LifeMD’s Ultimate Guide to Hip Pain Relief

Woman sitting on the arm of a couch and holding her hands to her hip.
  • Hip pain occurs when the soft tissues, cartilage, and joints wear down and get damaged. This causes inflammation, which triggers pain and swelling.
  • The pain can be sharp and shooting or blunt, usually radiating through the hip, side, and down the leg and thigh.
  • This condition can be caused by a number of non-life-threatening factors like muscle strain, arthritis, and fractures. However, hip pain may also indicate a serious underlying medical issue like cancer.
  • Hip pain can be treated with over-the-counter medicine, or home remedies like stretching and using warm compresses. For severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Although hip pain only affects around 14% of adults in their lifetime, it’s still a common physical condition that can affect your ability to perform daily tasks and impact your quality of life.

Hip pain can be caused by a number of factors like muscle strain, hip fractures, or joint dislocation. If the pain is severe, it might also indicate a more serious medical condition.

Left untreated, hip pain can lead to hospitalization. In fact, almost 300,000 people have to seek emergency medical attention due to hip fractures and untreated pain.

That’s why it’s important to seek treatment for hip pain as soon as possible.

This helps to prevent mobility issues from occurring in the future and also makes performing daily tasks less daunting.

Treating hip pain quickly can also reduce the risk of back pain and injury.

This article takes a closer look at the different causes and treatment options for hip pain to help you manage your symptoms.

What are the Causes of Hip Pain?

Although common wear and tear is usually the source of hip pain, the discomfort may also be caused by an underlying medical condition.

Let’s take a closer look at the different causes of hip pain.

What is Hip Pain?

The hip joint is one of the largest in the body and can withstand a fair amount of wear and tear. However, the cartilage isn’t indestructible.

With age and use, the hip muscles, tendons, and even the bones can become damaged or injured.

This causes a sharp shooting or often blunt pain to spread across the sides of the body, around the groin, and down the legs and thighs.

Hip pain may also impact your ability to perform everyday activities like walking, using the stairs, sitting, or standing.

It’s advised to speak to your doctor about your hip pain as soon as you start experiencing prolonged periods of pain.

A man in a grey t-shirt and dark pants holds his hands to his left hip in pain.

Pinched nerves

A pinched nerve can irritate and aggravate nerve signals and cause pain in the affected area.

The condition may also worsen if the nerve is rubbed or put under too much pressure.

Pain from a pinched nerve can feel sharp, searing, or burning, and may radiate through the affected area.

Meralgia paresthetica

This is a condition where tingling, numbness, and burning pain is felt over the front and outer thigh muscles.

It’s caused by compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve and is usually brought on by wearing tight clothing — or by obesity, weight gain, or pregnancy. However, it may also indicate physical trauma (serious injury) or disease.

Meralgia paresthetica is normally treated with preventative measures like losing weight or wearing looser clothing.

In severe cases, medications may be prescribed to relieve the pain and discomfort — or you can undergo surgery.


Sacroiliitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the sacroiliac joints—these are joints situated where the lower spine and pelvis connect.

This condition can cause pain in the buttocks and lower back, and it can also extend into the hips and down the legs.

Pain usually worsens after:

  • Prolonged periods of standing
  • Running
  • Uneven weight distribution
  • Climbing the stairs

Sacroiliitis is often mistaken for lower back pain, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. This pain is usually relieved through physical therapy and medication.


Sciatica is a type of discomfort caused by an inflamed sciatic nerve. This nerve extends through the spine, down to the hips, buttocks, and legs.

This condition is usually caused by a herniated disk or pressure on the nerve. It can result in sharp, shooting pains in the affected area that can extend to the hips.

Sciatica can also lead to numbness and weakness in the leg, bladder changes, and bowel movement issues.

It can be treated with medication or physical therapy. Severe cases may also be treated with surgery.

For some women, hip pain may indicate issues in the pelvic area.

If the pain is limited to your groin area and only occurs when you’re ovulating, the discomfort may be caused by pelvic floor problems.

Female reproductive conditions such as endometriosis (uterine lining tissue appearing outside the uterus) or uterine fibroids(noncancerous growths within uterus) may also contribute to hip pain.


Tendonitis is caused by inflammation or irritation of tendons — the thick bands of tissue that attach bones to muscle.

It’s usually caused by repetitive actions that place stress on the affected joint.

Muscle strain

Tendinitis is often caused by muscle strain bought on by overusing the tendons and ligaments that support the hips.

This triggers an inflammatory response in the body that can cause pain in the hip and prevent it from working properly. You may also experience tightness in the groin, the side of your body, and the corresponding leg.

