Hip pain: Lots of people have it, but it’s hard to define.
That’s because pain from areas around the hip and even inside the abdomen can show up as pain in the hip. So can problems with the spine or knees. When pain from one area shows up in another, that’s called “referred pain,” and a lot of hip pain is referred.
Whatever the cause, hip pain is more common as you grow older. Over a lifetime, there’s a lot of wear and tear on this strong joint. Women have hip pain more than men, but the reasons aren’t clear.
How do you know what’s causing your hip pain? Read on for help in homing in on what the pain in the hip is all about, what you can do to relieve it and when you should see your health care professional. You may see an orthopedic specialist.
What Causes Hip Pain?
Whether it’s coming from the hip itself or somewhere nearby, hip pain could be caused by:
- Fracture or other bone deformity caused by injury.
- Deformity you were born with.
- Bruising or inflammation of the muscles, ligaments and tendons around the hip area.
- Arthritis and the loss of cushioning cartilage, which leads to bone rubbing on bone.
- A pinched nerve, narrowing or a ruptured disk in your spine.
- Hernia (a weakness in the abdominal wall that lets the intestine bulge out) or gynecological problems like endometriosis where the pain is “referred” to the hip.
- Infection, disease or cancer in the bone.
Figuring out the cause starts with the location.
Where’s the Pain?
Pay attention to exactly where the pain seems to be. Is it inside the hip joint? Outside? In the groin? Thigh or buttocks? Does it stay there or radiate down your leg or into your buttock?
- If the pain is inside your hip or groin, chances are the problem is in the hip joint.
- Pain outside of the hip, in the upper thigh or butt, is more likely a sign of problems outside of the joint, in the muscles and soft issues.
What Should You Do About It?
If it’s not from a fracture or a serious condition, most hip pain gets better with self-care. If the pain is not sudden or severe, try these steps:
- Rest and keep weight off your hip for a while. Avoid direct pressure on the hip such as bending, sitting or lying on that side.
- Try over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
- Apply cold packs to the hip (15 minutes several times a day) to reduce swelling and pain.
- Gentle exercise with low impact exercises like walking or swimming, stretching and resistance training can help with chronic hip pain from arthritis
- When you exercise, try a warm bath or shower to help the muscles stretch.
- Lose those extra pounds — losing even 5 to 10 pounds can reduce hip stress and pain.
When To See a Doctor
If none of the self-care treatments gives you relief, see a health care professional. A primary care doctor is a good place to start, since the range of underlying problems is so wide.
Here's a resource to help guide you in the type of health care you should seek.
You should see a doctor right away if you fell or your hip gave way suddenly and it hurts to move or stand on the leg — it might be a hip fracture. Pain that shoots down the leg might mean a ruptured disk in the spine. See your doctor if the pain is very bad or gets worse.
To resolve chronic hip pain, an orthopedic specialist may recommend:
- Minimally invasive arthroscopic hip surgery to remove or repair problems in the joint.
- Hip resurfacing surgery. This is most appropriate for young active patients.
- Hip revision surgery. This can be appropriate for joint damage due to years of wear.
- Hip replacement surgery. This approach may include a minimally invasive approach to address disabling joint pain.
If you have any questions about joint pain, see your health care professional. If pain remains chronic, pain management may be an option.
Professional care can help you return to living well.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.