Hip Pain Symptoms and Treatment

Causes of Hip Pain

Hip pain symptoms and treatment are a very common reason for doctor visits worldwide. There are many reasons that people of all ages may experience hip pain.

From arthritis to fractures (breaks in bone), there are a very large number of reasons why hip pain occurs. Pain can also result from muscle strains or ligament sprains from overexertion or other recent change in activity. Another disease called osteonecrosis (usually bone death of the femoral head) may also cause hip pain. This may eventually lead to joint collapse (osteoarthritis) as well.

It’s always important to see your doctor if you’re experiencing hip pain or soreness. Many hip disorders may need immediate treatment such as hip dislocations or fractures. In these situations, early treatment will prevent future complications and reduced mobility down the road.

Hip Pain Symptoms

Hip Pain

There are many flavors of hip pain depending on the underlying problem. Soreness may result from overexertion or straining of the muscle around the joint. In arthritic hips, stiffness may accompany this soreness and patients may notice a decrease in mobility and flexibility. This may be especially true at rest or very early in the morning when the patient starts their day. Symptoms may even change based on the weather.

Sharp pain or extreme pain usually accompany more severe injuries. Hip fractures and dislocations are extremely painful and will often follow some traumatic event such as a fall, car accident, etc.

The location of hip pain may differ depending on the underlying cause of pain.  For instance, issues involving the hip joint itself (hip arthritis, labral tears, femoral neck fractures) usually present as groin pain.  Issues involving muscles, bursae, and tendons such as the iliotibial (IT band) may present as outer thigh pain. It is also very important to remember that not all “hip pain” comes from the structures surrounding the hip. For example, spinal issues and hernias, can also present with groin and thigh pain.

Hip Pain Treatment

There are many treatment options for hip pain. The ultimate goal is to help the patient regain their quality of life or mobility.

Most commonly initial non-surgical hip treatment will include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Periodic rest, ice
  • Physical therapy – strengthening, stretching, improving or maintaining range of motion
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss may also be helpful in certain situations (discussed below)

Anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen) are the typical medications used to  provide temporary relief of pain. However, it is important to remember that anti-inflammatory medications can be harmful in certain situations (various heart conditions, kidney, stomach, and liver problems) and may actually not be recommended for some individuals.  It is important to check with your primary care doctor to see if anti-inflammatory medications are safe for you to use.

In managing hip pain, it is always important to keep the joint moving and to keep the supporting muscles strong. Additionally, in some cases, stretching can be extremely beneficial, as muscle tightness may be the underlying problem. For this reason, physical therapy may be recommended in the treatment of your hip pain.

In certain situations, like hip arthritis, maintaining a healthy weight can be helpful to decrease pain.  This is because the heavier you are, the more stress your body places onto the already irritated hip.  By losing weight, you put less stress on the hip. This may help to improve pain.

While exercise is always good in most situations, sometimes it can be painful.  Lower impact exercises like water aerobics can be considered in these situations.

If all the above are attempted and you are still experiencing significant pain and dysfunction, surgery may be an option. In other situations such as hip fracture or dislocation, more immediate surgery is oftentimes required.

Hip Pain Outcomes

Many patients will find great relief through weight loss, therapy and regular gentle exercise. Anti-inflammatory medications can be helpful, but it is important to remember that they may actually be harmful in certain situations (certain heart conditions, kidney, stomach, and liver problems). It is important to check with your primary care doctor to see if anti-inflammatory medications are the right treatment for you.

If all else fails, patients in recent years have been able to nearly eliminate their hip pain through new surgical techniques and hip replacements.

If you’ve been experiencing hip pain, there is no reason to suffer in silence or to avoid enjoyable activities because of your symptoms. Your doctor will be able to help you explore the causes of your hip pain through a thorough physical exam and with the aid of imaging technologies such as x-rays or MRIs. If you’ve been suffering with hip pain, see your doctor today to get started on the road to relief and better mobility.

Note that the information in this article is purely informative and should never be used in place of the advice of professionals.

Common Problems With Hips


Dr. Andrew Chung
Dr. Andrew Chung

Dr. Andrew Chung is a Spine Surgeon at Sonoran Spine in Tempe, Arizona. He is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and was formerly Spine Surgeon Clinical Fellow at Cedars-Sinai, Spine Surgery Fellow at Keck Hospital, University of Southern California and Chief Resident and an Instructor of Orthopedic Surgery in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Dr. Chung's research.