Hip labral tear

A labral tear occurs when the ring of cartilage — called the labrum — around the socket of the hip joint rips.

The labrum cushions the hip joint and also acts like a seal that holds the thigh bone in place in the hip socket.

This injury is common among athletes and sports players that make repetitive rotating movements with their hips.

When the cartilage tears, it can cause a clicking sensation in the hip socket — also called snapping hip syndrome. Your leg may also lock up and you will experience pain.


Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are common causes of hip pain, especially among older adults.

These conditions cause inflammation in the hip joint that can damage and break down the cartilage that prevents the bones from rubbing against each other.

You may experience stiffness and have a reduced range of motion in the hip. Arthritis pain can also gradually get worse if left untreated.

Hip fractures

As we age, our bones can become more fragile and brittle. This makes them more likely to break if we fall.

Hip fractures commonly occur if we fall and it causes a break in the top half of the thigh bone, called the femur.

You may experience severe pain in the hip or groin, be unable to walk, and experience bruising around the affected area if you’ve suffered a hip fracture.

Key Point: What Can You Do to Prevent Falls?

Falling on your hip or back can cause severe medical problems and reduce your ability to function independently.

Serious falls can also be fatal, with the CDC reporting over 34,000 deaths in people aged 65 and older.

Although it’s not always possible to prevent a fall, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk. Let’s take a look at what those are.

  • Be honest with your healthcare provider about your fall risks and prevention options.
  • Incorporate exercises that improve your balance and strength, like yoga or Pilates, into your daily routine.
  • Get your eyes checked regularly and so you can update any prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses
  • Ask your doctor for recommendations about proper footwear.
  • Make your home safer by:
  • Removing obstacles that you can trip over, like clothes, shoes, and small rugs.
  • Using non-slip mats in the shower and bath.
  • Installing grab bars around the house, especially in the bathroom.
  • Improving the lighting in your house to ensure that you can see where you’re walking.


All of the tissue near moving joints contains sacs of liquid in between it and the bone. These sacs are called bursae and are designed to minimize friction between the bones if they rub together.

However, bursae can become inflamed due to repetitive activities that overwork or irritate the hip joint. This causes pain and discomfort in the hip joint area.

Avascular necrosis

This condition — also known as osteonecrosis—usually occurs when blood flow to the hip bone slows, causing the tissue to die.

Avascular necrosis can be caused by:

  • Hip fractures
  • Dislocation
  • Blood clots
  • Medical treatments like radiation or organ transplants
  • Prolonged use of steroids like prednisone
  • Bisphosphonates (medications that boost bone density, usually taken for multiple myeloma or metastatic breast cancer)
  • Drinking too much alcohol

You may experience pain that becomes gradually worse, especially if you put the joint under pressure.


Some cancers — like chondrosarcoma or Ewing’s sarcoma — may cause a tumor to develop on the hip joint or bone. Tumors can also spread along the bone and to the soft tissue.

This causes a dull pain that often worsens with activity. It may also wake you at night.

Other symptoms that may be related to bone cancer include:

  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Swelling around the bone
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Limping

If you suspect that you may have cancer or are worried about the pain in your hip, it’s recommended that you speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

Other cancers, like prostate cancer, may also cause pain in the hips, lower back, and thighs, even if there are no tumors in those areas.

When Should You See A Doctor About Hip Pain?

Hip pain can be caused by minor injuries or indicate a serious underlying condition.

It’s advised that you monitor your symptoms, pain levels, and ability to do everyday tasks to try and understand the cause of your pain.

You should also monitor the treatment options you’re using to relieve hip pain. If your hip is still painful after using OTC treatments and home remedies for a few days, it may be time to speak to a healthcare provider.

If your hip pain is significantly impacting your everyday life and interferes with daily tasks like sitting, standing, sleeping, or walking, it’s advised that you make an appointment to see your doctor.

You should also seek emergency medical care if:

  • It feels like your hip is giving out or if you are unable to stand or move your legs. These may be possible signs of a fractured or dislocated hip.
  • You’re unable to move your hips.
  • Your hip joint appears deformed or sudden swelling appears.
  • You experience signs of infection like fever, chills, and redness around the affected area.

If you’ve been experiencing discomfort for more than six weeks, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How is the Cause of Hip Pain Diagnosed?

If you are concerned about your hip pain, it’s best to make an appointment to see your doctor.

They will be able to perform physical examinations and other medical tests to help determine the cause of your hip pain.

