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Hip Pain

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The ball socket joint that helps you walk and move your legs, is the hip. It is a strong joint that can stand the impact of high-impact trauma. It is one of the largest joint in the body that can bear heavy weight. This stable joint is surrounded by bones, cartilage, muscles, ligaments as well as tendons. The ball is actually the femoral head of the thigh bone and the acetabulum (cavity) of the pelvis forms the socket. These two are connected with the help of a complex network of ligaments. Smooth tissues cover the surface of the bones that helps cushion the bones.

There are fluid-filled sacs called the bursae, that help in cushioning the area where the muscles move over the bone. Synovial fluid is secreted by synovium that helps in lubricating the joint.

Hip pain is a common complaint in patients around the world. This happens due to deteriorated bones, irritated bursae, bone fracture or wear and tear of the cartilage. Let us have a look at the different causes of hip pain.

Symptoms of hip pain

Hip pain is very tricky to understand. It may vary in case of location, severity, intensity, etc. Pain may be felt in the front part of the hip like in the groin area or in the back, that is in the buttock. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Limping
  • Bone fracture
  • Pain from the back that radiates to the buttocks
  • A ‘catch’ in the hip joint that disrupts movement

Causes of hip pain

Pain in hip is an indication of certain diseases or conditions affecting either the hip joint or other parts of the body. Thus, it is important to make an accurate diagnosis of the cause that leads to the pain. Some of the common causes are as follows:


Arthritis is one of the most common reasons for hip pain in older adults. Arthritis leads to inflammation and breakdown of the hip joint and cartilages cushioning the bone. It leads to stiffness, reduction in motion of the joint and pain. There is no specific treatment that helps in repairing the breakdown of cartilage. The treatments aim at relieving pain, inflammation, reducing the stiffness and slowing down the joint degradation.

Referred Hip Pain

At times pain in other parts of the body radiates over to the hip. This includes pain from or due to:

  • Hernias, especially inguinal hernia that causes pain in the hip due to weakness or tear in the surrounding abdominal wall.
  • Sciatica, a nerve root inflammation causes pain in hip.
  • Muscle strain like a groin pull or hamstring strain causes pain and spasms in the hip region.
  • Lumbar pain like herniated discs can lead to buttock and hip pain.


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The small fluid filled sacs or bursae that cushion the tendons and muscles near the joint are affected. They become inflamed and cause considerable pain and discomfort in the hip region.

Hip Fracture

A serious injury, especially in case of older patients is a hip fracture. It causes a lot of pain in the injured patient. Surgical repair or replacement is the only way to cure hip fracture.

Sprains and Strains

A sprain or strain on the ligaments, muscles or tendons around the hips can lead to inflammation, swelling and pain. One can treat this pain with the help of ice compress, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.


The condition occurs when the tendons or its sheath get inflamed. This occurs due to repetitive movement or strain on the tendons. The treatment includes reduction in repetitive activity, use of ice compress, use of NSAID’s. One can even go in for use of shoe orthotics that help in better alignment of the foot.

Bone Cancer

Cancer of the bone that spreads to other bones can lead to hip pain. One may feel a lump or swelling at the site of cancer location. The pain in case of deep bone cancer is so severe that it can disrupt sleep and peace of mind. Treatment is chemotherapy and radiation.

Diagnosis of hip pain

Diagnosis is based on patient history and physical examination. An X-ray will help get a better look of the hip bones and joint in case of fracture or arthritis. A bone scan helps in finding any kind of inflammation. Blood tests like ESR or CRP will serve as markers for inflammation.

Treatment of hip pain

Treatment will depend on the cause of hip pain. This includes use of pain killers, drugs that help slow down the progress of arthritis, surgery or hip replacement surgeries.

Prognosis of hip pain

Proper care and following medical advice will help ease the pain in most cases. Old age, loss of calcium and normal wear and tear of the body is the main cause of hip pain. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise and live an active life to prevent further deterioration of the bones.

This was all about hip pain. If you are experiencing chronic hip pain and finding it difficult to work, speak to a general practitioner. You never know the cause may be a simple muscle pull or something that needs prompt medical attention.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 13, 2015

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