Patient with hip pain attending for Physiotherapy

Pain felt around your outer hip, buttock, groin, thigh and even your knee can all be signs of an issue with your hip joint. But how can you tell if the problem is coming from the hip joint itself (arthritis) or the soft tissues that surround the joint, like the tendons, ligaments or bursae (bursitis)?

A physical examination with a health care professional is one way to be sure of a diagnosis but there are some symptoms that can help you to narrow down the culprit.

The location of your hip pain 

Where your hip pain is felt provides helpful clues to the underlying cause.

Outer hip pain is more often than not a sign of a condition affecting the soft tissues, either the bursae which sits to the side of the hip joint (trochanteric bursitis) or tendons which wrap around it (gluteal tendinopathy).

Hip pain felt in in your groin, down the front of your thigh or knee is generally due to a condition affecting the hip joint itself (arthritis).

How your hip pain started

If your hip pain started very suddenly and/or severely, without any apparent cause, after a fall or if you feel generally unwell then get medical advice before starting any self management programme. However, some of the time there might be a very simple explanation for your hip pain. For example you might have overdone things in the gym or garden, which could cause strained or inflamed tendons around your hip. This sort of injury is likely to clear up fairly quickly and without necessarily needing medical attention.

Arthritis is a condition that develops slowly, so the first signs of a hip problem caused by arthritis are often aching and stiffness, initially after heavier activity, which gradually becomes more constant.

Bursitis and tendinopathy can also develop gradually but the activities which provoke symptoms are often different from arthritis, so this can help you distinguish between the conditions.

Activities which provoke your hip pain and the daily pattern

Hip joint pain and stiffness caused by arthritis often feels worse in the morning and on trying to ‘get up and going’ after resting. If your hip pain is worse when you first get up and doesn’t significantly improve in the first half an hour, then arthritis may well be the cause. Pain when standing or walking or at night are also common complaints. However, I would recommend that if your hip pain is stopping you from sleeping then this is a good reason to seek medical advice.

Hip pain caused by bursitis and tendinopathy typically are brought on by things which stretch or compress these tissues such as lying on one side, crossing your legs or while sitting. If this sounds more like you then your hip pain is more likely to be caused by pain from either the bursae or gluteal tendons. In fact, it’s possible to experience both at the same time but fortunately the advice and treatments are the same for both conditions.

If you have any questions at all about what might be causing your hip pain or what a physiotherapist can do to relieve hip pain, please don’t hesitate to get  in touch.

The Physiofit Team.