An overview of hip pain

What causes hip pain and what can be done to treat it?

If you're suffering with hip pain, this section is for you. Read on for an overview of the hip joint, common symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment options. Find out why some people get hip pain at night, and more about hip pain during pregnancy. 

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Find out more about hip surgery at Circle Health

Hip surgery at Circle Reading Hospital

 The hip joint

The hip joint is formed by a socket in the pelvis (known as the acetabulum) and a ball structure at the end of the thigh bone (known as the femoral head). The joint is designed to withstand significant stress over your lifetime and for this reason has a large weight bearing surface, due to a very deep socket structure, to aid stability. A thick soft tissue structure, formed by what is known as the joint capsule as well as strong gluteal muscles, reinforce the hip joint’s stability.

Flexibility and strength

As well as needing this stability, the hip joints also need a certain degree of flexibility and strength when moving through large range of movements. Many examples of hip pain can be attributable to when this need for hip joint stability versus the need for a large range of motion gets to an unbalanced state.

Degenerative joint conditions and impingement syndromes may often affect the hip joints leading to pain and associated joint stiffness. It is clear that there is a fundamental genetic component to developing these conditions but some forms of activity and exercise habits may also play a role in stiffening the hip and contribute to these conditions developing.

In situations where the hips are too stiff, you may find everyday tasks such as sitting for long periods or transiting movements such as sitting to standing, and getting in and out of a car, lead to hip pain. Sporting activities may also begin to cause hip pain with squatting movements as well as lateral and rotational movements becoming painful.

Conversely, structural abnormalities may develop from birth or in early childhood which can reduce the amount of hip joint stability. The most common example is a condition known as hip dysplasia.

Owing to their bodies producing slightly different forms of soft tissue to form joints capsules and ligaments, others may simply have genetically very flexible joints (often referred to as hypermobility). These individuals may naturally tend to take to sports involving significant degrees of flexibility such as dance and martial arts.

However, when doing sports requiring very repetitive impact work or high degrees of stability, such as long distance running or rugby, they may begin to develop hip region pain. These forms of hip pain may often be related to the muscles and tendons which support the hip joint, and struggle to maintain appropriate levels of stability when performing these higher level tasks.

What are the treatment options?

Like many orthopaedic and musculoskeletal areas, various forms of hip pain may be treated successfully with non-invasive measures such as physiotherapy supervised exercise programs. Anti-inflammatory injections are rarely used for treating hip joint conditions bit may be used to treat some conditions affecting the soft tissue around the area. Hip surgery is a growing area of practice with the vast majority of surgical procedures being needed to replace severely arthritic hip joints. However, there is also a growing number of operations to treat non-arthritic hip conditions. Find out more about hip pain treatments.

Symptoms of hip pain

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