Hip pain

Hip pain

Hip pain can be caused by injury or disease. Sudden pain in your hip is more likely to be the result of an injury to your soft tissues or a bone fracture. Chronic (long-term) or gradual pain is often caused by wear and tear to your joint over time (osteoarthritis).

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021

Summary

Depending on how severe your hip joint pain is, it can affect your everyday life by preventing you from:

  • Performing simple activities, such as walking or climbing the stairs
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Taking part in sports
  • Doing your job, especially if you're a manual labourer

Hip and joint pain can be managed using painkillers or joint injections but often it’s better to treat the underlying cause of the pain.

Causes of hip pain

Osteoarthritis

One of the most common causes of hip pain is osteoarthritis, especially in older people. This is the gradual breakdown of the cartilage protecting the bones in your joints, causing pain and stiffness. Pain is increased during movement and you might also find your hip pain is worse at night and in cold or damp weather and you may experience crepitus.

Pain in your hip (and other joints) can also be rheumatoid arthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis that can come and go, and make you feel generally unwell.

Hip fracture

Sudden and severe pain from within your hip joint after a knock or fall is likely due to a fracture (break). If you have osteoporosis, you’re more likely to suffer fractures because you have weakened bones.

If you have pain caused by a fall or accident, such as a car crash, you should go straight to A&E.

Other injuries

Pain on the outside of your hip, upper thigh or buttocks is usually caused by problems with the soft tissues surrounding your hip joint. Many hip problems of this type are sports injuries. They include:

  • Tear to the cartilage tissue in your hip
  • Strain or tear to a ligament - the tough tissue connecting your bones within your joints and keeping it stable
  • Tendonitis the inflammation of your tendons
  • Strain or tear to the hamstrings
  • Inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that cushions your bones in your joints
  • An inguinal hernia, where part of your intestine pushes through your abdominal muscles

In some cases, hip pain comes from problems in the lower back or other areas near the hip joint – this is called referred pain.

You should see your GP if you're worried about symptoms, especially if they're severe or affecting your everyday life.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms.

You can book an appointment with a Spire GP today.

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Getting a diagnosis for hip pain

Your GP will discuss how you’re feeling and give you a physical examination to look for signs of what may be causing your hip pain. If they're unable to find an exact cause, they may request some tests and/or scans, including:

  • An X-ray of your hip to look for a fracture or bone deformity
  • Blood tests to check for any diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • MRI and/or CT scans to see your hip joint and surrounding tissues in more detail
  • A bone scan to check for irregularities in your bones such as cancer, infection or impaired blood supply

Treatments for hip pain

Your hip pain treatment will depend on the type of hip problem your doctor has diagnosed. You may be able to manage it by losing weight if you’re overweight – this takes pressure off your hips. Other things you can do to manage hip pain at home include:

  • Resting and avoid activity that's painful
  • Avoiding standing for too long
  • Wearing flat shoes
  • Using an ice pack
  • Taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

Once your doctor has made a diagnosis, they may recommend the following treatments:

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