Learn when to rest & when to stretch

Thanks to our daily activities, our hip bones are strong and can withstand repeated motions and a fair amount of wear and tear. But over-exercising, inflamed tendons and tears in the cartilage can lead to pain and discomfort.

What is hip pain?

Hip pain is discomfort felt around the ball-and-socket area of your hip, connected to your upper leg and pelvis. However, pain isn’t always felt in the hip itself, but also the groin or thigh, so the precise location of your discomfort can be important when finding the underlying cause.

Why am I experiencing hip pain?

The most common cause of hip pain in adults in the UK is osteoarthritis*, a type of arthritis that causes inflammation of the joint, leading to pain and stiffness. Hip pain is also commonly brought on by inflamed tendons – or tendonitis – due to repetitive stress, overuse or over-exercising.

Less common causes of hip pain can include muscle strain, a hip fracture or a tear in the cushion of cartilage around the bone.

Diagnosing the cause of your hip pain should always be a matter for your doctor. They may ask you to walk around so they can compare the motions between the normal and abnormal hip, and ask a range of questions, including:

• Is the pain worse at a particular time of the day?

• Does it affect your ability to walk?

• When did your symptoms first appear?

What are some symptoms of hip pain?

Symptoms can vary from person to person, but hip pain is often described as an aching, sharp or burning sensation, and you may also notice some stiffness or mild inflammation or swelling. You might also find that the pain can feel worse if you partake in a certain activity, such as exercising.

As hip pain can be felt in other parts of your body, you may also feel discomfort in your thigh, the inside or outside of your hip joint, your buttocks or groin. Hip pain doesn’t always equal an issue in that area, though – it’s also possible that pain or discomfort from another area of your body, like the back or groin, is radiating to your hip.

How can I manage hip pain?

It’s often possible to ease pain or discomfort in your hip with at-home treatments. Over the counter pain medication, such as paracetamol  or ibuprofen is often recommended if suitable for you, as well as resting the affected hip until you begin to feel an improvement.

If your hip feels sore, consider wrapping ice or a cold pack in a towel and holding on the area for around 15 minutes a day to help numb the affected area. Alternatively, a warm bath or shower can help ready your muscle for stretching exercises that may help lessen the pain. Use whichever method you feel helps you manage your discomfort the most.

If you have arthritis, low impact exercises, such as stretching and resistance training may help to ease any stiffness brought on by the condition. Consult a physiotherapist who can teach you exercises to keep the joint mobile.

Limiting or avoiding high impact activities are your best bet and a walking assistive aid like a cane or walker can help with your mobility. Some people have also found acupuncture to be helpful in managing their pain.

If your pain becomes severe or the joint becomes deformed, your doctor may recommend surgery or a hip replacement.

Can hip pain be prevented?

While it might not be possible to prevent hip pain, you can avoid activities that might make the pain worse, such as downhill running, or adapt the amount of exercise you do. Warm up before exercise and stretch afterwards to help avoid further injury.

Is walking good for hip pain?

As walking is a low-impact activity, it can help to relieve pain, stiffness and swelling caused by osteoarthritis, so is a good way to increase your activity levels when you feel ready. However, resting the affected joint is the recommended way to manage your hip pain.  

How do I know if my hip pain is serious?

Hip pain can often improve without treatment, managing pain using pain relief medication – seek advice from a pharmacist or healthcare team member in store. However, you should see your GP or a medical professional if:

• Your hip is still painful after one week of resting it at home

• You also have a fever or a rash

• Your hip pain came on suddenly and you have sickle cell anaemia

• The pain is in both hips and other joints as well

You should go straight to hospital or seek urgent medical care 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

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