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).
Depending on how severe your hip joint pain is, it can affect your everyday life by preventing you from:
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.
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. This wear and tear increases with age and weight. The damage caused eventually becomes too much for your body’s normal repair process to keep up with.
You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you are a woman and if you have experienced joint infections, breaks or other damage to your bones. Osteoarthritis can also run in families.
Symptoms of osteoarthritis in your hips include:
Pain in your hip (and other joints) can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis — both are types of inflammatory arthritis that can come and go, and make you feel generally unwell.
Sudden and severe pain from your hip joint after a knock or fall is likely due to a fracture (break). This is one of the most common fractures in older people after a fall. Treatment usually involves surgery.
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.
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:
In some cases, hip pain comes from problems in the lower back or other areas near the hip joint — this is called referred pain.
Hip joint pain can be caused by abnormally shaped hip bones. This can cause femoroacetabular impingement, where the hip bones rub together, and hip dysplasia, where the hip joint dislocates more easily. Dislocation can also be caused by an injury. A tear in the cartilage around the hip joint (hip labral tear) can also cause pain.
Other causes of hip joint pain include:
You should see your GP if you're worried about symptoms, especially if they're severe or affecting your everyday life, or if you have a fever and hip pain.
Hip problems can affect children at different ages.
Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) affects newborns. It occurs when the hip joint is unstable and dislocates.
Children usually aged 4–13 can develop Perthes' disease after a fall. It is more common in boys than girls and affects the blood supply to the hip joint. The first symptom of the disease is usually a limp.
Older children, usually aged 11–13, can develop slipped capital femoral epiphysis. Common symptoms include knee or hip pain and limping.
Children of all ages can also be affected by septic arthritis of the hip joint, which is caused by an infection.
You can book an appointment with a Spire GP today.
Hip pain usually gets better without treatment. You can manage your pain by taking over-the-counter painkillers and resting your hip. However, you should go to a hospital as soon as possible if:
You should see your GP if:
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. They will ask when and how the pain started, where the pain is, whether you can walk and bear weight on your hip and whether anything makes the pain better or worse. They will also ask if you have any other medical problems or are taking any medicines.
If your GP can’t find an exact cause, they may request some tests and/or scans, including:
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:
Once your doctor has made a diagnosis, they may recommend the following treatments:
If your hip pain is found to be related to exercise or other types of physical activity, your doctor may recommend:
What are the first signs of hip problems?
Early signs of hip problems include:
Pain in your hip or groin area
Stiffness in your hips
Tenderness or swelling around your hip
If you have any of these symptoms and are worried, see your GP.
How do I know if my hip pain is serious?
Hip pain usually gets better without treatment but in serious cases, treatment is required. Whether you need to see your GP or go straight to the hospital will depend on your symptoms. See your GP if:
You have a fever or rash in addition to your hip pain
You have pain in both hips and other joints
You have sickle cell anaemia and your hip pain occurred suddenly
Your hip is still painful after one week of resting it
Go to a hospital if:
You cannot move your hip or bear any weight on it
Your hip pain was caused by a serious accident or fall
Your leg is bleeding, severely bruised or deformed
What does it feel like to have arthritis in your hip?
When arthritis affects your hip, it can feel stiff with a dull, achy pain that can extend to your groin, outer thigh, knee and buttocks. In general, rheumatoid arthritis feels worse in the morning, with mild to moderate exercise easing the pain, while osteoarthritis feels worse later in the day, with activity increasing the pain. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in your hip can make walking feel uncomfortable.
When should I go to the doctor for hip pain?
You should see your GP if your hip pain is accompanied by a fever, rash or pain in other joints. If after a week of resting your hip, the pain persists, or you have sickle cell anaemia and your hip pain occurred suddenly, you should also see your GP.
You may need to see a doctor urgently if you can't bear any weight on or move your hip, if your leg is bleeding, deformed or severely bruised, or if your hip pain is due to a serious accident or fall. In these cases, you should go straight to your nearest A&E.
Does walking help hip pain?
Depending on the cause of your hip pain, walking can make it better or worse. It is important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis for the cause of your hip pain. Appropriate treatment can then be recommended, which may include exercise, such as walking.
What helps hip pain while sleeping?
Finding a comfortable sleeping position can reduce hip pain at night. You can try sleeping on your back or if you sleep on your side, fold a blanket or pillow into a wedge shape and place it under your hip for support and cushioning. You can also try placing a pillow between your knees to help align your hips. Over-the-counter painkillers can help, as well as a warm bath before bedtime. Stretching and low-impact exercise may also help but you should seek medical advice before attempting any to avoid causing more pain.