When to See a Doctor for Hip Pain
Hip pain can interfere with your everyday life. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to see a doctor for your hip pain, but some conditions may be more urgent than others. Let’s take a look at some common causes of hip pain and what symptoms indicate the need for medical attention.
What is Causing Your Hip Pain?
Without an examination by a doctor, you cannot be diagnosed properly, but knowing the possible symptoms can give you an indication of what condition you may have and whether you need to see a doctor immediately.
Osteoarthritis is a condition characterized by the wearing away of cartilage lining the joint. This condition is often called “wear and tear” arthritis because it progresses over time; for this reason, it is more common in adults over the age of 50. In the hip, osteoarthritis symptoms can include pain in the hip joint that radiates to the buttocks or knee and flares up with activity. Some also experience stiffness in the hip, a grinding noise while moving the hip, and a “locking” or “sticking” sensation. Osteoarthritis can decrease your range of motion over time, making it difficult to walk or bend.
In those with inflammatory arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue and may affect several parts of the body at once. The tissues lining the hip joint can become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness. Those with inflammatory arthritis may also experience dull, aching pain in the groin, outer thigh, knee, or buttocks. For some, pain may be worse in the morning or after a period of rest, while others may find that their pain is worse after vigorous activity. For some, the pain may be so bad that walking is difficult.
A hip fracture involves a break in the upper portion of the femur, or thighbone. Those with a hip fracture will experience pain in the groin or the outer portion of the upper thigh. There will be significant pain or discomfort when attempting to flex or move the hip. The injured leg may appear shorter than the non-injured leg if the bone is completely broken. Patients with a hip fracture often hold the injured leg with the foot and knee turned outward. In the case of a fracture, immediate medical attention is needed.
The bursa are small, jelly-like sacs located throughout the body, including the hips. They are positioned between the bones and soft tissues in the joint to help reduce friction. The bursa can become inflamed for several reasons, including injury or disease. Pain is the main symptom of bursitis in the hip. The pain starts in the hip and may extend to the outer thigh. At first, the pain may be sharp and intense, but may feel like more achy as time goes on. For many people, the pain worsens at night, when lying on the hip, or when getting up after a period of rest. Prolonged activity like walking, climbing stairs, or squatting may also make pain worse.
If the one of the muscles supporting hip joint is stretched beyond its limit, whether due to muscle tightness, acute injury, or overuse, the hip may be strained. A muscle strain can result in pain, tenderness, swelling, muscle weakness, limited range of motion, and increased pain when moving the hip.
When You Should See a Doctor
Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you should seek medical attention for your hip pain.
- Does the hip appear deformed?
- Are you unable to move or bear weight on the affected leg?
- Is pain or stiffness in your hip interfering with your daily activities?
- Did your hip suddenly “give out” from under you?
- Did you experience sudden swelling or intense pain in the hip?
- Have home treatments like rest, ice, heat, or over-the-counter pain medications failed to improve your symptoms?
If you have experienced a sudden onset of hip pain or have experienced long-term hip pain, it is always a good idea to seek medical attention so that you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a condition that affects the cartilage lining your joints. Healthy cartilage is necessary to help your joints move properly and pain-free, but arthritis can damage the cartilage. In severe cases, the cartilage may wear down to the point that the bones in your hip rub against each other, which can be very painful. There are several different types of arthritis, from osteoarthritis (“wear and tear” on the joint that gradually erodes cartilage) to rheumatoid arthritis (an inflammatory condition that affects the joints).
What is bursitis?
Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa—small, jelly-like sacs in the hip and other joints that help to reduce friction. Injuries, overuse, and other conditions can cause the bursa to become inflamed, causing hip pain that may eventually affect everyday life.
How can I tell what is causing my hip pain?
An evaluation with an orthopedic surgeon is necessary to properly diagnose hip pain. This includes a physical exam, medical history, and imaging tests like x-rays and MRIs.
What are some home remedies I can try for hip pain?
If you are experiencing hip pain, you try several things at home, including rest, applying ice packs or heating pads to the hip, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or naproxen to help with swelling in the joint. Your primary care doctor may also be able to recommend at-home exercises you can try to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip.
How do I know when it is time to see a doctor for my hip pain?
If your hip feels painful or stiff, you have lost range of motion, and you are unable to perform certain activities due to hip pain or dysfunction, you might consider seeing a doctor for your hip pain. If you have tried home remedies like rest, ice, heat, and over-the-counter pain medications with no improvement, it is recommended that you see a doctor for recommendations on exercises and other available treatment options. If hip pain occurs after an accident or fall, seek emergency medical care immediately.
If you are in the Baton Rouge area and need to see a doctor for hip pain, Dr. Craig Greene is accepting new patients. Please call our office at (225) 408-7852 or use our Appointment Request form to schedule a consultation.