Hip Pain: Common Causes & Treatment

Hip Pain

There are many things that cause hip pain, ranging from injuries to diseases. People with prolonged or severe hip pain are recommended to seek prompt medical attention in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan as early as possible.

Hip pain refers to pain that occurs in or around the hip joint, which can also extend to the groin, knee or thigh. The chances of developing hip pain are usually higher in older adults because of their increased risk of developing arthritis and bone fractures.

As the hip joint is a very commonly used joint, and a weight-bearing one, it is prone to wear and tear, overuse and injury.

What are the Common Causes of Hip Pain?

Some causes of hip pain include:

  • Arthritis: This is an umbrella term for diseases that cause inflammation and degeneration of the joint, causing pain and difficulty moving.
  • Tendonitis: When muscles in the hip are overused from high-intensity activities (e.g., cyclists, runners), the tendons that are attached to the bone may be pulled, resulting in inflammation and irritation around the hip.
  • Impingement: Hip impingement occurs when there is an abnormal alignment of the bones that form the ball and socket of the hip joint, resulting in friction and pain when the hip moves.
  • Labral tear: This is an injury to the soft tissue that holds the ball and socket parts of the hip together. It is usually caused by overuse or traumatic injuries.
  • Bursitis: This develops when the fluid-filled sac (bursae) that serves as a cushion between the bones and other tissues around the hip joint becomes inflamed, causing pain on the outside of the hips or thighs.
  • Hip fracture: The risk of fracture is usually higher for older adults diagnosed with osteoporosis, in which the bones become weak and brittle.
  • Bonecancer: Abnormal changes in the bone cells can cause the formation of malignant tumours, which can cause severe pain. Fortunately, bone cancer is very rare.

What are the Symptoms to Look Out For?

Symptoms of hip pain vary depending on its cause, and can be accompanied by:

  • Swelling or bruising after exercise
  • Stiffness after rest or inactivity
  • Difficulty moving the hips
  • Clicking sound in the hips
  • Inability to sleep on the hip

What are the Diagnostic Tests Available?

To determine the cause of a patient’s hip pain, your doctor may perform any of the following tests:

  • X-ray: This is done to check for problems in the bones of the hip joint and its surrounding areas. It can be used to detect fractures and certain tumours.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: This test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to generate high-quality images of soft tissues that surround the hip joint, such as damaged ligaments or disease.
  • Blood test: A blood test can determine whether certain types of arthritis may be present, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Hip Pain

What are the Non-Surgical Treatments for Hip Pain?

Mild to moderate hip pain may be managed via non-surgical treatments such as:

  • Lifestyle modifications: Adopting an active lifestyle, attaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and consuming a well-balanced diet can be beneficial to alleviating hip pain.
  • Rest: Getting enough rest and avoiding strenuous activities after a hip injury is crucial to allow it to recover fully.
  • Physiotherapy: Personalised strength and conditioning exercises can help to alleviate hip pain and improve mobility.
  • Medications: Patients may take pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce symptoms of hip pain.
  • Injections: Corticosteroids are a type of anti-inflammatory medicine that can reduce pain and inflammation in the hip area when injected directly into the area by a qualified orthopaedic specialist.

What are the Surgical Treatments for Hip Pain?

For severe hip pain and conditions that cannot be treated through non-surgical means, surgery may be needed.

  • Hip arthroscopy: This is a minimally invasive surgery that allows the surgeon to have a direct view of and access to the hip joint without the need for large incisions. The surgeon will first make small incisions around the hip, through which a thin instrument equipped with a small light and camera will be inserted to project real-time images. Guided by these images, the surgeon will then insert special surgical instruments to repair or removed damaged tissues.
  • Partial or total hip replacement: Also known as hip arthroplasty, a hip replacement involves partially or completely removing the diseased part of the hip joint and replacing it with a new, artificial one. It normally yields very good outcomes with patients being able to regain a pain-free and mobile lifestyle.

FAQs on Hip Pain

  • What are some common activities that can affect the hips?

    Athletes who engage in sports that require repeated hip flexion (e.g., running, soccer, martial arts) are more likely to incur injuries to the hip.

  • How long does recovery take after hip surgery?

    Most patients are able to perform light activities and return to work within 6 weeks after hip surgery. This would also depend on the overall health of the patient, their adherence to post-operative care, and the type of surgery performed.

  • Is surgery always needed for hip pain?

    Not at all – non-surgical treatment will always be considered first. In some cases, conservative means are even able to manage the condition effectively. Your doctor will be in the best position to advise you on the treatment you may need.

  • Can hip pain be prevented?

    Hip pain cannot be fully prevented due to the possibility of accidental injury or anatomical abnormalities that are beyond one’s control. However, one can decrease their risk of developing hip pain by adopting a generally healthy and active lifestyle, adhering to a healthy weight, and doing sports with proper techniques.

  • When do I need to see a doctor for hip pain?

    If the pain is persistent despite getting sufficient rest, or is severe enough to affect your day-to-day life, do make a point to see a doctor soon.

    However, should your pain be unbearable and is accompanied by signs of infection (fever and chills), an apparent deformity of the hip joint, an inability to move your leg or hip, or bear weight, please seek medical attention immediately.

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