Hip pain can arise from problems with different structures of the hip joint for a variety of reasons. Common causes of hip pain include arthritis, bone fractures and other traumatic injuries, nerve pain and bursitis.
Many different types of arthritis can cause hip pain, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. All types of arthritis cause inflammation and damage to the joints, which causes joint pain and stiffness, but the mechanism by which this occurs is different for different types of arthritis. Arthritis that affects the hip joints can be debilitating because it affects a person’s ability to walk without a mobility device. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, and it is due to age-related wear and tear on the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune conditions; psoriatic arthritis is a type of arthritis that is related to psoriasis, a skin condition.
Hip fractures cause significant hip pain. Sometimes, pelvic or femoral fractures occur as a result of trauma, but they are also common in people suffering from advanced osteoporosis. Osteoporosis results in fragile, brittle bones, and hip and vertebral fractures are common in osteoporosis sufferers. Osteoporosis is more common in women than men, and it mostly affects postmenopausal women over age 50. People with osteoporosis can suffer from bone fractures due to trauma, such as a fall, but some fractures occur due to normal weight-bearing on significantly weakened bones. If the femur is broken, it is usually broken along the narrowed neck of the bone.
Other traumatic injuries to the hip joint, such as sprains of ligaments, strains of muscles and bruises of soft tissue around the area can cause hip pain. These structures surrounding the hip joint can also suffer overuse injuries that cause inflammation. Overuse injuries occur with repetitive motions that put stress on a particular structure, such as a tendon or ligament, and cause pain. An overuse injury will not go away unless a person stops doing whatever is causing the injury and allows it to heal.
Referred pain from nerves can also cause pain in the area of the hip joints. Sciatica, or nerve pain that affects the lower back, buttocks and the backs of the legs, can cause the hip joints to hurt. Sciatica can be caused by a variety of problems that cause pressure on the spinal nerve roots, including a herniated intervertebral disc and spinal stenosis. A specific type of nerve inflammation called meralgia parasthetica can also cause hip pain; in this condition, a particular nerve branch called the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is inflamed and causes pain in the area that it is located. Inguinal or femoral hernias can also cause pain near the front of the hip joint, which can feel like it is coming from the hip itself in some cases.
A condition called bursitis of the hip can cause hip pain. Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs found in some of the joints of the body and they protect the joints from friction from the overlying muscles and tendons. The femur has a large bursa that lies over its projection near the hip joint, called the trochanteric bursa. This bursa, when it becomes inflamed, can cause hip pain. There is another bursa that can potentially become inflamed in the hip, but this is not as common as trochanteric bursitis. Bursitis causes sharp pain or dull, aching pain that gets worse at night and when standing up or performing certain activities, such as climbing stairs.
There are other conditions that can potentially cause hip pain. Some infections can cause hip pain due to inflammation, such as the infection involved in Lyme disease. Infections of the bones themselves would also cause hip pain. One potential side effect of taking corticosteroid medications for too long is necrosis of the femoral head, where the head of the femur starts to die due to decreased blood supply. This can also be caused by a rare condition in children called Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. Some people with sickle cell anemia may experience arthritis symptoms in the hip joint and other joints throughout the body during an attack. Tumors that affect the bones near the hip joint, whether benign or malignant, may cause hip pain. Bone cancer may cause bone pain in some cases even if the tumor is not obstructing the joint. Chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia may cause muscle pain around the hip joint that can be interpreted as joint pain and stiffness in some cases, even though no damage to the actual joint has occurred.
If you are experiencing hip pain, talk to your doctor to receive a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that can help control your pain and treat the underlying problem.