Most cases of hip pain in adults that are treated with surgery are caused by osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the UK.

This page aims to give you a better idea of whether osteoarthritis or something more unusual is causing your hip pain, and what you can do about it.

However, don't try to diagnose the cause of your hip pain yourself – this should always be a matter for your doctor.

Read about hip pain in children.

Osteoarthritis

The symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary greatly from person to person, but if it affects the hip, it will typically cause:

  • mild inflammation of the tissues in and around the hip joint
  • damage to cartilage – the strong, flexible tissue that lines the bones
  • bony growths (osteophytes) that develop around the edge of the hip joint

This can lead to pain, stiffness and difficulty doing certain activities.

There's no cure for osteoarthritis, but the symptoms can be eased using a number of different treatments. Surgery isn't usually necessary.

Read more about treating osteoarthritis.

Less common causes

Less commonly, hip pain may be caused by:

  • the bones of the hip rubbing together because they're abnormally shaped – a condition called femoroacetabular impingement
  • a tear in the ring of cartilage surrounding the socket of the hip joint – known as a hip labral tear
  • hip dysplasia – where the hip joint is the wrong shape, or the hip socket isn't in the correct position to completely cover and support the top of the leg bone
  • a hip fracture – this will cause sudden hip pain and is more common in older people with weaker bones 
  • an infection in the bone or joint, such as septic arthritis or osteomyelitis – see your GP immediately if you have hip pain and fever
  • reduced blood flow to the hip joint, causing the bone to break down – a condition known as osteonecrosis
  • inflammation and swelling of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) over your hip joint – a condition called bursitis
  • a hamstring injury
  • an inflamed ligament in the thigh, often caused by too much running – known as iliotibial band syndrome, this is treated with rest; read more about sprains and strains

The above links will take you to more information about these conditions.

When to seek medical advice

Hip pain often gets better on its own, and can be managed with rest and over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen

However, see your GP if:

  • your hip is still painful after one week of resting it at home
  • you also have a fever or rash
  • your hip pain came on suddenly and you have sickle cell anaemia
  • the pain is in both hips and other joints as well

Your GP may ask you the following questions:

  • Where do you feel the pain?
  • When and how did the pain start?
  • Does anything make the pain worse?
  • Does anything relieve the pain?
  • Can you walk and bear weight on it?
  • Do you have any other medical problems?
  • Do you take any medicines?

Go straight to hospital if:

  • the hip pain was caused by a serious fall or accident
  • your leg is deformed, badly bruised or bleeding
  • you're unable to move your hip or bear any weight on your leg
  • you have hip pain with a temperature and feel unwell 

Managing hip pain at home

If you don't immediately need to see a doctor, consider managing and monitoring the problem at home. The following advice may be helpful:

  • lose weight if you're overweight to relieve some of the strain on your hip
  • avoid activities that make the pain worse, such as downhill running
  • wear flat shoes and avoid standing for long periods 
  • consider seeing a physiotherapist for some muscle-strengthening exercises
  • take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

Overactivity

If your hip pain is related to exercising or other types of regular activity:

Page last reviewed: 24/06/2016

Next review due: 24/06/2019