What is hip pain?
Hip pain can occur because of arthritis, injuries or problems with your hip socket. People of all ages can experience hip pain, but older people are more likely to develop it due to arthritis and bone fractures. Dancers, gymnasts and other athletes who move their hips in all directions are more likely to injure their hips, especially from overuse.
Depending on the cause, rest, anti-inflammatory medication and ice may help you feel better. More severe injuries may need surgical repair. Doctors often use minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to repair torn tendons or the acetabular labrum. If the damage is severe, your doctor may recommend hip replacement surgery.
What causes hip pain?
Many conditions and injuries throughout your life can cause hip pain. Some common hip pain causes can include:
Arthritis: Several types of arthritis affect the hips, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Hip arthritis is common. It causes joint pain and swelling. Arthritis can affect people of all ages, but older people are more likely to have the condition.
Injuries: Overuse or trauma can damage your muscles, bones, tendons (tough fibers that attach muscles to bones) and ligaments (tissues that connect bones to other bones). Athletes who perform repetitive motions are particularly prone to overuse injuries. Older people are more likely to break a hip because bones become more fragile as we age. Some of the kinds of hip injuries you can experience could include:
- Dislocated hip.
- Labral tears (damage to the cartilage in the hip socket).
- Hip strains.
- Snapping hip syndrome.
Bursitis: Bursae provide cushioning for our joints. These are sacs, filled with fluid that are located on inside of the hip. These bursa sacs can become irritated and swollen from injury, overuse or arthritis. When this happens, a painful condition called bursitis can develop.
Structural abnormalities: Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) can affect babies. When the hip socket is too shallow, the ball part of the ball-and-socket hip joint doesn’t stay in the socket. DDH runs in families. It can result from a breech delivery (when the baby’s feet come out first). Without treatment, DDH can cause pain later in life.
Childhood illness: Perthes disease (also known as Legg Calvé Perthes disease) is a rare hip condition that affects children between ages 6 and 10. Perthes disease causes temporary blood loss to the ball at the end of the femur (thighbone). As a result, the bony ball breaks down and changes shape. Over time, it no longer fits snugly in the socket, causing hip joint pain.
Care and Treatment
How is hip pain treated?
Treatment for hip pain typically depends on how much pain you’re in and what is causing your discomfort. Mild injuries to muscles, tendons or bursa sacs often improve with rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medications. You can often follow the RICE method—rest, ice, compression and elevation. This form of treatment can be done at home and it can sometimes relieve some of your hip pain. If necessary, doctors can usually repair tendons and labrum tears with minimally invasive surgery. More serious hip conditions may require a total hip replacement.
Arthritis treatment may include medication and physical therapy. Doctors can usually treat DDH and Perthes disease with special braces, casts and slings that keep the joint in place while the hip heals. Some children may need surgical repair.
No matter what caused the pain, physical therapy exercises can strengthen your hip muscles and relieve discomfort.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I call the doctor about my hip pain?
Persistent hip pain could be a sign of arthritis or a serious injury. Call your doctor if you have pain that lingers for more than a couple of days. Visit your doctor right away if the pain is making it hard for you to walk or move. If you have hip pain after a fall or car accident, see your doctor immediately.
If your child has hip pain, see your pediatrician to rule out DDH or Perthes disease. Call your pediatrician immediately if your child is having trouble walking or running.