Hip Pain


What You Need to Know About Hip Pain

The hip – one of the body’s largest joints – forms a hinge between the pelvis and thighbone. You use your hips to walk, run, bend, sit and stand. With all of this use, hip pain may be the result of simple wear and tear – but it can also be caused by an injury.

It’s important to see a doctor about sudden or ongoing hip pain to find its source and relieve the discomfort. At Aurora Health Care, we offer a variety of treatment options for hip pain, including physical therapy, integrative treatments like acupuncture, hip resurfacing and total hip replacement.

What Is Referred Pain in the Hip?

Some people feel pain in the hip that originates elsewhere in the body This is known as referred pain. Although you’ll feel it in your hip, the actual source of the pain might be:

  • Trochanteric bursitis: Irritation in the bursae – the fluid-filled sacs that protect the hip joint – can cause pain in the hip joint. This condition is known as trochanteric bursitis of the hip.
  • Spine or back problems: A pinched nerve, ruptured disc or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) in the back can cause hip pain. Similarly, pain from a pinched nerve, like pain caused by sciatica, can radiate to the hip. These issues may require back and spine care.
  • Hernia: When a weakness in the abdominal wall lets part of the small intestine or other tissues bulge out, the pain sometimes reaches the hip.

The Aurora Difference

Experts in Identifying & Treating Hip Pain

At Aurora, our orthopedic team takes the time to listen to you and effectively diagnose hip pain. People also choose us because of our:

  • Focus on prevention and therapy: Our primary care sports medicine specialists focus on your overall health, helping you prevent injury whenever possible. When problems do arise, our team can help you find the best path to healing – often through noninvasive treatments like physical therapy or integrative care. Learn about orthopedics and primary care.
  • Coordinated care: No matter where you receive care, your entire team will be able to easily access your health records and communicate with each other. That means your primary care doctor, physical therapist and surgeon will work closely together to achieve the best possible outcomes for you.
  • Broad range of specialists: At Aurora, you’ll have access to more than 70 orthopedic surgeons, many of whom have advanced fellowship training. This kind of specialized training means you can work with a doctor who has extensive experience in your unique condition.
  • Advanced surgery with faster recovery: We were among the first in Wisconsin to provide anterior hip replacement surgery. With this minimally invasive procedure, our surgeons can repair or remove problem areas in the joint using smaller incisions – so you can recover faster. Read more about minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.

Causes & Risk Factors

Who Is at Risk for Hip Pain?

Many people experience increasing hip pain as they age, with women more likely to experience hip pain than men.

Some people have a higher risk of hip pain because of:

  • Weak muscles due to an inactive lifestyle or injury
  • Excess weight or obesity, which increases pressure on the hips
  • Previous hip injuries
  • Conditions like hip instability
  • Exercise or participation in sports without warming up

What Causes Hip Pain?

The hip is one of the largest joints in the body. As the meeting point of the thigh and pelvis, the hip bears a lot of weight, which can make it vulnerable to injury.

Common causes of hip pain include:

  • Injury: A fall or car accident can cause a fracture (crack or break) in the hipbone. In addition to fractures, an injury can cause bruising and swelling that affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding the hip.
  • Repetitive use: Impacts from playing football or the twisting motions of golf or softball can cause painful problems in and around the hip, including labral tears. A labral tear is a rip in the labrum, the cushion that helps hold the hip joint in place. Find out more about hip dislocation and instability.
  • Arthritis: Inflammation and stiffness of the joints can cause hip pain. In osteoarthritis, cartilage (the cushion between bones) wears away, allowing the bones to rub together painfully. Learn more about arthritis.
  • Childhood hip disease: Some people are born with hip joints that are shaped differently from most people. This different shape can cause hip pain and other issues during childhood. Wear and tear from childhood hip disease can also develop into arthritis and hip pain in later life.
  • Bone disease: Sometimes, hip pain occurs because of infection, disease or cancer in bones in and around the hip. Our experts in musculoskeletal oncology are experienced at diagnosing and treating bone and soft tissue cancer.


When Should You See a Doctor for Hip Pain?

Hip pain may be a sharp pain or an ache. You might notice pain in the hip joint or in the muscles where the thighbones meet the pelvis.

See a doctor if you have:

  • Sudden, intense pain
  • A joint bulge or another deformity
  • A hip or leg that won’t support your weight
  • An inability to move the leg or hip
  • Pain with chills, fever, a rash or other signs of possible infection

Depending on what is causing the hip pain, other symptoms may include:

  • Tenderness or pain in the hip joint
  • Pain in the groin, outer hip, thigh or buttocks
  • Trouble moving the hip or legs
  • Difficulty sleeping on the hip
  • Snapping or clicking sounds in the hip (crepitus)

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we can help. Start by taking this free hip joint pain assessment to see how much your joint pain affects your life. Then we’ll help you find an orthopedic specialist near you. You can use the results of your assessment to help guide your conversation with them, and they’ll help you create a plan for pain relief.

Diagnosis & Treatment

What to Expect at Your Appointment for Hip Pain

At your appointment, your doctor will ask about your hip pain, including when it started and what you think caused it. During your physical exam, you’ll also work together to check your hip’s strength and movement.

Before making a diagnosis, your doctor may order tests like:

  • X-rays: Images that can show fractures, injuries or arthritis in the hip and other bones
  • Ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans: Detailed images that let your doctor see inside your muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues
  • Blood tests: Tests that check for infection or different types of arthritis

Treatments for Hip Pain

Depending on the hip pain’s cause and severity, your doctor may suggest several possible treatments. These treatment options will be based on your lifestyle and overall health goals, and may include:

  • Physical therapy to improve mobility or heal from injury
  • Integrated medicine, like massage, chiropractic and acupuncture
  • Training, like performance running, to improve athletic form and prevent further injury
  • Injections for joint pain (sometimes called cortisone shots) to lubricate the hip joint and ease movement
  • Medical care for any autoimmune disease or infections that are causing the pain
  • Hip joint resurfacing to remove damaged areas of the joint
  • Hip replacement surgery to treat severe arthritis or severe injuries

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