The hip is commonly considered as the region of the body where the thighs meet the torso. Medically speaking, the hip region is considered as the area around the hip joint. This region is made up of various structures including the hip joint, part of the thighbone (femur), hipbone, thigh muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint capsule or bursa, cartilage, nerves, and blood vessels. Inflammation or an injury to any of these structures can cause hip pain.
Because the hip region contains many structures, a hip pain can be felt in many different areas around the hip, groin, and low back. The location of the hip pain can sometimes give the doctor an idea of the possible cause of the hip pain.
Causes of hip pain
There are many causes of hip pain. It could be due to:
- Arthritis - Degenerated or inflamed hip joints due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Pain from arthritis is usually felt in the groin area and gradually becomes severe over time.
- Dislocated hip joint due to trauma
- Bursitis - There are three sacs called “bursae” in or near the hip. These fluid-filled sacs help cushion and protect the joints. “Bursitis” is the medical term for when one of these sacs gets irritated or inflamed. People whose hip pain is caused by bursitis usually feel more pain if they lay on their side, or if someone presses against the side of their hip.
- Fractured hipbone or thighbone - Fracture and hip dislocation are classically preceded by a history of injury. In addition, these are characterized by hip pain associated with visible or obvious signs of deformity.
- Torn muscles or tendons from vigorous activities - Pain that is from muscle or tendon strain is usually worse with movement of the legs.
- Bone cancer or bone metastasis - Bone cancer or the spread of other cancers to the bone (metastasis) can cause severe bone pain which can occasionally be felt in the hip area.
- Bone infection or osteomyelitis - Bone infection is usually characterized by hip pain that is associated with fever.
- Nerve impingement - Impingement of the nerves from the spine can cause other neurologic symptoms like weakness and numbness of the legs on top of the hip pain.
- Referred pain from other structures like in a hernia or in passage of kidney stones and even sometimes knee disorders will refer pain to the hip.
When to see the doctor
Consult your doctor immediately if:
- Your hip pain is secondary to a fall or an injury
- There is an obvious deformity on your hip
- Your hip is bruised or bleeding
- You cannot bear weight on your hips
- It is difficult to move your legs or to ambulate
- Your hip pain is associated with fever
- Your hip pain is not improving after a week
- Your hip pain is associated with leg numbness or weakness
The treatment of hip pain depends on the underlying cause. These might include:
- Pain medications such as anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen) or acetominophen for symptomatic relief of pain
- Anti-inflammatory drugs including steroid injections for arthritis and tendinitis
- Antibiotics as necessary for bone infection
- Physical therapy for nerve impingement
- Surgery for fracture or dislocation
Other helpful steps that could help in alleviating the pain are the following:
Rest your painful hip. Do not work through the pain.
- Apply ice compress.
- Avoid weight bearing on your painful hip.
- Lose weight if you are obese to decrease the stress on your hips.
- Ask your doctor about the use a cane or crutch to support your hips.
- Do stretching before you exercise or before you engage in sports.