Definition & Overview

Hip pain is a discomfort or painful sensation affecting the hips. It is caused by many factors including a fracture, inflammation of the tendons or the joints, injuries, or underlying diseases. Depending on the severity or the exact cause of the pain, the treatment may include a hip replacement injury.

The hip is a joint that protrudes between the thighbone and the pelvic area. It is composed of a ball and socket and provides greater range of motion for the lower torso allowing a person to stand, walk, dance, sit, and lift objects, to name a few. It also has a cartilage that prevents friction when the hips are moved. The ligaments hold the hip joint to prevent it from dislocating. Muscles, meanwhile, also help in holding the ligaments and the hip joint together.

In general, the hip is capable of many types of motions. However, as the person ages, the joints undergo wear and tear. They may also be dislocated, or the surrounding tissues and nerves may become inflamed. Diseases such as arthritis can also lead to hip pain. Sometimes people confuse pelvic and back pain as hip pain because of the proximity of these body parts.

Causes of Condition

There are many potential causes of hip pain. These include the following:

  • Muscle stress: One of the most common reasons for hip pain is muscle stress. Muscles are stretchable, but when they are held in a certain position for some time, they may become stressed. This explains why you feel your muscles tense when you have been sitting for so long. You may also feel some hip pain when you suddenly lift heavy objects, especially from a lower position. The sudden pull of the muscles near the hips can also become stressed.

  • Bursitis: Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa. It is a small sac that is filled with fluid and is found in between movable parts of the body such as the tendons, ligaments, and joints. Bursas work as cushions, preventing friction among these parts and reducing the impact of a fall or trauma. Sometimes bursas are inflamed due to injuries or joint overuse.

  • Sprain: Usually a sprain is a torn ligament, but it’s also possible that the ligament is stretched that it causes swelling. A sprain doesn’t result to dislocation of the joint or a fracture of the bone. One of the most common causes of a sprain is the violent twisting of the hips or the pelvis. The ligaments may also be sprained after a fall.

  • Fractures: A hip fracture is actually a fracture of the upper region of the femur or the thighbone, the one that sits closest to the hip. Fractures may be open, when the bones pierce the skin. Fractures lead to swelling, endangerment of the vital organs, difficulty in walking, and pain that can reach all the way to the hips.

  • Dislocation: A dislocated joint may also cause hip pain. As its name suggests, the joint has gone out of its position. This can result in swelling and difficulty of using other joints such as those in the pelvic area. A person with a dislocated hip therefore may eventually struggle walking or doing other regular activities.

  • Osteoarthritis: Also referred to as degenerative arthritis, it is the wearing away or the degeneration of the cartilage of the joints. It is usually common among men and women who are middle age, but young adults may also develop it especially when they are injured or obese.

  • Osteoporosis: It is a medical condition characterized by loss of muscle tissue supporting the bones and joints. Thus, these body parts become more brittle and more vulnerable to fractures. This disease normally affects women, although the number of cases among men are is growing.

  • Endometriosis: This occurs when the lining of the uterus develops in abnormal places. This can lead to moderate to severe pain in the pelvic area. The pain may travel toward the hips.

Key Symptoms

  • Pain in the hip area
  • Uncomfortable sensation in the hip
  • Protruding bone caused by a fracture
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Skin tenderness or soreness
  • Difficulty in walking or doing certain activities
  • Limited movements
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensation

Who to See and Types of Treatments Available

Sometimes hip pain can disappear especially if the reason is a simple strain or stress of the surrounding muscle tissues. However, if the pain has been ongoing for more than a few weeks or it prevents you from doing your regular activities, you need to see a specialist.

Normally, you approach your general doctor who will make the initial diagnosis. He will perform a series of tests, including MRI scans (i.e. if he believes it’s bursitis or osteoarthritis) or X-rays. He may then recommend pain relievers or medications. If the initial treatment plan doesn’t work, the doctor may then refer you to a specialist called an orthopaedic (or orthopaedist).

An orthopaedic specialist is a doctor that specializes in the musculoskeletal system of the body. These include the joints, bones, cartilages, and ligaments.

The type of treatment, you will receive depends on the diagnosis of your doctor or the specialist. It may involve any or the combination of the following:

  • Rest: If the muscles are simply strained or stressed, the best treatment is to rest and allow the muscles to heal and recover.

  • Cold compress: Cold compress is a good way to minimize the inflammation of the hips and the surrounding muscle tissues. Apply cold compress for at least 15 minutes a couple of times a day until the pain subsides.

  • Pain relievers: Pain relievers such as Tylenol can minimize the swelling or the inflammation. The doctor may also prescribe NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Aleve.

  • Surgery: If the hip pain is caused by a fracture or a serious injury, the doctor may recommend a surgery. Surgeries are often considered emergencies. In a hip replacement surgery, prosthesis is implanted to serve as a new hip. A surgery also corrects fractures by adding screws and steel.


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