Common Hip Pain Symptoms: What Do They Mean?
Your hip supports the weight of your body and is one of your most active joints. Pain in your hip can keep you from living the life you want. In this guide, we go through different hip pain symptoms and what they mean.
Hip pain symptoms and common causes
I feel hip pain at night from lying on the side
I feel hip pain on my right or left side above the hip
I feel hip pain when or after I sit
I feel hip pain from running
I feel hip pain radiating down the leg to the foot
Exercises and stretches to relieve common forms of hip pain
How do I know if my hip pain is serious?
Don’t let hip pain stop you in your tracks
Your hip is one of the largest joints in your body. It is a major weight-bearing joint that undergoes considerable stress during everyday activities like standing, walking, and running.1
The stresses placed upon your hip when you walk can be up to 5 times your body weight. If you’re carrying a load, running, or climbing stairs, the stress on your hips is higher.2
Even if you do not lead a very active lifestyle, your hips undergo considerable strain during everyday tasks and occupational activities. Your hip joint is built to withstand stressors, but it is not indestructible. With age, the cartilage in the hip can become worn down. Hip bones may break due to a fall or injury. Muscles and tendons can be damaged due to overuse. Any of these conditions can lead to hip pain symptoms. But if you are suffering from hip pain, how can you tell what might be causing your discomfort?
In this informative guide, we explore the common causes of hip pain symptoms. We also give you examples of some stretches and exercises that can help relieve hip pain and prevent it from recurring. The Injurymap app shows you the correct technique to do each exercise. Keep in mind that this guide has been written for informational purposes only. You should not use it to replace professional medical advice. Please consult your doctor if your hip pain is severe or does not improve with home exercises.
Looking for a solution to hip pain symptoms? Try the Injurymap exercise app now.
When you are having problems with your hip, the symptoms you experience will depend on the condition causing your hip pain. You may feel discomfort in your thigh, on the inside or outside of your hip joint, or in your groin or buttocks. Your hip pain may get worse with activity. You may have other symptoms like stiffness, reduced range of motion, or walking with a limp. In the following paragraphs, we will explore some of the common causes of hip pain and what they could mean.
Hip pain at night can wake you up from sleep or prevent you from falling asleep in the first place. Sometimes, the pain is worse in a particular position, for example, lying on your side. Some of the common conditions that can cause hip pain at night include:3
- Hip bursitis: This is inflammation of a bursa, which is a small fluid-filled sac. A bursa lubricates the joint during hip movements. Bursitis can cause hip pain that is worse at night when you lie down or sleep on the affected side.
- Hip osteoarthritis: As you age, the cartilage in your hip joint undergoes wear and tear, leading to symptoms of pain and stiffness.
- Hip tendonitis: A tendon is a thick cord-like structure that connects muscle to bone. Tendonitis is a painful inflammation of a hip tendon due to repetitive stress from overuse.
- Sciatic piriformis syndrome: Spasms of the piriformis muscle can irritate the nearby sciatic nerve in the buttock, causing hip pain at night.
Pain above the left or right hip can occur due to a variety of reasons. Some of these causes are mild and can heal with home remedies, including exercise. Others require professional medical care and aggressive treatment. Common causes of pain on the right or left side above the hip include:4
- Muscle strain
- Pinched nerve
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
- Referred pain from gastrointestinal conditions like diverticulitis, celiac disease, or Crohn’s disease
There are also some less common but more serious causes of pain above the hip. These include certain types of cancer, hip fracture, iliopsoas abscess, appendicitis, and kidney stones. In women, pain above the hip can be menstrual pain. It can also originate from an ovarian cyst, endometriosis, or ectopic pregnancy. Many of the above-mentioned conditions require immediate medical treatment. If you have pain above your right or left hip that does not improve with home remedies, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.
It is often said that sitting is the new smoking. The average adult has an extremely sedentary lifestyle with very little physical activity. Studies have found that one in four adults sits for more than 8 hours every day.5 Prolonged sitting in the same posture is a common cause of hip pain during or after sitting.6 And if you’re sitting with a poor posture, it can make matters worse.
Extended periods of sitting make your hip muscles weak.6 When you stand up and walk after hours of sitting, your weak hip muscles are placed under stress, leading to symptoms like hip pain and stiffness.
The best way to prevent hip pain from sitting is to take regular breaks and perform stretching exercises. This will help loosen up your hip muscles. The Injurymap app can show you some easy exercises you can do at your workstation. You can also include hip strengthening exercises in your workout routine. Strong hip muscles will support your joint and prevent you from developing hip pain symptoms.
