Orthopedic The Basics | What Causes Hip Pain Skip to Main Content

Health Library

Health Topics

What Causes Hip Pain?

Hip pain is a symptom  that may cause you to slow your activity level.


There are many different causes of hip pain. Acute pain may be caused by a hip injury, such as a muscle or tendon strain, or bursitis. Chronic hip pain is often caused by general wear and tear on the hip over time, which may be associated with problems such as osteoarthritis.


In addition to hip pain, symptoms may include tenderness, stiffness, swelling or a decreased ability to move the hip. The location of pain and other symptoms will vary depending on the cause.

  • Bursitis can cause varying degrees of pain and tenderness if pressure is applied to the thigh or outer side of the hip. Pain often increases when lying on the affected side.
  • Muscle strain can cause pain, soreness and reduced muscle strength.
  • Osteoarthritis can cause pain and stiffness, as well as joint swelling, warmth and tenderness. Symptoms differ from person to person and usually develop slowly and appear in middle age or later. The pain typically increases with activity and is relieved by rest.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint stiffness, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity, generally lasting longer than one hour, as well as joint pain, tenderness and swelling.
  • Other less-common problems may include: Other rheumatic conditions, such as other types of arthritis; avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis), which is a condition in which bone dies due to inadequate blood supply; bone tumor; fracture; infection; labral tear, which is a tear in the labrum or the cartilage that surrounds the socket and helps stabilize the hip. Finally, hip pain may also be referred from other parts of the body, such as the lower back.

Treatment options

Initial treatment decisions are often based on your medical history, current symptoms and physical examination of the hip. Diagnostic tests or procedures should only be done if the results will be helpful in determining your treatment. Unnecessary testing may expose you to unnecessary risks or costs, without benefit.

Conservative treatment. Many people with hip pain (depending on the cause) may never need hip surgery or a hip replacement and can be treated with conservative treatment, such as:

  • Activity modification
  • Heat/cold applications
  • Physical activity/physical therapy
  • Weight management
  • Medication

Surgery. Conservative treatments should be tried extensively (depending on the cause) before thinking about surgery. Surgery may be recommended if you continue to have severe symptoms that interfere significantly with your daily life. Also, joint replacements wear over time and may eventually fail, possibly requiring another replacement surgery. Delaying surgery with conservative treatment can reduce this risk, especially for younger people.

By Optum Contributing Writer


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip and thigh. Accessed September 27, 2017.
American College of Rheumatology. Osteoarthritis. Accessed November 3, 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis basics: Five key public health messages. Accessed September 26, 2017.
American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons. Total hip replacement. Accessed September 26, 2017.

Last Updated: November 19, 2017