Many people experience hip pain at some point in their life. It’s a condition that can be caused by a variety of issues. Knowing where your pain is coming from can give you clues to its cause.
Pain on the inside of your hip or groin is likely a problem within your hip joint. Pain on the outside of your hip, your upper thigh, or your outer buttocks is probably an issue with the muscles or other soft tissues around your hip joint.
It’s also possible that your hip pain is originating in another part of your body, such as your lower back.
Some of the most common reasons for hip pain are:
- bursitis (inflammation of a joint)
- hip dislocation or hip fracture
- hip labral tear
- inguinal hernia
- sprains, strains
- pinched nerves
- osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- synovitis (inflammation of the membrane in joint cavities)
In some cases, hip pain is nothing more than a short-term annoyance, while in other cases it can be a sign of a serious health problem. If you have mild to moderate hip pain, you might want to try an at-home treatment.
Basic treatments for all types of hip pain include:
- Rest. Avoid doing things that require you to bend at the hip or put a lot of pressure on the hip. Avoid sleeping on the side of your hip that is painful and sitting for long periods of time
- Over-the-counter pain relievers. Some pain-relieving medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help reduce inflammation that might be causing or aggravating your hip pain.
- Cold and heat. Treating pain with heat and cold may help. Wrap an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel to ice your hip. A warm bath or shower may also help reduce your pain and prepare your muscles for stretching.
- Stretch. Gently stretching your body may reduce hip pain, especially if the cause is a strain or pinched nerve.
If you know what’s causing your hip pain and the cause is not severe, there are things you can do at home to reduce your pain.
Muscle or tendon strain, osteoarthritis, and tendinitis
Pain caused by strains, tendinitis, and some forms of arthritis can be managed at home. Besides the tips above, try tai chi and yoga. These are slow exercises that combine gentle stretching with deep breathing. Both can relax and move the body in ways that won’t worsen your pain.
Sign up for a class with a certified instructor to make sure your experience is enjoyable and safe. Once you learn which movements feel best to you, you can use them to treat your pain.
Those with rheumatoid arthritis may also benefit from tai chi and yoga. Some experts also recommend fish or plant oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids to reduce their pain. Like all supplements, oils may interfere with certain medications or cause side effects, so talk with a doctor before trying them.
Arthritis symptoms can often be reduced by:
- Losing weight, if you are overweight or obese. This can reduce the stress on your joints.
- Exercising, to help keep your joints flexible. Swimming and cycling are easier on the joints than walking or running.
If home treatments are not helping to ease your hip pain, it’s important to see a doctor. They will perform a physical examination of your hip to check for redness, swelling, and warmth, which are signs of injury or infection. A doctor will also check your range of motion by asking you to walk or lift the leg attached to the effected hip.
They may also run several laboratory and imaging tests, such as:
- blood test
- urine test
- joint fluid sample (this involves inserting a needle into a joint)
- CT scan
Once a doctor finds the exact cause of your hip pain, they can recommend a specific treatment plan.
Surgery is a more aggressive treatment for hip pain but is sometimes needed if you are diagnosed with:
- Septic arthritis. Surgery may include irrigation and debridement of the joint, joint repair, replacement, or fusion.
- Avascular necrosis and cancer. Surgery involves bone removal, and joint replacement, reshaping, transplantation, or regeneration.
- Break. Bones are stabilized or pinned together.
- Hip labral tear. Soft tissue is grafted from elsewhere in the body and used to repair the labrum.
- Inguinal hernia. Intestinal tissues are pushed back into the abdomen and the abdomen is stitched and reinforced.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Hip joint put in proper place and held together with screws and plates.
- Osteomyelitis. Dead bone is removed and replaced, or existing bones are reinforced.
- Pinched nerve. Nerve is decompressed, which reduces pressure and pain.
Crutches or cane
Crutches or canes can help assist movement without stressing your joints. You can often get them free of charge through your healthcare provider if you have insurance.
Acupuncture is a developing medical discipline that shows promise in reducing hip pain from most causes. Those with infections or blood clotting issues and people who are afraid of needles should avoid acupuncture.
Hydrotherapy and physical therapy
Hydrotherapy is a form of physical rehabilitation that can encourage movement and uses temperature and pressure to encourage blood flow throughout the body. This can reduce pain in the hips.
Standard physical therapy treatments can also help reduce hip pain in patients with arthritis, strains, tears, tendinitis, and other less severe hip problems.
There are various types of drugs for conditions that weaken bones or cause bone loss and pain, such as arthritis. These include:
- Counterirritants. Creams and ointments containing capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers spicy, can reduce pain in the joint area.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatics (DMARDs). Drugs like Trexall and Plaquenil are used often to treat RA. They stop or slow the immune system from attacking the joints.
- Biologic response modifiers. Drugs like Enbrel and Remicade can also stop or slow immune response.
- Corticosteroids. Drugs like prednisone and cortisone can reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. They are taken orally or injected into the painful joint.
- Bisphosphonates. Drugs like Alendronate, Risedronate, Ibandronate, and Zoledronic acid can strengthen bones weakened by osteoporosis, preventing pain and further damage.
- Hormone therapy. Hormones are sometimes used to treat osteoporosis in women.
If home treatments do not successfully reduce your hip pain, or if your pain lasts longer than two weeks, schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Call an ambulance or ask someone to drive you to the emergency room if your hip pain began after an injury and is causing:
- physical deformity of your joint
- difficulty moving your leg or hip
- problems walking or bearing weight on the affected leg
- severe and sudden pain and swelling
- signs of infection like fever, chills, or redness