What Causes Hip Pain? 8 Possible Reasons & When to Worry

Hip pain can occur with tendon inflammation or bursitis in the hip region, as well as sciatic nerve swelling or other conditions like arthritis, dislocation or a fracture. 

In most cases, hip pain can be treated at home with warm compresses and rest. You should avoid high-impact activity like running or going up the stairs. 

If you hip pain is intense, persistent, lasts for over 15 days and does not improve with analgesics, you should see an orthopedic surgeon or your family doctor. These symptoms may be signs of a more serious problem that requires specific treatment. 

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What causes hip pain?

The main causes of hip pain are:

1. Tendinitis

Tendinitis generally causes pain that worsens with activity, like walking or running. This pain can radiate to entire leg and is most common in athletes who use these tendons. It is common to notice this pain after exercising. 

What to do: Place a warm compress on the hip for 15 minutes, two or three times per day. You can also rub a topical anti-inflammatory over the affected area for pain relief.

2. Bursitis

Hip pain associated with bursitis is usually deep, as it affects the middle of the joint. The pain can radiate to the side of the thigh. In some cases, it can cause mild swelling on the side of the leg and can be very tender to the touch. 

What to do: Apply warm compresses on the side of the hip and ensure you stretch the hip throughout the day. You should also elevate the hip when possible. You should still see a doctor, as anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy may be beneficial. 

3. Sciatic nerve inflammation

Sciatic nerve inflammation usually occurs in people who practice high impact sports or workout their glutes frequently. This inflammation happens due to compression of the sciatic nerve between the vertebrae in the spine.

Pain from sciatic nerve inflammation tends to be more intense at the back of the pain, in the glute region. It often radiates and causes a burning sensation as well as difficulty moving. Check out our online sciatica symptoms quiz to assess your risk for this condition. 

What to do: In some cases, sciatica can be relieve with glute and lower back massages as well as stretches and exercises to strengthen the back. However, if the pain does not improve, you should see a doctor for anti-inflammatories and possible physiotherapy to help reduce swelling.

Learn more about sciatica pain relief options that you can use to manage discomfort.

4. Hip arthritis or arthrosis

Hip pain in patients over the age of 60 is usually a sign of arthritis, arthrosis or osteoporosis. Pain usually worsens when walking, lowering into a chair or other activities that involve hip movement. 

What to do: You should see an orthopedic surgeon for treatment with anti-inflammatories (like diclofenac and ibuprofen) as well as physiotherapy to reduce joint inflammation. You can also try an arthritis diet, which is full of anti-inflammatory food that can address mild pain and prevent worsening. 

5. Hip fracture or dislocation

When hip pain is very intense and uncomfortable, and it is difficulty to walk, sit or get up, a dislocation or fracture of the hip may be present. This is common in older adults who have fallen, or after a car accident. 

What to do: Trauma should be assessed immediately in the hospital, as hip fractures may require surgical repair. If you suspect you may have a hip fracture or dislocation, seek urgent medical attention, so that treatment and pain management can be addressed. 

6. Hip pain during pregnancy

Hip pain during pregnancy is reported by about half of women. It occurs due to the effect of relaxin on the bones and joints in preparation for labor. The hip joint often becomes looser which causes discomfort, especially in pregnant women who have poor posture throughout the day. 

What to do: To reduce pain during pregnancy, your doctor may recommend a hip belt to help stabilize the joint and promote wellbeing.  

7. Femoroacetabular impingement

Femoroacetabular impingement occurs when the head of the femur comes in contact with the hip bone. This leads to sharp pain in the hip bone and joint, especially when sitting for prolonged periods, bending down or exercising. 

Generally, this syndrome is most frequent in people who practice sports with repetitive movements, like ballet or martial arts. Genetic factors can also play a role in this condition. 

What to do: Treatment for femoroacetabular impingement should be oriented by an orthopedic surgeon, who may recommend anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy, or in severe cases, surgery.

8. Stress fracture

A stress fracture is a small crack or microfacture that can occur on the femoral head due to overloading on the bone. This overloading may be a result of muscle fatigue, as the muscle is unable to absorb impact for physical activity. This condition leads to pain and swelling in the hip or groin that continues to hurt while rest.

What to do: You should discontinue physical activity immediately and apply a cold compress to the area for 10 minutes. You should see an orthopedic surgeon for assessment and diagnosis. Treatment usually involves the use of pain medications and surgery, in serious cases. 

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor or orthopedic surgeon if your hip pain is very intense, emerges suddenly, immobilizes you (ie. you are unable to walk or sit) or takes longer than 1 month to resolve.