FAQs on Hip Pain

Hip pain is a common complaint among older people. However, persons of any age can have hip pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.1% of adults reported hip pain in a recent survey. It is difficult to accurately evaluate the number of persons who suffer from hip pain because many people do not seek treatment. The Institute of Medicine found that 116 million people in American suffer with chronic pain, and 2.5 million have had a total hip replacement.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, and it allows a person to move, provide stability for body weight, and permits leg range of motion. Hip pain can occur when any problems occur to the muscles, tendons, bones, ligaments, or soft tissues that make up the hip joint.

Causes of Hip Pain

Numerous conditions can cause pain of the hip region. These include:

  • Trochanteric bursitis – Pain on the outside or side of the hip is indicative of trochanteric bursitis. This occurs when muscles rub the trochanter. Many patients report a snapping or popping of the hip with trochanteric bursitis. This condition is treated with anti-inflammatory agents, cortisone injections, and a short course of physical therapy.
  • Torn labrum – The labrum is the soft edge along the joint socket. It is easily damaged. Pain associated with a torn hip labrum is felt in the groin and deep inside the joint. The muscle snaps in front of the joint, and the pain is stabbing, sharp, and severe. The doctor can diagnose a torn labrum using magnetic resonance imaging with dye.
  • Impingement – When the neck of the leg bone (femur) is too thick, or when the socket is too deep, the neck grinds against the rim of the socket. This is called impingement because it causes a pinching, burning sensation. The doctor will order diagnostic imaging to determine if impingement exists.
  • Osteoarthritis – Called wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common cause of hip pain. This results from deterioration of cartilage in the hip joint. When cartilage wears away, the bones come into contact with one another and severe pain occurs.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – This is a debilitating disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the patient’s synovial membrane in the joint. Too much fluid can accumulate in the hip and cause pain.
  • Sprains and strains – This involves a torn or stretched hip ligament. Symptoms include bruising, soreness, aching pain, stiffness, and swelling. Many patients report hearing a pop when the injury happens.
  • Traumatic arthritis – Hip pain can occur following an injury or previous surgery. When arthritis sets in the joint, patients complain of persistent hip pain.

Hip Pain Treatment

The treatment of hip pain depends on the underlying cause of pain. Options include:

  • Joint injection – The hip is injected with a corticosteroid agent. This decreases bursa inflammation and improves mobility.
  • Fascia iliac block – For hip pain and following surgery, the doctor injects medication into the membrane near the surrounding nerves. This blocks pain signals from reaching the brain.
  • Platelet-rich plasma – For hip injuries, the doctor may inject the hip with concentrated platelets, which contain healing growth factors.
  • Epidural steroid injection (ESI) – When hip pain is related to a herniated disc or nerve compression, the doctor injects medication into the space surrounding the spinal cord. This relieves pain and decreases nerve irritation.

Resources

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “Hip & Thigh: Injuries, Diseases & Conditions” http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/menus/hip.cfm

Mayo Clinic, “Hip pain” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hip-pain/MY00257

Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, “Hip Injuries and Disorders” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hipinjuriesanddisorders.html