Our hips are ball-and-socket joints, the largest of this type of joint in our bodies. When our hips are healthy and pain-free, they fit together in a way that allows us to move about fluidly.
When we use our hips, there’s a cushion of cartilage that helps prevent any friction as your hip bone moves about its socket. But, despite its durability and functionality, this joint is also extremely susceptible to injury.
The more we move and the older we get, the cartilage in our hips begin to wear down and become damaged. The muscles and tendons in our hips can be overused easily. And the bones in our hips may break as the result of a fall or other traumatic injury.
As you can see, there are many ways that we can injure our hips and experience hip pain. If you’re experiencing pain or soreness in your hips, here’s some more information on hip pain and how you can get relief.
What Causes Hip Pain?
Here’s a rundown of some of the most common conditions that can cause pain our hips:
- Arthritis: Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are leading causes of hip pain, particularly in older adults. When arthritis is present, it can lead to inflammation in your hip joint and the breakdown of your cartilage that cushions your hip bones. This can cause pain, stiffness, and a reduced range of motion.
- Hip Fractures: As we age, our bones become weaker and more brittle. Weakened bones are more susceptible to breaks during impact or a fall. Even young people can fracture their hip with overuse.
- Bursitis: Your hip is full of bursae sacs, which are sacs of liquid that are located between your tissues like your bones, muscles, and tendons. These sacs help to ease the friction caused by any of these tissues rubbing together. When your bursae gets inflamed, it can cause you to experience pain. Inflammation of your bursae is usually caused by repetitive activities that place stress on your hip joint, like running and jumping.
- Tendinitis: Your tendons are the bands of thick tissue that attach your bones to your muscles. Tendinitis is characterized by inflammation or irritation in your tendons. Again, this condition is usually caused by repetitive motions and overuse.
- Muscle or Tendon Strain: A strain is caused by repetitive activities that put a strain on your muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support your hip. When they are overused, they can become inflamed, causing you pain and an inability to use your hip or move around properly.
- Hip Labral Tear: This is characterized by a rip in the ring of cartilage (labrum) that runs along the outside rim of your hip joint socket. Your labrum acts as a rubber seal or gasket to assist with holding the ball at the top of your thigh bone tightly in your hip socket. Those who are at the highest risk of sustaining this type of injury are athletes and those who regularly perform twisting movements.
- Cancer: Some people suffer from cancers that start in the hip bone or spread to the hip bone that can cause pain in your hips as well as in other bones throughout your body.
- Avascular Necrosis: This is a condition is also known as osteonecrosis, and it is caused by lost blood flow to the hip bone which results in bone tissue death. This condition can affect other bones but is most prevalent in the hip. This condition can be caused by a hip fracture, dislocation, or long-term steroid usage.
What Are The First Signs of Hip Problems?
The first signs of hip problems will depend on the condition or cause of your hip pain. However, the most common symptoms include feeling pain and discomfort in the following areas:
- Inside of your hip joint
- Outside of hip joint
In some cases, pain from other areas of the body, like the back or groin, can cause pain to radiate to your hip. You may notice that your pain level increases with activity, this is especially true if the cause of your pain is related to arthritis.
In addition to pain, many people experience a reduced range of motion and even develop a limp from the nagging pain in their hip.
What Hip Pain Treatments Are Available?
If the pain in your hip is caused by a muscle or tendon strain, arthritis, or tendinitis, you can usually find relief from an over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen.
If the pain is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, pain treatment may include prescription anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids, biologics, which work on your immune system, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
In addition to these common treatment methods, your doctor may also recommend that you rest the affected joint as much as possible until the pain subsides, avoiding any activities that may irritate the joint. Additionally, icing your hip with an ice pack for 15-minute intervals several times a day may help to reduce pain and swelling in the area. The same goes for heat, a warm bath or shower may be able to help loosen the muscles up for stretching and soothe the pain.
If your pain is caused by arthritis, performing exercises that target the hip joint with low impact exercises, strength training, and stretching can reduce your pain and improve joint mobility. Swimming, for example, is a great non-impact exercise that can help soothe arthritis pain. Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy to help increase your range of motion and mobility.
In some cases, osteoarthritis becomes so severe that the pain in your hip joint becomes intense or the hip itself becomes deformed. In these cases, a total hip replacement may be recommended to ease the pain and restore functionality. Additionally, people who fracture their hip sometimes require surgery to fix the fracture or even replace the hip.
Is Walking Good For Hip Pain?
The answer to this question depends on the type and severity of your hip injury. If your pain is too intense to comfortably and normally walk, then that’s a sign that you need to rest your hip, elevate it, and use ice or heat to soothe the pain. If after that you’re experiencing pain relief, start by lightly stretching and performing strengthening exercises before setting out for a walk. Start with short, slow walks, and work your way up.
How Do I Know If My Hip Pain Is Serious?
If you’re experiencing pain in your hip that is worsening or not responding to the treatments listed above, then it’s time to call your healthcare provider. Additionally, if you notice any swelling, redness, or warmth around the joint, that’s another sign to call your doctor right away. This can be a sign of a serious infection or condition.
- Seek medical help immediately if any of the following apply:
- Your hip pain came on suddenly or without an explanation
- You fell or experienced another injury that triggered the pain
- You’re bleeding from your hip or your joint looks deformed
- You heard an audible “pop” in your joint during an injury
- The pain you’re experiencing is intense
- You’re unable to bear weight on your hip
- You’re unable to walk or move your hip