Hip Pain: Causes and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 09, 2024
9 min read

The hip joint can withstand repeated motion and a fair amount of wear and tear. As the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body, its structure allows for fluid movement.

Picture of the hip

Whenever you use the hip (for example, by going for a run), a cushion of cartilage helps prevent friction as the hip bone moves in its socket.

Despite its durability, the hip joint isn't indestructible. With age and use, the cartilage can wear down or become damaged. Muscles and tendons in the hip can get overused. Bones in the hip can break during a fall or other injury. Any of these conditions can lead to hip pain.

If your hips are sore, here is a rundown of what might be causing your discomfort and how to get relief from hip pain.

Depending on the condition that's causing your hip pain, you might feel discomfort in your:

  • Thigh
  • Inside of the hip joint
  • Groin
  • Outside of the hip joint
  • Butt

Sometimes, pain from other areas of the body, such as the back or groin (from a hernia), can radiate to the hip.

You might notice that your pain gets worse with activity, especially if it's caused by arthritis. Along with the pain, you might have a reduced range of motion. Some people develop a limp from persistent hip pain.

Hip pain can have many different causes. Depending on the cause, you may feel pain in different areas of the hip, such as the inside of the hip or groin, and the outside of the hip or buttock area.

Common causes of hip pain

These are some of the conditions that often cause hip pain:

Osteoarthritis. It is one of the most common causes of hip pain, especially in older people. With osteoarthritis, either an injury or normal wear and tear damages the cartilage that cushions your hip bones, and that lack of cushioning causes pain and stiffness. You may also have a reduced range of motion in your hip. Learn more about hip osteoarthritis.

Hip fractures. As you age, your bones can become weak and brittle, making them more likely to break during a fall. A hip fracture can be caused by this type of injury or by repetitive stress. You can get a stress fracture when pressure is repeatedly placed on the bone, such as during sports. Stress fractures are common among athletes. Learn more about hip fracture symptoms.

Bursitis. Bursae are sacs of liquid found between tissues such as bone, muscles, and tendons (which connect muscles to bones). Bursae ease the friction from these tissues rubbing together. When bursae get inflamed, they can cause pain. This usually happens because of repetitive activities that overwork or irritate the hip joint. Learn more about bursitis of the hip.

Tendinitis. Tendons are the thick bands of tissue that attach bones to muscles. Tendinitis is inflammation or irritation of the tendons. It's usually caused by repetitive stress from overuse. Learn more about tendinitis symptoms.

Muscle or tendon strain. Repeated activities can put strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the hips. When they become inflamed due to overuse, they can cause pain and prevent the hip from working normally. One example is a strain in the hip flexor, a muscle where your thigh meets your hip. Learn about the best stretches for tight hip muscles.

Hip labral tear. This is a rip in the ring of cartilage (called the labrum) that follows the outside rim of your hip joint socket. Your labrum cushions your hip joint and acts like a rubber seal or gasket to help hold the ball at the top of your thighbone securely within your hip socket. Athletes and people who perform repetitive twisting movements are at higher risk of developing this problem. Learn more about hip labral tears.

Sciatica. Your sciatic nerve runs through your buttock and hip on each side. Sciatica, sometimes called a pinched nerve, is when the nerve is injured or irritated, and it can cause hip pain. 

Other hip pain causes

Cancer. Tumors that start in the bone or spread to the bone can cause pain in the hips, as well as in other bones of the body. Learn more about bone tumors​​​​​.

Avascular necrosis (also called osteonecrosis). This condition happens when blood flow to the hip bone slows and the bone tissue dies. Although it can affect other bones, avascular necrosis most often happens in the hip. It can be caused by a hip fracture or dislocation, or by taking high-dose steroids (such as prednisone) for a long time, among other causes.

Inflammatory arthritis. People of all ages can develop inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, which involves the lining of the joint becoming inflamed. It can cause pain and stiffness in your hip. This type of arthritis is a less common cause of hip pain than osteoarthritis. 

Fibromyalgia. This ongoing condition causes pain in the muscles and tissues all over your body, including those in and around your hip.

Causes of hip pain in children

Hip pain in children can be caused by:

  • An injury, such as a labral tear or hip fracture
  • A structural hip issue, such as hip dysplasia, which happens when the hip socket is too shallow
  • A disease, such as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, in which the bone breaks down because the femoral head temporarily loses its blood supply
  • An infection, such as septic arthritis, in which the joint tissues and fluid are infected

Why does my right hip hurt when standing?

Many causes of hip pain, such as injuries, may happen on only one side. If you have hip pain on only one side, it could also be from habits such as carrying a baby on that hip or sleeping on that side.

But if you have pain in your abdomen on the right side, above your hip bone, it could be appendicitis, which is an infection or irritation of your appendix. If you have pain in that area, you should see a doctor right away.

What causes left hip pain in women?

Hip pain on the left side could be caused by using that hip differently, like sleeping on your left side every night or sitting with your legs crossed.

Hip pain is common during pregnancy, and sometimes the pain is worse on one side.

