Hip pain can make it hard to walk, go up and down stairs, squat,
or sleep on the side that hurts. A clicking or snapping feeling or sound around
your hip joint (snapping hip) may bother you or cause you to worry.
But if your hip is not painful, in many cases the click or snap is nothing to
worry about. Home treatment may be all that is needed for minor hip
To better understand hip problems, it may be helpful to
know how the hip works. It is the largest ball-and-socket joint in
the body. The thighbone (femur) fits tightly into a cup-shaped socket
(acetabulum) in the pelvis. The hip joint is tighter and more stable than the
shoulder joint but it does not move as freely. The hip joint is held together
by muscles in the buttock, groin, and spine; tendons; ligaments; and a joint
capsule. Several fluid-filled sacs (bursae) cushion and lubricate the hip joint
and let the tendons and muscles glide and move smoothly. The largest nerve in
the body (sciatic nerve) passes through the pelvis into the leg.
Hip problems may develop from overuse,
bone changes with age, tumors, infection, changes in the blood supply, or a
problem that was present from birth (congenital). Oddly enough, a person who
has a hip problem often feels pain in the knee or thigh instead of the hip. The type of hip pain you have may help your
doctor determine the cause of your pain.
Pain when resting does
not increase with motion or standing. This type of pain is usually caused by a
less severe problem, unless the pain does not go away or awakens you from
Pain with movement increases when you
move the hip or leg but does not increase when you stand or bear weight. This
type of pain is most often caused by a muscle injury, inflammation, or
Pain with weight-bearing
increases when you stand or walk and may cause you to limp. This type of pain
usually means you have a problem with the hip joint itself. Pain that is severe
enough to prevent any weight-bearing is more likely to mean a serious bone or
Pelvic, groin, thigh, or knee pain (referred pain) may be
present along with a sore, painful, or tender hip. Hip pain can have many
Pain in the hip,
thigh, or knee of an older child or teen may be caused by conditions such as slipped capital femoral epiphysis, in which the upper
end of the thighbone (femur) slips at the growth plate (epiphysis), or
Pain and stiffening in the
hip may be caused by lack of blood flow to the hip joint (avascular necrosis). Pain in the knee may also be present.
shoots down the leg from the hip or lower back may be caused by an irritated or
pinched nerve (sciatica).
Pain with weight-bearing that
gradually worsens over several months may be caused by transient osteoporosis. This is more common in
middle-aged men but also can affect women in the later part of pregnancy (third
trimester). Osteoporosis related to pregnancy usually goes away on its own
within 12 months of delivery.
Some types of bone cancer
(osteosarcomas) and the spread of cancer to the bone (metastatic disease) can
cause bone pain.
Treatment for a hip problem depends on the location,
type, and severity of the problem, as well as your age, general health, and
activities (such as work, sports, hobbies). Treatment may include first aid
measures; application of a brace, cast, harness, or traction; physical therapy;
medicines; or surgery.
Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain
is so bad that you can’t stand it for more than a few hours, can’t sleep, and
can’t do anything else except focus on the pain.
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your
normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days.
Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it’s severe when it’s
Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain,
but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood
supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons
for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn
blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color
returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area
looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and
this change does not go away.
Symptoms of infection may
Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or
around the area.
Red streaks leading from the area.
Pus draining from the area.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system’s ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease,
Long-term alcohol and drug
Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for
Other medicines used to treat autoimmune
Medicines taken after organ transplant.
having a spleen.
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and
arrange for care.
If you cannot reach your doctor or you don’t have
one, seek care in the next hour.
You do not need to call an
You cannot travel safely either by driving
yourself or by having someone else drive you.
You are in an area
where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
Seek Care Today
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms
and arrange for care.
If you cannot reach your doctor or you don’t
have one, seek care today.
If it is evening, watch the symptoms and
seek care in the morning.
The following tips may prevent hip problems
Keep bones strong
Eat foods rich in calcium, like yogurt, cheese, milk, and dark green vegetables. Eat foods rich in vitamin D, like eggs, fatty fish, cereal, and fortified milk.
Exercise and stay active. It is best to do weight-bearing
exercise, such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or lifting
weights, for 2Â½ hours a week. One way to do this is to be active 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. In addition to weight-bearing exercise, experts recommend that you do resistance exercises at least 2 days a week. Talk to your doctor about an exercise
program that is right for you. Begin slowly, especially if you have not been
active. For more information, see the topic Fitness.
Don’t drink more than 2 alcohol
drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcohol drink a day if you are a woman.
People who drink more than this may have a higher chance for developing osteoporosis. Alcohol use also increases your chance
of falling and breaking a bone.
Stop or do not begin smoking.
Smoking also increases your chance for developing osteoporosis. It also
interferes with blood supply and healing. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
Exercises to keep your hip and back area strong
up and stretch before exercising to prevent problems.
Prone buttocks squeeze, to strengthen
the buttocks muscles. These support your back and help you lift with your