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Understanding Hip Pain: Causes, Treatments, and When to See a Physio

Understanding Hip Pain: Causes, Treatments, and When to See a Physio

Hip pain is a common issue that can affect people of all ages. It can range from a dull ache to a sharp, debilitating pain that limits mobility. While there are many potential causes, some are more frequent than others. Let’s delve into what might be causing your hip pain and explore treatment options.

The hip’s unique anatomy enables it to be both extremely strong and amazingly flexible, so it can bear weight and allow for a wide range of movement.

Despite its durability, the hip joint isn’t indestructible. With age and use, the cartilage can wear down or become damaged.


 Muscles and tendons in the hip can get overused.


 Bones in the hip can break during a fall or other injury. Any of these conditions can lead to hip pain.


If your hips are sore, here is a rundown of what might be causing your discomfort and how to get hip pain relief.

Arthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are among the most common causes of hip pain, especially in older adults. Arthritis leads to inflammation of the hip joint and the breakdown of the cartilage that cushions your hip bones. The pain gradually gets worse. People with arthritis also feel stiffness and have reduced range of motion in the hip. Learn more about hip osteoarthritis.

Hip fractures. With age, the bones can become weak and brittle. Weakened bones are more likely to break during a fall. Learn more about hip fracture symptoms.

Bursitis. Bursae are sacs of liquid found between tissues such as bone, muscles, and tendons. They ease the friction from these tissues rubbing together. When bursae get inflamed, they can cause pain. Inflammation of bursae is usually due to repetitive activities that overwork or irritate the hip joint. 

Tendinitis. Tendons are the thick bands of tissue that attach bones to muscles. Tendinitis 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 they become inflamed due to overuse, they can cause pain and prevent the hip from working normally. Learn about the best stretches for tight hip muscles.

Lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. It happens when the immune system is out of balance and attacks the body’s joints. Lupus can lead to hip joint swelling or damage. If you have lupus you might feel hip pain when sitting or lying down.

Loose or damaged hip joint. Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) happens when the long leg bone (the femur) doesn’t fit right in the hip joint. This might happen when the cartilage between these bones wears away or is damaged.

FAI can lead to a sharp or dull hip pain when sitting. You might also feel your hip joints “pop” or stiffen a bit when you sit down or get up

Symptoms of Hip Pain

Depending on the condition that’s causing your hip pain, you might feel the discomfort in your:


  • Inside of the hip joint
  • Groin
  • Outside of the hip joint
  • Buttocks

Hip pain is a condition that is often easily overlooked in everyday life. We may pass it off as something that will eventually get better. 

However, depending on what is causing your hip pain, it could actually turn out to get worse with time. 


To prevent this, it’s advisable to visit a trusted and highly-recommended physiotherapist  and have them figure out what’s causing the pain, and create a routine of physical therapy exercises that can help heal it. Typically, in order to help reduce and eventually eliminate the pain, physiotherapists for hip pain will give you exercises that improve strength and increase flexibility.

Don’t Wait: Lose Weight

For every 10 pounds of extra body weight you carry, there’s an added 50 pounds of pressure on your hips and knees. If your joints are feeling the strain, find a weight that works best for you and talk to your doctor about the best ways to slim down. It’ll ease your hip pain and make it easier to move around.


Take a Load Off

Your weight isn’t only about body fat: Your hips also absorb the weight of everything you carry in your hands and on your back. To take the pressure off, use a handcart for groceries and use luggage with wheels. If you carry a purse, consider a backpack style so the weight is even across your back. 


Move It to Lose It

It makes sense to rest your hip until the pain eases up. Once it does, prescribe yourself a daily dose of exercise to build stronger muscles and keep joint stiffness at bay. Ask your doctor whether low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or yoga would help ease your condition.


Avoid High-Impact Exercise

Movement will help your hips, but this isn’t the time to take up downhill running or kickboxing. Start slow with a few minutes on a stationary bike or elliptical. As soreness gives way to strength, you can bump up the length of your workouts. 


Water Workouts

For the ultimate low-impact exercise, use a pool or spa. Water supports your body and takes some of the stress off your joints. It also allows for freer, smoother movements and provides good resistance to make your muscles stronger. Talk to your doctor or a physical therapist about exercises that will help your hips.


Stretch, Strengthen, and Stabilize

There are also specific exercises that can help with hip pain. They can work the parts of your body that support these joints, including your legs and core. To get the right routine and form, it’s best to work with a professional, like a physical therapist. And don’t push yourself — if you feel pain during a workout, stop.


Use Heat and Cold

Have a bag of frozen veggies handy? Wrap it in a thin towel and press it directly onto your hips to ease pain. Use warmth — like a hot shower or compress — to loosen up muscles right before you stretch.


Heal Without Heels

Sometimes the answer for hip pain is right under your toes. High heels put your foot at an unnatural angle and can throw off your body’s alignment, which can cause hip pain. Try flat shoes instead, and avoid standing for too long in one stretch.



Acupuncture is an alternative treatment that has been successful in treating chronic pain, including joint pain.


Custom Orthotics

The hip joint is the body’s largest ball-and-socket joint, allowing for fluid movement during running, walking, and more. A cushion of cartilage helps prevent friction as the hip bone moves in its socket. The hip is quite durable, but with age and use, this cartilage can wear down or sustain damage. So can the muscles, tendons, and bones in and surrounding the hip, caused by a number of conditions, including arthritis, Avascular necrosis (or osteonecrosis), certain cancers, Bursitis, Hip fractures, Hip labral tear, Muscle or tendon strain, and Tendinitis.


In most cases, treating your hip is more likely to be successful when the focus is on restoring balanced function in the entire body—starting from the ground up—rather than simply reducing the pain and inflammation in the irritated tissues.

Get medical help right away if your pain doesn’t go away, or if you notice swelling, redness, or warmth around the joint. Also call if you have hip pain at night or when you are resting.

The hip pain came on suddenly.

A fall or other injury triggered the hip pain.

Your joint looks deformed or is bleeding.

You heard a popping noise in the joint when you injured it.

The pain is intense.

You can’t put any weight on your hip.

You can’t move your leg or hip.


At Don Kelly Physiotherapy and Acupuncture, we are confident that anyone who walks through our doors can be helped with our care and commitment to your recovery.

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