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Hip pain: Causes, treatment, and prevention

The hip joint is the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body, and is surrounded by a tough, fibrous sleeve called the capsule, which helps to hold the bones together. The capsule is lined by the synovium, which produces a fluid (synovial fluid) that nourishes the 'shock-absorber' cartilage and lubricates the joint. With ageing, there is a lot of natural wear and tear so the cartilage becomes thinner. Damage to the cartilage can result in inflammation of the hip joint and pain. In certain circumstances, if the patient is in persistent pain, and medical treatment isn’t helping enough, the damaged joint might need to be replaced by an artificial joint.

Hip

Causes of hip pain

Health conditions that are common causes of hip pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis - the wear-and-tear form of arthritis, causing pain and reduced range of movement.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis - an autoimmune condition where the body's defences mistakenly attack the joints – causing pain, stiffness and a loss of range of movement.
  • Hip fractures - broken bones in the hip can easily occur after a fall, particularly n older people. Bones can become weaker with age and with conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Bursitis - sacs of fluid in the joint called bursas can become inflamed or irritated.
  • Tendonitis - this is inflammation or irritation of the thick bands of tissue that attach the bones to the muscles.
  • Muscle strain, tendon strain – these injuries can be from overuse or injuries, such as sports injuries.
  • Bone cancers - tumours may start in a hip bone or spread there from somewhere else in the body.
  • Osteonecrosis - This condition means blood flow is lost to the hip bone causing loss of bone tissue. This may develop after a hip fracture, hip dislocation, or long-term steroid medication use.

Location of hip pain

Hip pain may be felt in and around the:

  • Hip joints
  • Thighs
  • Groin area
  • Buttocks

Sometimes pain that seems to be affecting the hip can actually be due to a problem elsewhere. In this situation pain in the hip is called referred pain.

Sometimes hip pain is constant, in other cases activities may make it worse.

Hip pain can mean you are less able to move the hip joint as much as before – called a reduced range of movement – and this may result in walking with a limp.

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