Physical examination

The first course of action that your doctor may take is to perform a physical examination. Your doctor may do the following:

  • Ask you about your medical and surgical history and any current medication you are taking.
  • Ask you to list your symptoms and show where you feel pain.
  • Check your hip area for swelling, redness, and warmth. These are common signs of injury or infection.
  • Test your mobility or range of motion.
  • Conduct imaging and other tests, or order scans.

Then your doctor may listen to various parts of your upper body with a stethoscope and check your weight and pulse.

Based on what they find, your doctor will be able to make a diagnosis and recommend a treatment option.

Imaging and other medical tests

If symptoms persist after several weeks or months, your healthcare provider may recommend imaging or other medical tests like:

  • Blood or urine tests
  • Joint fluid samples
  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

These tests allow the doctor to see if there are any abnormalities in the bone and tissue, or if you have an infection.

How Do You Treat Hip Pain?

There are a number of treatment options to help relieve pain. Depending on the severity of the cause of your hip pain, your doctor may recommend any of the options discussed in this section.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medication

OTC medication like pain relievers and anti-inflammatories are often the most effective way to relieve mild to moderate hip pain. These may also help relieve swelling and redness.

Common drugs may include:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, Motrin IB)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

Speak to your doctor about the proper dosage and use of these medications beforehand to achieve the best results.

Home remedies for hip pain relief

Alongside OTC medication, your healthcare provider may also recommend a number of home remedies to help reduce pain.

These may be:

  • Resting the joints: Avoid putting strain on the joint or doing activities that require you to use your hips can be helpful in relieving pain. You can also try sleeping on the side that isn’t painful to avoid putting too much pressure on the affected area.
  • Applying cold and heat compresses: Treating the painful joint with a combination of hot and cold compresses may reduce inflammation and prevent hip problems. Acute pain and injury usually respond best to ice, while muscle stiffness may be reduced with heat.
  • Stretching: Incorporating gentle stretches into your daily routine may be effective in reducing hip pain associated with muscle stiffness.
  • Using a walking aid: Walking aids like crutches or canes may be helpful in relieving hip pain because they take pressure off the joints. Using them can also improve your balance and reduce the risk of falling.
  • Using a compression band: You can create a compression band by wrapping a thick bandage around the affected area. If done correctly, this can help speed up muscle recovery by improving blood circulation.
  • Elevating the affected area: Elevating a painful joint can help reduce swelling and pain. It can be difficult to elevate your hips, but some doctors recommend using a recliner to help.
An older man stands in front of a laptop as he raises/stretches his knee to his chest.


Surgery is a treatment option for the more severe causes of hip pain like a fracture, hip labral tear, cancer, or avascular necrosis.

Your doctor may also recommend surgery if all other nonsurgical treatments haven’t shown any results.

Hip surgery may involve:

  • Joint replacement or transplantation
  • Joint reshaping or fusion
  • Implanting objects like screws or plates to stabilize the bones
  • Tissue repair
  • Nerve decompression

What can I expect after hip surgery?

Hip surgery can be a traumatic and stressful event, but it’s often necessary to relieve chronic pain.

After your surgery, you may spend a few days in the hospital while you recover. Your doctor will also closely monitor you for symptoms in case of any adverse reactions.

Once you’re back home, you might need to take prescription-strength pain relievers for a few days or weeks while your body heals.

After two to six weeks, you will probably only need OTC painkillers. If your doctor is happy with your progress, they may also recommend physical therapy.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy can be useful to recover from hip surgery, or in the case of a pinched nerve or muscle stiffness.

A physical therapist can recommend a number of movements and exercises to help you regain your strength and increase your range of motion.

They will also be able to tell you which exercises to do to avoid aggravating the affected joint. These are usually low-impact movements that prevent future hip problems, like:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Walking
  • Aquatic therapy
Key Point: Can Walking Reduce Hip Pain?

Walking can help strengthen your muscles and ligaments without putting an excessive amount of stress on the joints.

Compared to running which can make joint pain worse, walking is a low-impact exercise that helps treat hip problems and reduce pain.

It also keeps your joints flexible and helps to prevent muscle stiffness and pinched nerves.

Where Can I Learn More About Hip and Joint Pain?

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms we’ve covered in this article or are concerned about your hip joint pain, you can talk to a board-certified doctor or nurse practitioner from your home. Head over to LifeMD to make an appointment.

Dr. Asunta Moduthagam

Dr. Moduthagam has been a family medicine physician since 2011. She loves working with patients to help them reach an optimal state of well-being. She’s dedicated to thoughtful, compassionate care and is committed to being her patients’ best advocate.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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