A good ergonomic setup at your desk is essential to reduce hip pain associated with sitting. Avoid sitting cross-legged or leaning to one side.6 If you spend a lot of time on your feet at work, make sure you’re wearing a proper pair of shoes. It can make a difference in how you feel after a long workday.
Many athletes, especially runners, are plagued by hip pain. If you are a runner experiencing hip pain, it can be tricky to find out what exactly is causing your symptoms. Some of the common culprits of hip pain in runners include:7
- Hip flexor muscle strain: This can occur from one big injury or several small injuries over time. If you run on slick surfaces like snow, a backward pull can cause a hip flexor strain.
- Hip tendonitis: Inflammation of the psoas tendon is common in runners, especially after you’ve increased mileage, done uphill training, or done speed work.
- Hip bursitis: Pain on the outer side of the hip after activities like running can be due to greater trochanteric bursitis. This is an inflammation of a bursa (lubricating sac) in the hip.
- Stress fractures: High-impact activities like running place great force on the hip. This can lead to a stress fracture (hairline break in the bone). The pain is usually felt in the groin or front of the hip. It is worse with running and goes away with rest. Medical care is critical for a stress fracture because without treatment it can lead to severe hip damage.8
- Hip osteoarthritis: Arthritis of the hip can cause persistent hip pain in runners, especially in older athletes. Wear and tear lead to a loss of cartilage, which in turn causes friction, pain, and inflammation in the hip.9
- Cartilage tears (less common): Repetitive activities like running can cause the hip labrum (cushioning cartilage) to tear, leading to symptoms like pain and stiffness.9
Some medical conditions can cause pain in the hip that radiates down the leg to the thigh, calf, and foot.
Sciatica: The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body. It runs from the lower back and hip through the buttock and down the leg to the foot on each side. Sciatica refers to pain that is felt along the path of the sciatic nerve.10 Common causes of sciatica include bone spurs and herniated discs (bulging discs in your spine). It can also be caused by a pinched nerve in your back (the medical name for this condition is lumbar radiculopathy). Sciatica commonly causes hip pain that radiates down the leg.11
Piriformis syndrome: The piriformis is a pear-shaped muscle in your buttock that can become tight. A tight piriformis muscle can press on and irritate the sciatic nerve. This can lead to hip pain that radiates down the back of the leg in the distribution of the sciatic nerve.12
You can perform some simple stretching exercises to loosen up your hip muscles and relieve sciatica pain that radiates down your leg.
Your groin is the area where your upper thigh and abdomen meet. Your hip joint is located in the same region, directly under the groin. That’s why it is common to experience hip pain in the inner thigh and groin. Sometimes, the pain originates in one part of the body and is felt in another part. This is called referred pain or radiating pain. For this reason, a problem in your hip can cause groin pain and vice versa.13
- Femoroacetabular impingement (abnormal development of the hip bones)
- Hip labral (cartilage) tear
- Hip fracture
There are many different causes of hip pain. In most cases, your hip pain will improve with physical therapy exercises. These exercises loosen up your hip joint and make it more flexible. They also strengthen the muscles around our hip joint, improve joint mobility, and relieve your pain. Here are some exercises you can do at home to reduce your hip pain.
Most people can recover from hip pain with conservative treatments like rest, ice/heat, pain relievers, and physical therapy exercises. However, if your hip pain is caused by an injury or some other serious condition, you may need urgent medical care. Seek immediate medical attention if:14
- Your hip joint appears deformed (has an abnormal shape).
- You are unable to move your hip or leg.
- You cannot bear weight on the affected leg.
- You have intense pain.
- Your hip appears swollen or red.
- You have signs of infection, such as fever or chills.
Many people struggle with hip pain without knowing the cause. That’s because pain in the hip can be the result of many different problems. Also, pain from areas around the hip can appear to be coming from the hip. Whatever the cause, hip pain is a common complaint because this strong joint is prone to injuries and wear and tear.
The good news is that most of the time hip pain gets better with self-care and physical therapy exercises. It’s a good idea to begin with a gentle workout routine that includes stretching exercises. This will help reduce swelling and pain. Once your symptoms improve, you can move on to resistance training and strengthening exercises for the hip. A warm bath or shower before exercising can help prepare your muscles for the stretching and strengthening exercises you’re about to perform.
The Injurymap app shows you a range of hip exercises that you can do conveniently at home. You will need little to no equipment to do these exercises. They will reduce your hip pain and prevent it from recurring in the future. The app demonstrates the correct technique to perform each exercise. Start using the Injurymap app today to heal from common hip pain symptoms.
About the author
Juhi Modi has two decades of experience as a medical writer with varied interests and an enduring passion for health, biology, and science. She uses her educational background in medicine to write science-backed articles for clients around the world.