Hip Pain, An Overview PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 01 October 2010 06:03

Our hip joint is designed to withstand repeated motion and a fair amount of wear and tear. This ball-and-socket joint -- the body's largest -- fits together in a way that allows for smooth movement. Whenever you use the hip to run or to walk, a cushion of cartilage helps prevent friction as the hip bone moves in its socket.

Despite its resilience, the hip joint isn't indestructible. The cartilage can wear down or become damaged as we age and as we use it. Muscles and tendons in the hip can get overused. The hip bone itself can be fractured during a fall or other injury.


What are the possible causes of hip pain?

If your hips are sore, here are some of the conditions which may cause your discomfort:

  1. Arthritis . Arthritic conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are among the most common causes of hip pain, especially in older adults.  Arthritis leads to inflammation of the hip joint and the breakdown of the cartilage that normally cushions your hip bones. The pain gradually gets worse as the arthritis progresses. People with arthritis also feel stiffness and have reduced range of motion in the hip.
  2. Hip fractures. Fractures of the hip are a particular problem in elderly people. With age, the bones can become weak and brittle. Weakened bones are more likely to fracture during a fall.
  3. Bursitis . Inflammation of the small, fluid-filled sacs (called bursae) that protect muscles and tendons is usually due to repetitive activities that overwork or irritate the hip joint.
  4. Tendinitis . Tendons are the thick bands of tissue that attach bones to muscles. Tendinitis is inflammation or irritation of the tendons. It's usually caused by repetitive stress from overuse.
  5. Muscle or tendon strain. Repeated activities can put strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the hips. When these structures become inflamed from overuse, they can cause pain and prevent the hip from functioning normally.
  6. Cancers. Tumors that start in the bone (bone cancer) or that spread to the bone can cause pain in the hips, as well as in other bones of the body.
  7. Avascular necrosis (also called osteonecrosis). This condition occurs when blood flow to the hip bone is reduced and the bone tissue dies as a result. Although it can affect other bones, avascular necrosis most often occurs in the hip. It can be caused by a hip fracture or dislocation, or from the long-term use of high-dose steroids, among other causes.

What are the symptoms of hip pain?

Depending on the condition that caused your hip pain, you might feel the discomfort in your:

  • thigh
  • inside of the hip joint
  • groin
  • outside of the hip joint
  • buttocks

Sometimes pain from other areas of the body, such as the back or groin (from a hernia) can radiate to the hip, so it is very important to have it diagnosed before taking any type of treatment.

You might notice that your pain gets worse with activity, especially if it's caused by arthritis. Along with the pain, you might have reduced range of motion. Some people develop a limp from persistent hip pain.

How can I get pain relief?

pillsIf your hip pain is caused by a muscle or tendon strain, osteoarthritis, or tendinitis, you can usually relieve it with an over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or naproxen.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatments also include prescription anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids, or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) like methotrexate and sulfasalazine.

Another way to relieve hip pain is by holding ice to the area for about 15 minutes a few times a day. Try to rest the affected joint as much as possible until you feel better.

webmd_photo_of_trainer_showing_hip_rotationIf you have arthritis, exercising the hip joint with low-impact exercises like swimming, stretching, and resistance training can reduce pain and improve joint mobility. Physical therapy can also help increase your range of motion.

When osteoarthritis becomes so severe that the pain is intense or the hip joint becomes deformed, a total hip replacement (arthroplasty) may be a consideration. People who fracture their hip sometimes need surgery to fix the fracture or replace the hip.

Make an appointment with your doctor if your pain does not go away, or if you notice swelling, redness, or warmth around the joint, especially if you have hip pain at night or when you are resting.


Get medical help right away if:

  • The hip pain came on suddenly.
  • A fall or other injury triggered the hip pain.
  • Your joint look deformed or is bleeding.
  • You heard a popping noise in the joint when you injured it.
  • The pain is intense.
  • You can't put any weight on your hip (like when standing)


Source: WebMD & AAOS



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