Hip pain is the general term for pain felt in or around the hip joint. It isn’t always felt in the hip itself but may instead be felt in the groin or thigh. The hip is a very stable and strong joint. It’s known as a ball-and-socket joint. This ‘ball’ sits inside a hollow socket in your pelvis. Ball-and-socket joints give the most movement of all the different types of joints in the body. Hip pain is a common complaint that can be caused by a wide variety of problems.
The precise location of your hip pain can provide valuable clues about the underlying cause. Problems within the hip joint itself tend to result in pain on the inside of your hip. Hip pain on the outside of your hip, upper thigh or outer buttock is usually caused by problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround your hip joint. Hip pain can sometimes be caused by diseases and conditions in other areas of your body, such as your lower back. This type of pain is called referred pain.
Causes of Hip Pain
Most of the time there is a very simple explanation for hip pain. In this case, your pain is usually caused by strained or inflamed soft tissues, such as tendons, and it often clears up within a few days. Long-term hip pain can be caused by specific conditions. If you have a problem with your hip joint you may feel pain in the groin, down the front of the leg and in the knee.
Certain injuries or conditions can cause hip pain.
Inflamed tendons: The most common cause of acute hip pain is inflamed tendons or tendonitis. This is often due to too much exercise. This condition can be very painful, but it usually heals within a few days.
Arthritis: The most common cause of long-term hip pain is arthritis. Arthritis can cause pain, stiff and tender joints, and difficulty walking.
Trochanteric bursitis: Another possible cause of hip pain is trochanteric bursitis. This condition occurs when the bursa, which is a liquid-filled sac near the hip joint, becomes inflamed.
Hip fractures: Hip fractures are common in older adults and in those who have osteoporosis, which is a weakening of the bones due to age or other factors. Hip fractures cause very sudden, severe hip pain, and they require immediate medical attention.
How is hip pain diagnosed?
The doctor will ask about the pain and what movements make it feel worse. They’ll ask how symptoms started, how they affect your daily activities and whether you’re in pain at night. Pain when you bend your hip going up or down the stairs or when you put on your socks is often a sign of a hip problem. To diagnose arthritis, the doctor will perform fluid and imaging tests. Fluid tests involve taking samples of blood, urine, and joint fluid for testing in a laboratory. Imaging tests may include:
- CT scans
- MRI scans
What are the treatment options for hip pain?
The treatment of hip pain depends on the cause. For exercise-related pain, rest is usually enough to allow the hip to heal. This type of pain is typically gone within a few days. If you have arthritis, the doctor will prescribe medications to relieve pain and stiffness. The doctor may refer you to a specialist who can offer further advice and a physical therapist who can show you how to do exercises to help keep the joint mobile. For injuries, treatment typically involves bed rest and medications to relieve swelling and pain. Hip fractures, malformation of the hip, and some injuries may require surgical intervention to repair or replace the hip.
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