Top of the pageCheck Your Symptoms

Topic Overview

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

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
    joint problem.

Pelvic, groin, thigh, or knee pain (referred pain) may be
present along with a sore, painful, or tender hip. Hip pain can have many

  • Snapping pain on the outside of the hip and
    sometimes the knee may be caused by
    iliotibial band syndrome.
  • 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
    Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.
  • Pain that is
    worse in the morning and improves during the day may be caused by bones rubbing together, such as with
    rheumatoid arthritis, or
  • Pain may be a sign of inflammation
    of the large sac that separates the hipbones from the muscles and tendons of
    the thighs and buttocks (trochanteric bursitis).
  • Pain can occur with signs of infection in a joint
    (septic arthritis), bursa (septic bursitis), or bone (osteomyelitis).
  • 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.
  • Pain that
    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.

Check your symptoms to
decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

Do you have a hip problem?
This includes symptoms like pain and trouble moving the hips normally.
Hip problem
Hip problem
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Have you injured the hip in the past month?
Hip injury in the past month
Hip injury in the past month
Have you had hip surgery in the past month?
If a cast, splint, or brace is causing the problem, follow the instructions you got about how to loosen it.
Hip surgery in the past month
Hip surgery in the past month
Is the problem mainly in your low back or buttock rather than your hip?
Back Problem
Back Problem
Is the leg blue, very pale, or cold and different from the other leg?
If the leg is in a cast, splint, or brace, follow the instructions you got about how to loosen it.
Leg is blue, very pale, or cold and different from other leg
Leg is blue, very pale, or cold and different from other leg
Do you have any pain in your hip?
Hip pain
Hip pain
How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
8 to 10: Severe pain
Severe pain
5 to 7: Moderate pain
Moderate pain
1 to 4: Mild pain
Mild pain
How long has the pain lasted?
Less than 2 full days (48 hours)
Pain less than 2 days
2 days to 2 weeks
Pain 2 days to 2 weeks
More than 2 weeks
Pain more than 2 weeks
Has the pain:
Gotten worse?
Pain is getting worse
Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?
Pain is unchanged
Gotten better?
Pain is getting better
Do you think the problem may be causing a fever?
Some bone and joint problems can cause a fever.
Possible fever
Possible fever
Are there any symptoms of infection?
Symptoms of infection
Symptoms of infection
Are there red streaks leading away from the area or pus draining from it?
Red streaks or pus
Red streaks or pus
Do you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, peripheral arterial disease, or any surgical hardware in the area?
“Hardware” includes things like artificial joints, plates or screws, catheters, and medicine pumps.
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
Are you having trouble moving your hip or leg?
Difficulty moving hip or leg
Difficulty moving hip or leg
Is it very hard to move or somewhat hard to move?
“Very hard” means you can’t move it at all in any direction without causing severe pain. “Somewhat hard” means you can move it at least a little, though you may have some pain when you do it.
Very hard
Very hard to move
Somewhat hard
Somewhat hard to move
How long have you had trouble moving your hip?
Less than 2 full days (48 hours)
Difficulty moving for less than 2 days
2 days to 2 weeks
Difficulty moving for 2 days to 2 weeks
More than 2 weeks
Difficulty moving for more than 2 weeks
Has the loss of movement been:
Getting worse?
Difficulty moving is getting worse
Staying about the same (not better or worse)?
Difficulty moving is unchanged
Getting better?
Difficulty moving is improving
Have you had hip problems for more than 2 weeks?
Symptoms for more than 2 weeks
Symptoms for more than 2 weeks

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older
    adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart
    disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care
  • Medicines you take. Certain
    medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
  • Recent health events, such as surgery
    or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
    more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
    use, sexual history, and travel.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any
    concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect).
    You may need care sooner.

Pain in adults and older children

  • 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.
  • A fever.

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,
    and HIV/AIDS.
  • Long-term alcohol and drug
  • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety
    of conditions.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for
  • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Not
    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
    ambulance unless:

    • 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.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the
    next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you
    are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have
    any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need
emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

Back Problems and Injuries
Hip Problems, Age 11 and Younger
Postoperative Problems
Hip Injuries, Age 12 and Older

Home Treatment

Home treatment may help relieve hip
pain, swelling, and stiffness.

  • Rest. Try to rest and protect a sore area. Stop,
    change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or
  • Sleep on your unaffected hip
    with a pillow between your knees, or sleep on your back with pillows beneath
    your knees.
  • Gently massage or rub your hip to relieve pain and help
    blood flow.
  • If the swelling is gone, you can put
    heat on the area. Moist heat with a hot
    water bottle or warm towel may feel good on your
    hip. You can carefully begin normal activities and gentle stretching.

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Safety tips
Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions
    on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the
    recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an
    allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If
    you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other
    than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Do not smoke. Smoking may delay healing because it interferes
with blood supply and tissue healing. For more information, see the topic
Quitting Smoking.

Cast care tips

If you have a cast, see
cast care tips.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home

  • Pain develops.
  • Signs of infection develop.
  • Pale, white, blue, or cold skin
  • Symptoms do not get better with home
  • Symptoms become more severe or more frequent.


The following tips may prevent hip problems
or injuries.

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 2½ 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
  • 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.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to
answer the following questions:

  • What are your main symptoms? How long have you
    had your symptoms?
  • Have you had this problem in the past? If so, do
    you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it
  • Do you have hip pain when you walk? How far can you walk
    without discomfort? Does the pain get better or worse as you continue to
  • Have you had
    X-rays of your hip? When and what were the
  • What activities make your symptoms better or
  • What sports activities are you involved in? Have you
    recently started a new activity?
  • Do you think that activities
    related to your job or hobbies caused your symptoms?
  • Have you had
    any recent illness or fever?
  • What home treatment measures have you
    tried? Did they help?
  • What nonprescription medicines have you
    tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription and nonprescription
    medicines do you take?
  • Do you have any
    health risks that may increase the seriousness of your


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine

Current as ofMarch 20, 2017

Current as of:
March 20, 2017