What to Know About a Hip Pointer

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 20, 2022
5 min read

A hip pointer is a term that covers a variety of hip pains caused by an impact on the hip. Athletes are typically among those who contend with hip pointers. With appropriate rest and recovery, though, they can be back on the field in no time.

A hip pointer is a unique bruise or pain in your hip. Specifically, the pain is usually centered at the top-front side of your hip bone. The placement of the bruise causes the pain to extend around the hip, though, and affects several activities.

Not just a bruise.Everyone gets bruises sometimes. When you hit your shin on the coffee table, for instance, the impact ruptures blood vessels, blood pools beneath the skin, and the area becomes tender or painful.

A hip pointer is like a bruise. One difference, though, is that it can make everyday activities like walking, laughing, or breathing painful. While most bruises go away on their own, a hip pointer needs treatment to encourage the healing process.

Hip pointer location. A hip pointer occurs at the iliac crest of your hip. This is the bone that sticks out on your side. The actual bruise causing the pain may form around the hip, but an impact on the iliac crest leads to a hip pointer.

Boom! Wham! Crack! These aren’t just words in comic books. They’re also the sounds heard when someone gets a hip pointer.

Like other bruises, a hip pointer results from a harsh impact. Athletes who engage in contact sports like football or sports where falling is frequent like volleyball are prone to hip pointers. Sports that involve equipment like hockey sticks can also inadvertently lead to hip pointers. 

Hip pointers don’t only affect athletes, though. Someone who falls, mishandles heavy equipment, or gets in an accident can wind up with a hip pointer. 

A hip pointer is quickly identified when there’s pain around the top of your hip. Several hip pointer symptoms help your doctor make a diagnosis.

Hip pain. There’s likely pain, sensitivity, and tenderness around the hip bone that feels like a bruise. The pain may flare up or increase in severity when you move your hip. 

A severe hip pointer may cause pain that can be felt throughout everyday activities. You may have pain when you:

  • Walk
  • Run
  • Laugh
  • Cough
  • Deeply breathe

If the pain lasts longer than 2 weeks or doesn’t lessen with treatment, you may be suffering from a worse injury, like a broken bone.

Visible bruise. A hip pointer is a bruise. This bruise can be apparent on the skin around the hip. The bruise could also happen beneath the skin, making the bruise itself invisible. An invisible bruise may require alternative diagnostics.

A visible bruise will discolor the skin. The skin may turn one of the following colors at the site of a hip pointer impact:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • Yellow
  • Brown

It’s fairly simple to diagnose a hip pointer. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination, checking the bruising and sensitivity of your hip.

Your doctor will also ask about recent physical activity that may have caused a hip pointer. This will help them pinpoint any major impacts that could have caused the bruising.

If there’s no obvious bruise, the pain extends beyond the hip, or you’ve had other traumatic impacts, your doctor may look for other injuries. You may have broken bones or muscle damage around the hip. 

Blood-related conditions can complicate a seemingly simple bruise. If you have a history of abnormal bruising or bleeding, talk to your doctor so you can check for compilations throughout your treatment.

Extra diagnostic efforts may include X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Proper treatment can speed up the healing process of a hip pointer. You’ll likely be without pain and the ability to move regularly within 1 to 2 weeks. Pain that lasts longer or worsens after 2 weeks may suggest a serious injury. 

Get rest. Once a hip pointer is diagnosed, rest is the most important treatment. Avoid strenuous activities that can put a strain on your hip or put you at risk of another impact. 

This isn’t a free pass to lay in bed for two weeks. As you’ll see, maintaining flexibility and range of motion in your hip is a focus of hip pointer treatment. 

Ice it. Ice can be used to help heal a hip pointer. Wrap an ice pack in a towel (never put ice on your bare skin) and place it on the bruise. Leave the ice on your hip for 10 to 20 minutes and repeat throughout the day.

Depending on the severity of the bruise, you may need to use ice for more than a day. If you’re still feeling pain and swelling after more than three days of treatment, talk to your doctor. 

Use crutches. Your doctor may recommend crutches if walking or putting weight on your leg causes pain. Utilizing your hip will maintain its range of motion, but too much strain will slow its healing. Overworking your hip can even lead to another injury.

Compress the bruise. In the case of significant swelling, you may need to compress the bruise. Compressing the bruise with an elastic bandage can help reduce the swelling and relieve discomfort.

Elevate your hips. Lie down and use a pillow or cushion to elevate your hips. This will encourage the blood in the bruise to flow somewhere else, reducing swelling and discoloration. 

Take pain relievers. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use them as directed, and if the pain continues after several days, talk to your doctor.

Don’t forget to RICE. Taking pain relievers won’t heal your hip. Always remember to RICE a hip pointer first: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. These easy techniques will help you get back to your regular activities.

Stretch. Restoring movement to your hip is vital to the healing process. Stretching will prevent your hip from getting stiff.

When stretching your hip, though, stop if you encounter a lot of pain. Undue strain can slow your healing and lead to other injuries. Light stretching for 30-second intervals is enough to promote the healing process.

Everyone gets bruises. Hip pointers can slow you down in unexpected ways, but immediate treatment can help you get back on your feet quickly.