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Hip pain

6-minute read

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What is hip pain?

Pain in the hip is very common. Hip pain affects children and adults and can have a variety of different causes. You should see a doctor or physiotherapist if your hip pain persists.

Sometimes you can feel pain from other areas of your body in your hip - this is called ‘referred pain’.

Pain in the hip can affect you when you:

  • walk up or down stairs
  • sit or stand for some time
  • exercise or play sport

What causes hip pain?

Usually if the problem is with the hip itself you will feel pain inside your hip or your groin.

Conditions that cause hip pain include:

Hip arthritis can be due to a variety of causes. Osteoarthritis is the most common, especially in people older than 50 years. Conditions such as hip dysplasia can also lead to hip pain if untreated.

Hip infection is also known as septic arthritis. This is not a common condition.

What symptoms relate to hip pain?

Sometimes, when you have hip pain you will also have knee and/or lower back pain.

When and where you feel soreness depends on the cause of your hip pain. This can also affect what other symptoms you have.

Hip problems usually include soreness or pain inside the hip joint or your groin.

If you have problems with your muscles, ligaments, or tendons around the hip joint, you may feel pain:

  • outside your hip
  • on your upper thigh
  • on your outer buttock

If your pain is caused by osteoarthritis, your symptoms may include:

  • stiffness
  • tenderness if you push on the joint
  • a grating sensation in your joints
  • muscle weakness

A bone fracture may cause:

  • swelling
  • deformity
  • bruising
  • loss of function

If your pain is caused by an infection, the area could be red or swollen. An infection can also restrict movement.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I see my doctor?

You should talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about your hip pain if you have ongoing hip pain.

You should see a doctor as soon as possible if:

  • the pain is sudden or intense
  • the pain is a result of an injury or a fall
  • you can't move your hip or leg
  • you can't put weight on the affected leg
  • you notice swelling or bleeding
  • you experience a fever, which can be a sign of an infection

Septic arthritis, an infection, is a medical emergency. If you suspect you have sepsis, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

If your child has pain in their hip, talk to your doctor.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is hip pain diagnosed?

A doctor or physiotherapist can work out what is causing the pain in your hip. They might talk to you and examine you. They will check how you stand, how you walk and what movements cause pain. They may suggest blood tests, or imaging such as:

How is hip pain treated?

The treatment for hip pain might include:

You might find pain relief with home treatments such as:

  • rest
  • heat or ice
  • massage
  • gentle exercises for hip pain

You can also use devices such as canes and crutches. These may help to relieve pain and improve mobility.

Your doctor may suggest you see an orthopaedic surgeon (bone doctor) if surgery or other specialist treatment is needed.

Can hip pain be prevented?

One of the best ways to reduce your pain is to exercise. Low impact activities are best to protect the hips.

However, it’s important to talk to a doctor or physiotherapist first. They can tailor a program to suit you and your hip pain.

What are the complications of hip pain?

Different causes of hip pain come with different symptoms. Hip pain, if untreated, can also cause:

  • limping
  • muscular atrophy (muscle wasting) and weakness
  • reduced movement

Resources and support

Arthritis Australia has information about hip pain

MyJointPain.org.au provides support for people with osteoarthritis

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022


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