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Hip Pain: What Are the Causes and Treatment?

The hip joint is the body’s largest ball-and-socket joint that can withstand repeated motion and a fair amount of wear and tear. Whenever you use the hip, a cushion of cartilage helps prevent friction as the hip bone moves in its socket, allowing for fluid movement.

However, with age and use, the hip joint can become damaged. The cartilage can wear down, muscles and tendons can get overused, and the bones can break during a fall or other injury. Any of these conditions can lead to hip pain.

Hip pain can be felt in the hip, groin, thigh, or knee, resulting from various conditions affecting the hip’s structure or the soft tissues surrounding it. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and treatment options can help patients manage this condition more effectively.

If you’re dealing with hip pain, this comprehensive guide explores the issue in detail, providing valuable insights to help you better understand and manage your condition.

Understanding the Causes of Hip Pain

Hip pain is a common condition affecting about 10% of the general population. It can be caused by various problems, ranging from age-related conditions to sports injuries.

Below, we list some of the most common hip pain causes:

  • Arthritis: Hip pain caused by arthritis arises from the degeneration of joint cartilage (osteoarthritis) or the erosion of the lining of the bone due to an autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis).
  • Hip Fractures: Hip fractures are common among older adults, affecting more than 300,000 people over 65 years old in the U.S. This is due to conditions like osteoporosis that weaken the bones, making them more susceptible to hip injuries.
  • Bursitis: This condition affects the small fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion the bones and soft tissues. It can get inflamed due to repetitive movements or prolonged pressure, causing pain and discomfort in the hip area.
  • Tendinitis: Repetitive stress or sudden, acute overload can result in the inflammation of the tendons, the thick bands connecting muscles to bones.
  • Muscle or Tendon Strain: Frequent or intense activity can overstretch or tear the muscles and tendons around the hip, leading to inflammation, pain, and sometimes swelling.
  • Hip Labral Tear: The labrum, a ring of cartilage surrounding the hip joint socket, can tear due to sports-related movements, structural abnormalities, or degenerative processes, causing sharp, often debilitating pain.
  • Avascular Necrosis: This condition occurs when blood flow to the hip bone is diminished, leading to the death of bone tissue.

Symptoms of Hip Pain

Symptoms associated with hip pain can vary significantly, depending on the cause. Here are some common manifestations:

  • Pain in and around the hip joint, including the groin, thighs, and buttocks.
  • Pain or discomfort while performing various physical activities.
  • Reduced range of motion while moving the hips.
  • Developing a limp to reduce weight on the affected hip.

Diagnosing Hip Pain

In order to diagnose the cause of hip pain, a healthcare provider will typically follow these steps:

  1. A thorough physical examination to assess pain, tenderness, swelling, deformities, and the range of motion of the hip.
  2. Understanding the patient’s medical history, including any previous injuries or conditions.
  3. Imaging tests can provide detailed views of the hip structure, helping to identify the cause of pain. The tests performed include:
    • X-rays: Help in identifying bone-related issues, such as fractures or arthritis.
    • MRI Scans: Offer detailed images of soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and cartilage.
    • CT Scans: Provide a more detailed view of the hip bones and the surrounding soft tissues.
  4. Analyzing fluid from the hip joint can help diagnose infections or diseases like arthritis.

Hip Pain Treatment Methods to Reduce Hip Pain

The main goal of hip pain treatment is to reduce hip pain, improve joint function, and enhance the quality of life for the individual. Depending on the results of the assessment, your healthcare provider will recommend any of the following treatment methods:

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy involves therapeutic exercises, manual therapy techniques, and other non-invasive modalities to relieve pain, improve hip joint function, and enhance the strength and flexibility of the muscles surrounding the hip.

A physical therapist will assess the individual’s condition and design a personalized program that targets the specific causes of their hip pain. This may include:

  • Strengthening exercises to build muscle strength, support the hip, and improve its stability.
  • Flexibility exercises to increase the range of motion and reduce stiffness in the hip.
  • Balance training to improve stability and prevent falls, especially in older adults.
  • Education on proper posture and body mechanics to reduce strain on the hip during daily activities.

Surgical Interventions

Surgical interventions may be considered for cases where conservative treatments have not provided sufficient relief or when there is significant structural damage to the hip joint.

The type of surgery is determined based on the underlying cause of hip pain and the extent of the damage. Common surgical options tend to include:

  • Hip Replacement Surgery: A procedure where the damaged hip joint is replaced with an artificial joint, hip replacement surgery is highly effective for relieving pain and restoring function in patients with severe arthritis or damage.
  • Hip Resurfacing: A less invasive option than a total hip replacement, where the damaged bone and cartilage within the hip joint are removed and replaced with metal surfaces. This can preserve more of the natural bone structure.
  • Arthroscopic Surgery: A minimally invasive surgery used to diagnose and treat various hip problems, including removing damaged cartilage or repairing a torn labrum.


Medications are crucial in managing hip pain, especially in reducing inflammation and alleviating pain. Depending on the severity of the pain and the underlying cause, your attending physician may prescribe:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce inflammation and reduce or eliminate pain.
  • Prescription medications like corticosteroid injections into the hip to provide significant pain relief in case of more severe pain.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and biologics in case of inflammatory arthritis.

Seek Professional Treatment For Hip Pain

Seeking immediate medical care is crucial if your hip pain results from an injury or if you cannot bear weight on the affected leg. It’s also important to get medical advice if your hip pain persists despite trying home remedies or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like a fever or rash. These signs may indicate a more serious condition that requires professional evaluation and treatment.

We understand how debilitating hip pain can be at the American Hip Institute. That’s why we are committed to providing personalized care tailored to your needs and goals. Our team of orthopedic specialists is equipped with expertise in cutting-edge hip preservation and restoration techniques.

We are here to ensure you receive the best possible outcome, helping you regain your confidence and easily return to your activities. Contact us to request an appointment.

Contact us to schedule an appointment
with our specialists today.

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Contact us to schedule an appointment
with our specialists today.

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