The cause of hip pain can usually be diagnosed with a detailed description of one’s symptoms, a medical history, as well as an evaluation and examination, (and possibly diagnostic testing), will lead to a diagnosis of a general cause (such as sprain or strain), or a specific condition (such as a labral tear). Possible diagnoses for hip pain could include but are not limited to osteoarthritis, bursitis, dislocation, fracture, labral tear, sprain/strain, hernia, tendinitis, sciatica, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and osteoporosis.
Hip pain is often difficult to describe, and patients may complain that the hip just hurts. The location, description, intensity of pain, what makes it better, and what makes it worse depend upon what structure is involved and the exact cause of the inflammation and injury. Most often, pain is felt in the front of the hip, but the joint is three-dimensional. Pain may be also felt along the outside part of the hip or even in the buttock area.
Fracture: With a hip fracture, there is an acute onset of constant pain after the injury that usually is made worse with almost any movement.
Sciatica pain: Pain from the sciatic nerve tends to start in the lower back and radiate to the buttocks and to the front or side of the hip. It may be described in different ways because of nerve inflammation. Some typical descriptive terms used for the pain of sciatica include sharp, stabbing, or burning. The pain of sciatica may be made worse with straightening the knee, which stretches the sciatic nerve and may make it difficult to stand from a sitting position, or walk with a full stride. There may be associated numbness and tingling in the leg or foot.
Arthritis: May be described as a click, catch, or feeling that range of motion is somehow limited. Usually, there is pain almost immediately that does not get better as activity continues. Pain from arthritis tends to be worse after a period of inactivity and gets better as the joint “warms up” with use. But as activity increases, the pain will return.
Labral tear: Symptoms of a labral tear include pain in the hip or groin. A clicking or locking of the joint can occur. Stiffness and restricted mobility in the hip joint is likely. Symptoms may come on suddenly following an impact or trauma but can also develop gradually if the joint progressively degenerates.
Sprain/ Strain: Sprains involve injury to ligaments (the bands of tissue that connect bones together) within the joint and strains refer to injuries of muscles and tendons. Depending on the severity of the injury, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, muscle spasm or bruising may occur. There may be a partial or full loss of muscle strength or joint flexibility. More severe injuries may make it difficult or extremely painful to walk.
Referred Hip Pain
Hip pain may not originate in the hip itself but may be felt there due to issues in adjacent structures.
- A hernia or defect of the abdominal wall may cause pain in the front part of the hip. A hernia occurs when there is a weakness or tear in an area where muscles of the abdominal wall come together. They are named according to their location; inguinal (groin) hernias are most common.
Falls are the most common reason that elderly people break a hip. The fracture is due to a combination of two effects of aging, osteoporosis (thinning of bones), and a loss of balance. These two risk factors are the potential cause of many falls. Occasionally, the bone may spontaneously break due to osteoporosis and become the cause of the fall.