Among older women, a tendon disorder called gluteal tendinopathy is a common cause of hip pain. With this disorder, the tendons that connect to your buttocks muscles break down.

Why is hip pain during pregnancy common?

During pregnancy, hip pain is common because pregnancy hormones relax your ligaments and loosen up your pelvic bones to prepare your body for childbirth. This often causes pain in the hips and pelvis.

To diagnose your hip pain, your doctor will do a physical exam. This may include checking your range of motion, how you walk, and your muscle strength.

Depending on the exam and the type of pain you have, your doctor may also order imaging tests such as:

  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound

The best way to ease your hip pain depends on what’s causing it. Your doctor can recommend treatments and pain relief methods that are appropriate for you.


If your hip pain is caused by a muscle or tendon strain, osteoarthritis, or tendinitis, you can usually relieve it with an over-the-counter pain medication, such as acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen or naproxen.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatments also include prescription anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate and sulfasalazine, and biologics, which target the immune system.

Home remedies

The RICE method. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. 

Rest. Try to rest your hip as much as possible. 

Ice. Apply ice to the area for about 15 minutes a few times daily. 

Compression. Try a compression wrap or shorts that keep pressure on your hip. 

Elevation. Lift your hips above the level of your heart, such as by propping them up on pillows. 

Heat. A warm bath or shower may help relieve pain and prepare your muscles for stretching exercises.

Hip pain exercises

A physical therapist can show you specific stretches and exercises that can strengthen the muscles around your hip. Physical therapy can relieve pain and also help increase your range of motion.

If you have arthritis, low-impact exercise, stretching, and resistance training can reduce hip pain and improve joint mobility. For example, swimming is a good non-impact exercise for arthritis. Physical therapy can also help increase your range of motion.

When osteoarthritis becomes so severe that the pain is intense or the hip joint becomes deformed, a total hip replacement (arthroplasty) may be a consideration. People who fracture their hip sometimes need surgery to fix the fracture or replace the hip.


Your doctor might recommend surgery if osteoarthritis becomes so severe that the pain is intense, if the hip joint becomes deformed, or if you have a hip fracture.

The most common surgery for hip pain is hip arthroscopy. A surgeon makes small cuts in the skin of your hip and inserts a small tool called an arthroscope into the hip joint to see and repair the damage. 

A hip replacement surgery is called arthroplasty. It involves replacing your hip with an artificial implant. You might need a hip replacement if your hip pain makes it difficult to stand, walk, and move around.

Alternative treatments

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting tiny needles into your skin. Although clinical research supporting acupuncture for hip pain is sparse, acupuncture may help reduce hip pain and inflammation. Sometimes it’s used along with other treatments.

Chiropractic care. Chiropractors improve the alignment of your spine by adjusting it manually. Spinal misalignments are sometimes linked to hip pain, and adjustments can reduce stress on the hip joint.

What is the fastest way to ease hip pain?

Some pain relief methods you can try immediately are:

  • Ice (and the RICE method)
  • Heat
  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Rest

How to relieve hip pain while sleeping

If you have hip pain while you’re sleeping, it could be because of your sleep position or your mattress. If you sleep on your side, that puts pressure on the hip joint. You can try sleeping on your back or putting a pillow between your knees to keep your hips better aligned. You can also try a more supportive mattress or mattress topper.

Get medical help right away if:

  • Your hip pain comes on suddenly.
  • A fall or other injury triggered the hip pain.
  • Your joint looks deformed or is bleeding.
  • You heard a popping noise in the joint when you injured it.
  • The pain is intense.
  • You can't put any weight on your hip.
  • You can't move your leg or hip.
  • You have sudden swelling.
  • You have a fever, chills, redness, or other signs of infection.

Also, talk to your doctor if:

  • The pain is making you skip your normal activities.
  • Your hip pain is persistent or it keeps coming back.
  • A specific activity causes recurring hip pain.
  • You’ve lost range of motion in your hip.
  • You have hip pain at night or when you are resting.

Should I keep walking with hip pain?

Regular exercises, such as walking, can help keep your muscles strong and flexible. It’s typically good to keep your joints moving even if you’re dealing with pain. If you don’t want to take a long walk, try taking short walks throughout the day. But it’s a good idea to check with your doctor about your exercise routine.

Hip pain is common, and it can have many different causes. The treatment and pain relief you need will depend on what’s causing your hip pain. You may need surgery if the pain is severe, but in some cases, you can manage your pain through home remedies and keep your hip joint strong through exercise.

What can be mistaken for hip pain?

Sometimes, the pain that you feel in your hip may actually be coming from somewhere else in your body, such as your lower back or a gynecological problem.

Is walking good for hip pain?

Walking and other regular exercises are generally good for hip pain, but check with your doctor about your exercise routine.

Where is hip pain usually felt?

If the problem is the hip joint itself, you usually feel pain on the inside of the hip. If the problem is with the soft tissues around the hip joint, you usually feel pain in the outside of the hip, outer buttock, or upper thigh.

What are the causes of sudden hip pain without injury?

Sometimes, hip pain from osteoarthritis can come on suddenly. Pain from bursitis or tendinitis can also be sudden.