By Medicover Hospitals / 18 Jan 2021
Hip pain is the experience of pain in the muscles or joints in the hip or pelvic region. Sometimes it is closely associated with lower back pain.
- What is hip pain?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home remedies
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.
Pain in the groin and front of the thigh is the most common symptom of hip arthritis, especially when walking or during activities that require twisting, like putting on socks or getting out of a car. The pain is caused by the hip bones rubbing against each other. The hip joint also may become swollen and stiff.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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 repeated hip flexes and direct pressure on the hip. Try not to sleep on the affected side and avoid sitting for long periods.
- Pain relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help in relieving the pain in your hip.
- Ice or heat: Use ice packs or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to apply cold treatments to your hip. Conversely, a hot bath or shower can help prepare your muscles for stretching exercises that can reduce pain.
In some cases, hip pain is nothing more than short-term discomfort, while in other cases, it can be a sign of a serious health problem. If you have mild-to-moderate hip pain, you may want to try home treatment.
Treatments for any types of hip pain include:
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.
- Rest: Avoid doing things that require you to bend at your hip or put 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: Some pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) may help decrease inflammation that could cause or worsen your hip pain.
- Cold and heat: Treating pain with heat and cold can help. Wrap an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables in a towel to frost your hip. A hot bath or shower can also help reduce your pain and prepare your muscles for the stretch.
- Stretching: Gently stretching your body can reduce hip pain, especially if the cause is tension, or a pinched nerve.
Muscle or tendon strain, osteoarthritis and tendonitis:
Pain from strains, tendonitis, and some forms of arthritis can be managed at home. Besides the tips above, try tai chi and yoga. These are slow exercises that combine gentle stretching and deep breathing. Both can relax and move the body in ways that don't make your pain worse.
Sign up for a course with a certified instructor to make sure your experience is enjoyable and safe. Once you've learned which movements are best for you, you can use them to treat your pain.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Hip pain can be caused by a number of factors including wear and tear (repetitive activity), accidents and injuries, arthritis, and poor blood circulation.
Nowadays, more athletes are being diagnosed with labral tears or impingement of the hip. This is very common in athletes who perform repeated hip flexions such as runners, hockey players, soccer players, martial arts competitors, wrestlers, skiers, and football players.
Non-surgical treatment should always be considered first when treating hip pain. In the case of hip impingement, it is possible to resolve the pain with rest, by modifying one’s behavior, and with a physiotherapy course. Such conservative treatments have been successful in reducing the pain and swelling in the joint. Know the best possible conservative treatments for hip pain.
The painful hip: new concepts - https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00256-006-0105-5
Hip pain among older adults - https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/How-common-is-hip-pain-among-older-adults-Results-Christmas-Crespo/9c911fc35761c45915ff1443559f83dd8c47169d?p2df
Causes of Hip Pain - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0749806310007267