Hip pain in adults

Hip pain often gets better on its own, and can be managed with rest and over-the-counter painkillers. See your GP if you have the symptoms listed below (under ‘when to see your GP’). Some of the common causes of hip pain are outlined on this page.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common type of arthritis in Northern Ireland. The symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary greatly from person to person, but if it affects the hip, it will typically cause:

  • mild inflammation of the tissues in and around the hip joint
  • damage to cartilage – the strong, flexible tissue that lines the bones
  • bony growths (osteophytes) that develop around the edge of the hip joint

This can lead to pain, stiffness and difficulty doing certain activities.

There's no cure for osteoarthritis, but the symptoms can be eased using a number of different treatments.

Surgery isn't usually necessary unless your hip pain is having a serious impact on your life, and other treatments are not helping.

Don't try to diagnose the cause of your hip pain yourself – this should always be done by your doctor.

Less common causes of hip pain

Less commonly, hip pain may be caused by:

  • the bones of the hip rubbing together because they're abnormally shaped
  • a tear in the ring of cartilage surrounding the socket of the hip joint – known as a hip labral tear
  • hip dysplasia – where the hip joint is the wrong shape, or the hip socket isn't in the correct position to completely cover and support the top of the leg bone
  • a hip fracture – this will cause sudden hip pain and is more common in older people with weaker bones
  • an infection in the bone or joint, such as septic arthritis or osteomyelitissee your GP immediately if you have hip pain and fever
  • reduced blood flow to the hip joint, causing the bone to break down – a condition known as osteonecrosis
  • inflammation and swelling of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) over your hip joint – a condition called bursitis
  • a hamstring injury
  • an inflamed ligament in the thigh, often caused by too much running – known as iliotibial band syndrome, this is treated with rest; read more about sprains and strains

When to see your GP

Hip pain often gets better on its own, and can be managed with rest and over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

See your GP if:

  • your hip is still painful after one week of resting it at home
  • you also have a fever or rash
  • your hip pain came on suddenly and you have sickle cell anaemia
  • the pain is in both hips and other joints as well

Your GP will ask you questions and may examine your hip to help find out what is the cause of your hip pain.

Go straight to your nearest emergency department if:

  • the hip pain was caused by a serious fall or accident
  • your leg is deformed, badly bruised or bleeding
  • you're unable to move your hip or bear any weight on your leg
  • you have hip pain with a temperature and feel unwell

Managing hip pain at home

If you don't immediately need to see a doctor, consider managing and monitoring the problem at home. The following advice may be helpful:

  • lose weight if you're overweight to relieve some of the strain on your hip
  • avoid activities that make the pain worse, such as downhill running
  • wear flat shoes and avoid standing for long periods
  • consider seeing a physiotherapist for some muscle-strengthening exercises
  • take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

Overactivity

If your hip pain is related to exercising or other types of regular activity:

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

This page was published May 2018

This page is due for review October 2019

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