Definition and Overview

Hip problems are, unsurprisingly, one of the most common complaints among patients of both genders, different age groups, and varying physical conditions. Pain in the hips usually involves the tissues, muscles, nerves, and other structures around the pelvic joints. In some cases, conditions affecting the pelvic joint itself can be the cause of the pain. There are also cases when the pain is not only isolated in the hips or pelvic area, but also affect the lower extremities.

The part of the body commonly referred to as the “hip” is actually the joint and the specific anatomical region surrounding it, which includes the buttocks, the hipbones, and the upper part of the thighbone. The hip joint, which is responsible for linking the pelvic and thighbones, takes on a very important task to ensure body’s stability and mobility. Aside from supporting the body’s weight, the hips are also essential for maintaining balance and various postures, such as sitting, standing, running, and walking.

Having hip problems can be disastrous to any individual, as it can affect many aspects of one’s day-to-day life. Any complaints in the hip can affect the way one sits, stands, sleeps, works, and so on.

Causes of Condition

Women are more likely to suffer from hip problems than men, with female patients’ complaints often affected by their age and their activity levels. There are several common causes of hip pain in women, including the following:

  • Fractures in the hipbone – Older women are susceptible to fractures in their hipbones, which can be rendered weak and brittle by osteoporosis, a condition that involves a significant reduction in bone density.

  • Arthritis - This condition advances the wear and tear of the hip joints, causing pain and difficulty in moving

  • Hernia - This condition usually affects the femur and the groin. Pregnant women, with added pressure in their abdominal walls due to the growth of the foetus, are particularly susceptible to hernias in the groin.

  • Tendinitis - Tendons in the hip area are susceptible to inflammation, especially if the patient engages in a lot of strenuous activities, such as active sports.

  • Bursitis - This condition involves the swelling of a bursa, a sac of fluid that forms over the joints to cushion the movement of bones and tendons.

  • Endometriosis - This involves the growth of the endometrial lining. Aside from chronic pelvic pain, patients suffering from endometriosis also suffer from painful menstruation and sexual intercourse, and fertility issues.

Some of the conditions described above also occur in male patients. Other possible causes of hip problems also include:

  • Sciatica – This involves a pinched sciatic nerve, which runs through the anterior pelvis, buttocks, legs, and feet. Irritation and compression can cause pain or numbness in the hips, typically radiating from the lower back and shooting down to the legs and feet

  • Femoroacetabular impingement - This involves the rubbing of pelvic bones due to their abnormal shape.

  • Hip labral tear - This involves a tear in the cartilage surrounding the hip joint socket.

  • Infection in the hipbones or joints can also cause pain. Common infections in this area include osteomyelitis and septic arthritis.

  • Osteocrenosis - This is caused by a lower-than-normal blood flow to the pelvic joint. This reduction in the amount of healthy blood flowing into the joints in the hip can weaken the bones, making it susceptible to breakage and fractures.

  • Iliotibial band syndrome - This involves the inflammation of a ligament in the thigh. This condition is common among runners.

Key Symptoms

The symptoms of hip pain vary depending on the underlying cause.

  • Hip fractures. This condition typically displays symptoms such as pain shooting down the leg whenever the patient tries to lift something, straighten his or her back, or standing up. Putting any pressure on the leg (on the side affected by the fracture) can result in pain.

  • Arthritis. This condition typically causes pain in the groin or the upper thighs, as a result of the wearing, tearing, or inflammation of the hip joint.

  • Tendinitis. This condition involves stiffness in the hip joints and a burning feeling in the affected area.

  • Bursitis. The affected site usually feels painful and tender.

  • Endometriosis. Aside from pain in the pelvic area, some patients also experience pain during sexual intercourse or menstruation. Bowel and urinary issues also occur, but are not common.

  • Sciatica. The pain is usually worsened by sitting for prolonged periods of time, coughing, or sneezing. Sciatica can also cause weakness in the leg muscles, accompanied by numbness or a tingling sensation down the leg.

  • Bone infections are usually accompanied by fever.

Hip pain can be a symptom of a more serious condition. While some problems can be treated with rest, it is best to see a doctor immediately when one experiences the symptoms described above.

Who to See and Types of Treatment Available

Many cases of hip problems do not occur more than once. Simply taking the time to rest after engaging in strenuous physical activities and taking over-the-counter pain medication can make the symptoms go away after a couple of hours or days.

The doctor usually recommends treating the condition that might be causing the problem first. Medication, surgery, or physical therapy can be some of the treatment options for hip problems.

Wearing flat shoes, losing weight, avoiding strenuous activities, and strengthening the muscles in the hips can prevent the occurrence of hip problems in the future.

References:

  • Anderson BC. Evaluation of the Adult with Hip Pain
  • Ferri FF. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor
  • Arthritis Research UK
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