Published on Mar 20, 2020 and last reviewed on Mar 24, 2020 - 5 min read
The joint where the tip of the femur (thigh bone) joints the pelvis in a socket (acetabulum) is called the hip joint. Cartilage covers both the femur bone and socket in this joint. Synovium, which is the tissue lining the joint, also surrounds the hip joint. This synovium produces synovial fluid that lubricates and provides nutrients to the joint. The femur is attached to the hip joint with the help of ligaments, muscles, and tendons. There are many fluid-filled sacs (bursae) in the joint which provides gliding surfaces in the hip joint. The muscles and tendons move around these gliding surfaces. The sciatic nerve (longest nerve) and other major arteries, nerves, and veins pass behind the hip joint.
Hip pain can be mild to severe and can cause aching, sharp, or burning type of pain. There are various causes that can lead to hip pain, some of which are serious and need immediate medical treatment. Some cause, such as a hip fracture, arthritis, or infection, can lead to permanent hip damage or can be debilitating.
Your doctor will first try to identify the cause of your hip pain and suggest a treatment plan, which can include surgery, home remedies, rest and ice, painkillers, and physical therapy, depending on the cause.
Some of the possible conditions that can cause hip pain are:Arthritis - Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common causes of hip pain in older adults. Arthritis causes inflammation of the hip joint, which breaks down the cartilage and destroys the cushioning effect. This results in hip pain, hip stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
Tendinitis - Tendons are bands of tissue that attach the head of the femur to the muscles in the hip joint. Repetitive stress due to overuse can result in the inflammation of these tendons (tendinitis).
Hip Fractures - The bones become weak and brittle with age, which is more common with women. This weakening makes the bones more prone to fracture during a fall. A hip fracture can also lead to life-threatening complications. The symptoms include severe hip and groin pain, inability to put weight on the injured side, stiffness, and swelling.
Bursitis - The fluid-filled sacs (bursae) found in the hip joint help ease the friction the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments rubbing together. In case when these bursae get inflamed, they result in hip pain. It can be caused due to overuse or repetitive actions that overwork the hip joint.
Muscle Strain - Overworking the joint without proper stretching exercises can put unwanted strain on the muscles and ligaments. This causes hip pain and a limited range of motion.
Hip Labral Tear - The labrum is the rim of the cartilage that lines the hip socket, which provides cushioning to the hip joint and holds the ball of the femur securely in the joint. When this labrum gets ripped, it results in severe hip pain. It is commonly seen in athletes and people who repetitively twist their bodies.
Cancer - Hip pain can also be caused by bone tumors that originate in the hip bones.
Osteonecrosis - Otherwise called avascular necrosis, it is when the bone tissue dies because of reduced blood flow. It can affect any bone including the hip. The causes include a hip fracture or hip dislocation, and prolonged steroids use.
Snapping Hip Syndrome - It commonly affects dancers and athletes. It is a condition that results in snapping feeling or sound in the hip while walking and getting up from a sitting position. In some rare cases, it can cause hip pain, but mostly it is painless.
Femoroacetabular Impingement - Here, hip pain is caused when abnormally shaped bones in the hip rub together.
Hip Dysplasia - This is a condition where the hip socket does not completely cover the head of the femur.
Osteomyelitis - Infection in the bone or hip joint.
Sickle Cell Anemia - People with sickle cell anemia often complain of hip pain. This is because of bone death caused by permanent or temporary loss of blood supply to the bone.
Based on the cause, the symptoms associated with hip pain are:
Pain while walking.
Loss of motion of the hip joint.
Most causes of hip pain get better with rest and over-the-counter painkillers. But always consult a doctor before taking any medicines. In the following situation, go to the emergency room immediately:
If you are in pain even after resting for a week.
If you have a fever or rash.
If you have sickle cell anemia and you are experiencing hip pain.
If more than one joint is painful.
The doctor will try to diagnose the cause of your hip pain by conducting a physical examination, taking a complete medical history, and by asking you questions about the pain. Be ready to answer questions like when the pain is severe, what aggravates or relieves pain, when did the symptom first began, and has it affected your ability to walk.
The doctor might tell you to walk so that he or she can examine your range of motion. Then the doctor might suggest you get the following tests:
Fluid in the joint is tested.
CT and MRI scans.
Based on these test results, the doctor will try to diagnose the cause.
Based on what is causing your hip pain, the different treatment options include:
Avoid activities that aggravate your pain.
A cake or a walker will help you walk and improve mobility.
If you have hip pain and swelling, follow the R.I.C.E protocol, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Various NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) drugs, such as Diclofenac, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen, or Paracetamol are used to ease hip pain.
In severe cases, stronger painkillers like opioids are used.
Other medications include disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drug (DMARD) for rheumatoid arthritis and antibiotics for joint infection.
Along with medication, physical therapy plays an important role in the treatment of most kinds of hip pain. It helps in improving strength, flexibility, and mobility of the hip. It also includes massage, ultrasound therapy, ice and heat therapy.
Surgery is indicated for hip fractures, osteonecrosis, and some types of cancer.
To know more about the possible causes of hip pain, consult an orthopedician and traumatologist online.
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