hip pain: causes, symptoms & treatment

Medically Reviewed By : Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 

Introduction

Hip Pain is a common symptom that can be caused by sports injuries or arthritis. It is a general term for pain in and around the hip joint. It is not always felt in the hip but instead may be felt in the groin, thigh area, or up to the knee. You can usually treat hip pain by taking breaks for physical activities and taking pain-relieving medications. But if the pain persists or gets worse, consult the doctor for further treatment plans.

hip pain

What is hip pain?

Hip pain is a pain in and around the hip joint. You may not feel the pain directly in the hip area; you may feel it in the groin, thigh area, or up to the knee. The hip joint is the largest in the body, and we use it constantly to move, support the body’s weight, and maintain balance.

Hip pain can vary from acute to severe, depending on the injury. You can feel the pain in the area where the hip joint is injured. You might feel the pain in:

    1. Above and around the hip: mainly seen when muscles, ligaments, and tendons are involved.
    2. Deep inside the hip joint: pain related to bones or cartilage injury
    3. lower back: hip pain that spreads to other areas like the lower back or groin area
You can treat hip joint pain by taking a break from physical activities and by taking painkillers. If you feel the pain is bad enough to affect your daily activities or make it difficult to move around, consult a doctor for a treatment plan. See the doctor if the pain persists for more than a few days and is not getting better.

Causes

Hip pain is caused by arthritis, injuries, and medical conditions. Athletes, gymnasts, and dancers are more likely to have hip pain and hip injuries.

Arthritis

Arthritis causes pain and inflammation in the joints. Hip arthritis is common, causing symptoms like pain, swelling, stiffness, and difficulty walking. There are various types of arthritis:

Osteoarthritis is more common than rheumatoid arthritis. Fracture

Infection in the bones and joints

    1. Tendonitis: Too much exercise leads to acute hip pain, which causes inflamed tendons, or tendonitis. It is a very painful condition that heals by resting for a few days.
    2. Bursitis: This is the condition when the bursa, the liquid-filled joint, becomes inflamed. Various factors lead to bursitis, including hip injuries, overuse of joints, or posture problems. Most commonly seen in women.
    3. Hip impingement: People who do intense activities cause the hip bone to fuse in an abnormal shape, causing restriction of movement. This is mainly called hip impingement or femoral acetabular impingement (FAI). It also increases the risk of premature osteoarthritis. Physiotherapy acts as a first-line treatment. If not, surgery is needed to move the hip bones and unlock them.
    4. Sports hernia or core muscle injury: Pain in the groin area due to strain or tear of muscles or other soft tissues in the lower abdomen. This is seen mainly by those who play sports that involve lots of twisting and turning activities.
    5. Snapping hip syndrome: Dancers or athletes may feel the snapping hip syndrome by hearing a snapping sound in the hip. This snapping is seen during activities like walking or getting up from a chair. This condition is usually painless but may cause pain in some cases, which indicates a cartilage tear or small fragments of material in the hip.
    6. Osteonecrosis: Osteonecrosis occurs when the blood doesn’t reach the bone. It can be temporary or permanent, which leads to the loss of supporting bone. Joint injury, heavy use of steroids or alcohol, and cancer treatment patients are at greater risk of this condition.

Symptoms

Many times, hip pain can be treated with self-treatment. If the pain persists and lasts longer than two weeks, you should consult a doctor. The following are the symptoms related to hip pain:

You should connect with the doctor if you see bleeding in the hip, an exposed bone or muscle, or if you can’t bear weight on the affected leg.

If you see the joint as swollen or deformed, or if you have severe pain in the hip, you should consult a doctor.

Consult the doctor if you have:

    1. The pain is getting worse day by day
    2. Difficulty in daily activities
    3. If you have a fever, feel unwell, or are losing body weight,
    4. History of fall or injured hip 

Treatment

The treatment for hip pain mainly consists of two options: conservative or surgical. It depends on the type of injury to the hip.

Conservative

The RCCE method is used as a conservative method and includes the following:

Rest

If the pain is due to overexercise, rest is usually helpful to heal the hip pain. This pain typically subsides after a few days. Avoid activities that increase hip pain. Prolonged bed rest is not suggested as it leads to stiffness and muscle weakness.

Cold and hot packs

Applying ice packs to the affected area helps to relieve inflammation and pain. After the acute phase, the application of the hot pack helps to relax muscle tightness.

Compression 

Compression at the hip joint can be done with a compression bandage. It will reduce blood flow to the affected hip area and reduce swelling.

Elevation 

Elevation of the hip above the heart level should be done with the help of pillows,  blankets, or cushions.

Over-the-counter medications are suggested by the doctor for pain relief.

Physical therapy is suggested if the pain is due to arthritis or damage to the structural tissues. Physical therapy helps in stretching and strengthening the muscles around the affected hip area, which will improve the pain and maintain stability.

Surgical treatment

If the pain is severe and does not subside conservatively, doctors may suggest surgical intervention. Surgery is mainly needed in the case of a hip fracture or any structural tissue damage.

Hip arthroscopy is commonly used to treat labral tears, femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), and certain hip conditions.

Hip arthroplasty: the damaged hip joint is replaced by the prosthesis (an artificial implant). Mainly performed in conditions like arthritis or severe damage to the hip.

Hip osteotomy: this surgery mainly involves reshaping the socket of the hip joint or the upper part of the thigh bone (femur) to improve the alignment and distribution of forces within the hip joint.

Revision hip replacement: when the previous hip replacement surgery fails or is worn out, a revision hip replacement is done to replace the prosthetic component.

Key Takeaways

Hip pain is a common symptom of many conditions. If the pain does not subside after the conservative treatment, you should refer to the doctor for further investigations and appropriate treatment that will get you back on your feet as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

    1. NSAIDS for pain relief
    2. Physical therapy
    3. Steroid injection
    4. Ice application
    1. During sports or physical activity 
    2. Wear the right clothing and shoes 
    3. Warm-up exercises and stretching before the start of exercise or play.
    4. Cool down or relax after the exercise or play activity.
    5. Don’t play when the pain persists.
    6. Give your body time to rest and recover after any intense activity.



Osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis, is the common reason for hip pain, which is seen mainly in older people. Arthritis refers to inflammation of the hip joint and the breakdown of the cartilage around the hip joint.

    1. Limping while walking
    2. Pain In the groin or upper thigh
    3. Pain in the hip that radiates to the knee
    4. Pain while sitting or squatting activities