting for long amounts of time.
  • Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, and others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and others), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help reduce hip pain.
  • Ice or heat: To administer cold treatments to your hip, use ice packs or a bag of frozen veggies wrapped in a towel. A hot bath or shower, on the other hand, might assist condition your muscles for pain-relieving stretching exercises.

Home Remedies

Hip pain may indicate a sign of a significant health issue in some circumstances, while it can also be merely a temporary annoyance in others. You might wish to attempt at-home treatment if you have mild to moderate hip discomfort. The following are some hip pain treatments:

  • Rest: Try to avoid bending at the hips or exerting a lot of pressure on your hip. Avoid sleeping on the side of your sore hip and sitting for long periods of time.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are among painkillers that may help reduce inflammation, which could lead to or exacerbate your hip discomfort.
  • Cold and heat: Using heat and ice to treat pain can be beneficial. To frost your hip, enclose it in a towel along with an ice pack or bag of frozen veggies. A hot shower or bath can also help ease your discomfort and get your muscles ready for stretching.
  • Stretching: If stress or a pinched nerve is the cause of your hip discomfort, you may find relief by gently stretching your body.
  • If you know what's causing your hip pain and it's not serious, there are things you can do at home to reduce your pain.

Muscle or tendon strain, osteoarthritis and tendonitis

  • You can treat some types of arthritis, tendinitis, and strain pain at home. Try yoga and tai chi in addition to the advice above. These leisurely movements incorporate light stretching and in-depth breathing. Both can help you unwind and exercise your body without intensifying your pain.
  • Enroll in a course taught by a licensed instructor to ensure that your experience is both entertaining and secure. You can employ certain movements to manage your pain once you've discovered which ones work best for you.

Rheumatoid arthritis

  • People with rheumatoid arthritis can also benefit from tai chi and yoga. Some experts also recommend fish or plant oil supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids to reduce their pain. Like all supplements, oils can interfere with certain medications or cause side effects, so talk to a doctor before trying them.


Symptoms of arthritis can often be reduced by:

  • Lose weight, if you are overweight or obese. It can reduce the strain on your joints.
  • Exercise, to help keep your joints flexible. Walking and running are harder on the joints compared to swimming and cycling.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the common causes of hip pain?

Common causes of hip pain include arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, muscle strains, labral tears, hip impingement, and fractures.

2. When should I see a doctor for hip pain?

You should see a doctor if your hip pain is severe, persistent, or interfering with your daily activities. Seek immediate medical attention if you have a traumatic injury, cannot bear weight on the hip, or if the pain is associated with numbness, tingling, or weakness.

3. How is hip pain diagnosed?

Diagnosis typically involves a medical history review, physical examination, and often imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans. In some cases, diagnostic injections may be used.

4. What can I do at home to relieve mild hip pain?

Rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate mild hip pain. Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as maintaining good posture, may also provide relief.

5. Are there lifestyle changes that can prevent hip pain?

Yes, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, practicing good posture, and avoiding overuse or excessive strain on the hips can help prevent hip pain.

6. Can hip pain be related to back problems?

Yes, hip pain can sometimes be referred to from issues in the lower back or spine. Conditions like herniated discs or sciatica can cause pain that radiates into the hip area.

7. Is surgery always necessary for hip pain?

No, surgery is not always necessary. The treatment for hip pain depends on the underlying cause. Many cases can be managed with conservative approaches such as physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications.

8. What are some exercises to strengthen the hip muscles?

Exercises like bridges, clamshells, leg raises, and squats can help strengthen the hip muscles. A physical therapist can provide tailored exercises based on your specific needs.

9. Can hip pain in older adults be a sign of osteoporosis?

Yes, hip pain in older adults can be a sign of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakened bones. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures, including hip fractures.