Understanding Hip Pain: Causes, Types, and Treatment

June 18, 2024 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team
Femoroacetabular Impingement

Hip pain is a common complaint that can significantly impact daily activities and overall quality of life. It can present in various ways, from a dull ache that intensifies with movement to sharp discomfort when lying on your side. Understanding the different types of hip pain and their causes can help in seeking appropriate treatment and relief. Hip pain is generally categorized into three main types: hip flexor pain, hip joint pain, and referred hip pain.

Types of Hip Pain

1. Hip Flexor Pain

Hip flexor pain typically presents as a dull ache or sharp pain in the front of the hip or groin area. The hip flexors are a group of muscles, including the iliopsoas and rectus femoris, that enable you to lift your knee toward your chest and bend at the waist. This type of pain is often caused by:

  • Overuse or Strain: Repetitive movements, especially in activities like running, cycling, or dancing, can strain the hip flexors.
  • Muscle Imbalance: Weak or tight muscles around the hip can lead to pain and discomfort.
  • Injury: Acute injuries from falls or sudden movements can also damage the hip flexors.

2. Hip Joint Pain

Hip joint pain is centered around the hip joint itself and can be felt deep within the hip or buttock. This pain often intensifies with movement or pressure. Common causes include:

  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation and degeneration of the hip joint.
  • Labral Tears: The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip joint, and tears in this tissue can cause significant pain.
  • Bursitis: Inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the hip joint, can lead to pain and swelling.

3. Referred Hip Pain

Referred hip pain originates from other areas of the body, such as the lower back or knee, and is felt in the hip. This type of pain is often linked to:

  • Sciatica: Compression of the sciatic nerve, often due to a herniated disc, can cause pain that radiates from the lower back down to the hip and leg.
  • Spinal Issues: Conditions like spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis can cause referred pain in the hip.
  • Knee Problems: Issues like arthritis or injuries in the knee can alter your gait, leading to hip pain.

Diagnosing Hip Pain

Accurate diagnosis is key to effective treatment. A healthcare provider will typically perform a thorough physical examination, review your medical history, and may order imaging tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans to pinpoint the cause of your pain.

Treatment and Management

Treatment for hip pain varies based on the underlying cause. Here are some common approaches:

Conservative Treatments

  • Rest and Activity Modification: Reducing activities that aggravate your pain can help.
  • Physical Therapy: Strengthening and stretching exercises can improve muscle balance and joint stability.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like NSAIDs can reduce inflammation and pain.

Interventional Treatments

  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections can provide temporary relief for joint inflammation.
  • Prolotherapy or PRP: These injections promote healing of injured tissues.

Surgical Options

For severe cases where conservative treatments fail, surgical options may be considered:

  • Arthroscopy: Minimally invasive surgery to repair labral tears or remove loose bodies in the joint.
  • Joint Replacement: In cases of severe arthritis, hip replacement surgery may be necessary.

Preventing Hip Pain

Preventing hip pain involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking proactive measures:

  • Regular Exercise: Engage in activities that strengthen the hip muscles and improve flexibility.
  • Proper Posture: Maintain good posture to reduce stress on the hip joints.
  • Weight Management: Keeping a healthy weight reduces the load on your hips.
  • Protective Gear: Use appropriate gear during sports or physical activities to prevent injuries.

Hip pain can significantly impact your daily life, but understanding its types and causes can lead to effective management and relief. Whether it’s through lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, or medical interventions, addressing hip pain early can help you maintain mobility and improve your quality of life. If you’re experiencing persistent hip pain, consult a healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Expert Hip Specialists in Wake County

The hip specialists at Raleigh Orthopaedic include Dr. AlbrightDr. BarkerDr. ChiavettaDr. EskildsenDr. JamesDr. McNabbDr. QuinlanDr. VaughnDr. Watters, and Dr. Wyker, who are trained to diagnose causes of hip pain and treat minor injuries, as well as perform total joint replacement procedures in Wake County. Learn more about our hip specialists HERE, and contact us today to schedule an appointment!

If your injury or condition is recent, you can visit one of our Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate assistance. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is necessary to see one of our certified physical therapists.

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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

Woman with hip pain