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Hip pain: Causes and treatment

Hip pain can be caused by a fall or injury, or wear-and-tear over the years.

Cartilage that cushions the joint can wear down or become damaged, and muscles and tendons in the hip can be overused.

The hip is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body

If your hips are sore, here are some possible causes:


Causes of hip pain

These are some of the conditions that are most likely to cause hip pain:

Arthritis. Arthritic conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are amongst the most common causes of hip pain. Arthritis can lead to inflammation of the hip joint and the breakdown of the cartilage that normally cushions your hip bones. The pain may gradually worsen as the arthritis progresses. People with arthritis also often feel stiffness and have reduced range of motion in the hip.

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.

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.

Tendonitis. Tendons are the thick bands of tissue that attach bones to muscles. Tendonitis is inflammation or irritation of the tendons. It's usually caused by repetitive stress from overuse.

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 or an injury they can cause pain and prevent the hip from functioning normally.

Cancers. Tumours 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.

Osteonecrosis. This condition occurs when blood flow to the hip bone is lost and the bone tissue dies as a result. Although it can affect other bones, osteonecrosis 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 (such as prednisolone), amongst other causes.

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.

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.

Hip pain relief

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

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