Hip pain, a common issue affecting people of all ages, manifests as discomfort in or around the hip joint. This type of pain not only hinders daily activities but can also significantly impact quality of life. The nature of hip pain can vary widely from person to person, encompassing sharp, acute pain to chronic, dull aches. 

The hip, a complex joint where the femur meets the pelvis, plays an important role in supporting the body’s weight in both static and dynamic states, making it susceptible to a range of injuries and conditions. Understanding the underlying causes of hip pain is essential for effective management and treatment. 

Common Causes of Hip Pain

The hip joint is designed to withstand repeated motion and a fair amount of wear and tear. Despite its durability, it is not indestructible. With age and use, the cartilage can wear down or become damaged. The hip can also be affected by various diseases that lead to pain:

  • Osteoarthritis: The most common cause of hip pain, especially in older adults. This condition results from wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the bones of the hip joint. As the cartilage wears down, bones may rub together, causing pain.
  • Trochanteric Bursitis: Occurs when the bursa, a fluid-filled sac near the hip joint that reduces friction, becomes inflamed. This condition can cause significant pain on the outside of the hip.
  • Tendinitis: Inflammation or irritation of the tendons, the thick bands of tissue that attach bones to muscles. Hip tendinitis is often caused by repetitive stress from overuse.
  • Hip Fractures: Significant and serious cause of hip pain, most common among older people due to falls. They require immediate medical attention.
  • Labral Tear: The labrum is a ring of cartilage that follows the outside rim of the socket of your hip joint. Activities that involve repetitive twisting or pivoting can lead to labral tears.
  • Osteonecrosis: Also known as avascular necrosis, occurs when blood flow to the hip bone is reduced, leading to the bone tissue dying and causing severe hip pain.

Each condition has its own specific treatments, ranging from conservative methods, such as physical therapy, to surgical interventions in more severe cases.

Diagnosis of Hip Pain

The diagnosis of hip pain begins with a comprehensive medical history and physical examination. Hip pain is typically diagnosed through:

  • X-rays: These can show the condition of the bones and cartilage in the hip, revealing signs of arthritis or fractures.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): An MRI can provide detailed images of soft tissues, including the labrum, tendons, and muscles. This is particularly useful for diagnosing soft tissue injuries such as labral tears or tendinitis.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: A CT scan combines X-ray images taken from different angles to create cross-sectional images of the body. This can be helpful in diagnosing complex fractures or in planning for surgery.
  • Ultrasound: This imaging test uses sound waves to produce pictures of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints throughout the body. It can be used to investigate bursitis or tendinitis.
  • Bone Scan: In some cases, a bone scan might be conducted to detect fractures, cancer, or other abnormalities in the bone.
  • Blood Tests: While not used to diagnose hip pain directly, blood tests can detect inflammation, infection, or arthritis-related markers.

Following these tests, a treatment plan is devised that may include medication, physical therapy, or surgery, depending on the underlying cause of the hip pain. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in preventing further damage and in alleviating pain effectively.

Ways to Manage Hip Pain

Effective management of hip pain depends on the underlying cause. However, several general strategies can help alleviate pain, improve mobility, and prevent further injury:

  • Physical Therapy: Tailored exercises can strengthen the muscles around the hip, improve flexibility, and reduce pressure on the hip joint.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and inflammation. In some cases, the orthopaedic specialist may prescribe stronger medications.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the stress on the hip joint, thereby reducing pain.
  • Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate hip pain and adopting low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling can help maintain mobility without worsening the condition.
  • Assistive Devices: Canes or walkers can help reduce the load on the affected hip and improve balance.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying ice packs can reduce inflammation and pain, while heat therapy can relax muscles and improve circulation.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections or hyaluronic acid injections may provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.
  • Surgery: In cases where conservative treatments have failed, and pain significantly impacts quality of life, surgical options such as hip replacement surgery might be considered.

It is important to work closely with an orthopaedic specialist to develop a comprehensive pain management plan tailored to your specific needs and condition.

When to See an Orthopaedic Specialist

While mild hip pain might be managed with home treatments, certain symptoms warrant prompt medical evaluation to prevent more serious conditions. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe pain, especially after a fall or injury
  • Sudden swelling around the hip or signs of infection, including fever, redness, or warmth
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected leg
  • Inability to move the hip or leg, or a significant loss of range of motion
  • A popping noise at the time of the injury
  • Persistent pain that worsens or does not improve with rest and over-the-counter pain medication

Early intervention can be important for conditions like hip fractures, severe arthritis, or osteonecrosis, where delaying treatment may lead to worsening of the condition and a longer recovery period. Additionally, unexplained hip pain lasting for more than a few days should be evaluated by an orthopaedic specialist to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.


Understanding and addressing hip pain is important for maintaining mobility, quality of life, and overall health. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are key to effectively treating hip pain and preventing further complications. It is important to listen to your body and consult with an orthopaedic specialist if you experience persistent or severe hip pain. 

With the right approach, it is possible to manage hip pain successfully and return to your daily activities without discomfort.