Hip pain when walking can happen for a lot of reasons. You can experience pain in the hip joint at any age.
The location of the pain along with other symptoms and health details help your doctor diagnose the cause and prescribe the right treatments.
The primary causes of hip pain that you feel while walking or running include:
- types of arthritis
- injuries and damage
- nerve issues
- alignment issues
Let’s take a look at each of these potential causes.
Arthritis can cause hip pain at any age. Old injuries to the hip may increase the risk of arthritis later on. Research shows that professional athletes in impact sports are more likely to have arthritis in the hip and knee.
One study reported that more than 14 percent of people 60 years or older reported serious hip pain. Hip pain when walking in older adults is typically due to arthritis in or around the joint.
There are several kinds of arthritis that can lead to hip pain when walking. These include:
- Juvenile idiopathic. This is the most common type of arthritis in children.
- Osteoarthritis.This condition is due to wear and tear on the joints.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disease causes arthritis in the joints.
- Ankylosing spondylitis. This type of arthritis mainly affects the spine.
- Psoriatic arthritis.This type of arthritis affects the joints and skin.
- Septic arthritis.This arthritis is caused by an infection in the joint.
Injury, damage, inflammation, and disease
Injuries or damage to the hip joint can cause pain when walking. An injury to the hip and connecting areas, like the knee, can damage or trigger inflammation in the bones, ligaments, or tendons of the hip joint.
Muscle or tendon conditions
- Bursitis. This condition is caused by inflammation in the fluid-filled “ball bearings” around the hip joint.
- Sprain or strain. These conditions occur from overusing the muscles and ligaments in the hips and legs.
- Tendinitis. This condition is caused by damage or irritation to tendons that connect hip muscles to bones.
- Hip labral tear. The labrum or cartilage ring socket keeps the hip bone in place.
- Toxic synovitis. This is an inflammatory condition in the joint that causes hip pain in children
- Inguinal hernia. Pain is due to weakness or a tear in the lower stomach wall.
Injuries or damage to the hip bones can lead to pain when walking. This includes cancer that has spread from another area of the body.
- fractured or broken hip
- dislocation. This occurs when the top of the thigh (leg) bone slips partly or fully out the socket joint.
- osteoporosis. This condition causes weak or brittle bones in the hip and other areas, it usually occurs in older adults.
- Osteomyelitis. This is a bone infection in or around the hip.
- Bone cancer
- Leukemia. This is a blood cell or bone marrow cancer.
- Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. This disease occurs in children where the thigh bone doesn’t get enough blood.
- Avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis. This disease stops or limits blood flow temporarily to the head of the femur of the hip and other bones.
Nerve issues or damage
Nerve problems in or close to the hip joint can also cause pain when walking. Pinched or damaged nerves in the back can lead to nerve pain in the hip.
- Sciatica. A pinched nerve in the lower back can cause hip and leg pain.
- Sacroiliitis. Nerve damage due to inflammation where the spine joins the pelvis bone can also cause pain.
- Meralgia paresthetica.Nerve irritation in the outer thigh can be due to obesity, tight clothing, or too much standing or exercise.
Problems with gait or how you walk can trigger hip pain over time. Muscle weakness in the hips, legs, or knees can also lead to an imbalance in how much pressure is on one hip joint.
Problems with other joints of the body, like flat feet or a knee injury, can also develop into hip pain.
Treatment for hip pain depends on the cause. Some causes, like a pinched or irritated nerve or a slight sprain, may go away with time. You might not need treatment.
In many cases, physical therapy may help to treat hip pain. You can do exercises to help strengthen your hip and knee joints. You may also need to improve core strength in your back and abdomen. This helps to keep your hip joint balanced when walking and running.
- hip exercises like clamshells and bridges
- hamstring and quadricep exercises
- low impact or full body exercises to strengthen your core muscles
Treatment options for hip pain include:
- over-the-counter and prescription strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen
- pain relief creams or ointments
- warm or cold compresses
- knee brace or shoe insoles (orthotics)
- topical numbing cream
- losing excess weight
- muscle relaxants
- steroid injections
- prescription pain or steroid medication
- physical therapy
- massage therapy
- chiropractic adjustments
- using a cane or crutches
Discuss options with a healthcare provider. They can assess and help you determine the treatments that are available for your case.
See a doctor if you have hip pain for more than one to two days, or if it does not get better with pain relief attempts. Let your doctor know if you have had any damage to the hip area like a fall or sports injury.
A doctor can find out the cause of your hip pain with a few tests. You may also need a scan. Your family doctor may refer you to a sports medicine specialist or an orthopedic surgeon (bone specialist) if needed.
Tests and scans for hip pain include:
- Patrick test and impingement test. In these physical exams, your doctor will move your leg around the hip joint to find out where the issue is.
- X-ray. These scans check for fractures or damage to the bone.
- MRI scan. This imaging scan checks for damage or injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Ultrasound scan. This scan is used to check your joints and tendons.
Here are some tips to make walking and standing more comfortable when you have hip pain:
- Wear comfortable shoes that give your feet even support.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing, especially around your waist and legs.
- If you have a history of knee or feet problems, wear a knee brace or shoe insoles.
- Wear a back-support brace if it helps ease your hip pain.
- Avoid walking or standing on hard surfaces for long periods.
- Stand on a rubber mat if you need to stand up to do work. These are also sometimes called anti-fatigue mats.
- Raise your desk or workspace to avoid slouching over it when working.
- Use a cane or walking stick if it helps reduce your hip pain when walking.
- Keep water in an insulated coffee mug and food close to your workspace to limit how much you have to walk.
- Ask colleagues and family members to get items you need whenever possible.
- Limit walking up and down stairs. Keep everything you need on one floor if possible.
Sit on a cushion or foam base. Avoid sitting on a hard surface like a wooden chair or bench. Also avoid sitting on something too soft like a sofa or bed. A somewhat firm surface that allows you to sink into it slightly will support the hips better.
Improving your posture can help balance out the pressure on your hips.
Hip pain when walking or sitting is a common complaint at any age. There are many different causes of hip pain. Most of these are not serious but could be long-term. Hip pain can usually be treated or managed. You may need long-term care like physical therapy in some cases.