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Why Does My Hip Hurt?

What are the likely causes of the pain in my hip?

The human body is a complex and pretty remarkable organism. We make extreme and ongoing demands on it, many of which do not stop even while we are sleeping, and we generally simply take for granted that it will meet those demands. When some part fails to function or reacts with pain, that is when it gets our full attention. Being aware of the possible causes that may be responsible for something like hip pain can be helpful. Not every twinge in the hip means we are headed for hip replacement surgery but, at the same time, symptoms serve as warnings that something is amiss and ignoring them is rarely the best choice.  

The hip is the body’s largest ball-and-socket joint and is the intersection of the pelvis and the femur, commonly known as the thighbone. There are strong muscles, the gluteal muscles, or “glutes” that attach to the bones and allow for the types of fluid movements that the hip joint facilitates, like walking, running and climbing stairs. Only the joint in the knee is stronger. The hip joint is designed to withstand the wear and tear of a lifetime of repeated motion but it does have limits and can be affected by a variety of conditions. 

Symptoms of Hip Pain

As strong as it is, like any other part of the body, the hip joint is susceptible to aging, injury and disease. Symptoms will range depending on the cause, but some of those most often associated with issues in the hip are: 

  • pain or tenderness in the joint
  • limping or weakness
  • pain in the groin area
  • impaired mobility
  • feeling of warmth in the hip area when touched
  • swelling 
  • difficulty sleeping in a position that puts pressure on hip

Causes of Hip Pain

There are a wide range of reasons for experiencing pain and other symptoms in the hip area. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Arthritis — the most common cause of hip pain is arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis 
  • Fractures — while fractures can happen at any age, the older we get, the weaker and more brittle the bones become, which makes them more likely to break
  • Bursitis — the bursae, which are cushioning sacs of fluid found in the hip joint, can become inflamed and painful as a result of overuse or movements that cause irritation in the joint
  • Tendinitis — overuse of the tendons that attach the hip joint to the muscles that control it can result in painful inflammation
  • Strains in the hip muscles, tendons or ligaments — excessive demand on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the hip can lead to inflammation, pain and loss of mobility
  • Hip labral tear — tear in the labrum or cartilage on the outside of the hip joint 
  • Tumors — bone cancer can spread and cause pain in the hip
  • Avascular necrosis — tissue damage due to decreased blood flow, often due to fracture, dislocation or long-term steroid use

Pain relief and treatment will, of course, depend on what the underlying cause is. Recommendations from your healthcare professional will range from rest, ice and over-the-counter medications all the way to hip replacement surgery. This is where consulting with and having confidence in your orthopedist plays such an important role. 

Patrick A. Meere, M.D., C.M., a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon with 20 years of clinical experience in the New York, NY area is a Clinical Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, NYU School of Medicine, the Director of Advanced Arthroplasty Research Laboratory and the Co-Director of the Robotics Center in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the NYU Langone Medical Center. If you have questions about knee or hip replacement surgery, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.

Posted in: Hip Procedures

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