When to See the Doctor About Your Hip Pain
By Rajesh K. Jain, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon
Where would we be without our hips? The largest weight-bearing joint in the body, the hip allows us to stand, sit, walk, and run. But if you develop arthritis or injure your hip, the pain can hinder your ability to move and significantly impact your quality of life.
While some hip pain can be effectively treated at home, certain conditions do require attention from a health care provider. Here’s what you need to know.
Causes of Hip Pain
The location of your hip pain can help determine its underlying cause.
Pain on the inside of your hip or your groin is likely a problem within the joint itself. Pain on the outside of your hip, upper thigh, or buttocks could be from the joint, but can also often be traced to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or other soft tissues that surround your hip joint.
Hip pain also can from an injury in another part of your body, such as your lower back or abdomen. This is called “referred pain.”
Hip pain becomes more common as we get older, but it can have a number of causes, including:
- Arthritis and the loss of surrounding cartilage, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis
- Abnormal development or cartilage tears in the hip joint
- Fracture or other bone deformity
- Dislocation of the hip joint
- Bruising, tearing, or inflammation of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons (tendinitis) around the hip
- Bursitis, the inflammation of a lubricating sac around the hip joint
- Inguinal hernia
- A pinched nerve, narrowing, or ruptured disc in your spine
- Sciatica, pain that radiates along your sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg
Hip pain also can be caused by cancer, such as leukemia, or an infection like osteomyelitis.
Treating Hip Pain at Home
If your pain is mild and doesn’t come from a fracture or other serious injury, you may be able to treat it at home. Try these remedies:
- Alternate hot and cold compresses on your hip.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen sodium.
- Limit or reduce bending at the hip or putting direct pressure on your hip.
- Avoid sleeping on your side. If you regularly sleep on your side, use a firm pillow between your knees to align your hips.
- Limit your time sitting.
- Stretch your lower back and hips. Low-impact exercises like walking or swimming can help chronic hip pain from arthritis.
When to See the Doctor
If self-care treatments have failed to relieve your symptoms and your hip remains stiff and painful, you have lost range of motion, or you are unable to perform certain activities, make an appointment with your health care provider.
Seek immediate medical attention if:
- Your pain occurs as a result of an accident or fall
- You heard a popping noise in the joint when you suffered your injury
- You have severe pain
- You cannot bear weight on your hip or move the affected leg
- Your hip appears deformed or is bleeding
- You have swelling, redness, or warmth around the joint
- Your toes turn blue or feel numb
- You have a fever along with your hip pain
Treatment will depend on the cause of your hip pain. Medication, physical therapy, corticosteroid or platelet-rich plasma injections, and lifestyle modifications such as weight loss may help relieve or decrease your symptoms. Depending on your condition, joint replacement surgery may be an option as well.
You don’t have to live with hip pain. See a health care provider early for an accurate diagnosis and treatment so you can get back to the life you enjoy.
Don’t Let Joint Pain Hold You Back
From pain management and physical therapy, to surgery and rehabilitation, Virtua Health can help you get back in the game. Our board-certified and fellowship-trained sports medicine specialists and orthopedic surgeons guide your care – from diagnosis to treatment, and beyond. Learn more about the Virtua Orthopedics & Spine program or call 856-517-8812.
Updated January 14, 2022