Hip Pain: What you need to know

Overview of hip pain

From growing pains to cartilage damage, there is a long list of potential causes of hip pain. Many people will experience hip pain during their lifetime but rarely is it a severe problem. The hip joint is incredibly strong and stable and can withstand a great deal of force.

Symptoms of hip pain

The sensation of hip pain can vary depending on the underlying cause. Pain in the groin area, lateral part of the leg, buttock or thigh can all be a result of hip problems. You may have dull hip pain or severe, sharp hip pain. Some people even experience constant hip pain. You may have pain that spreads to the upper leg, and even down past the knee.

Pain comes in all different shapes and sizes, you may be experiencing,

Common causes of hip pain

Hip pain can often be quite limiting, making it difficult for you to walk or even sit comfortably. Most frequently it is caused by overactivity and spasm of the muscles in the hip. This can be triggered by activities such as;

All of these problems are not only treatable but they are also preventable. It would be wise to seek the advice of a physiotherapist who can help you understand your hip problem and figure out the best course of action. As with most injuries, the quicker you deal with them, the easier they will be to manage.

In a more acute setting, hip pain can develop from;

If you have suffered one of the above injuries and are experiencing severe hip pain, then it is important to seek out medical advice as soon as possible. Your local GP may advise you to have an XRAY or CT scan to rule out any major issue. You may be referred to a physiotherapist for treatment advice as well.

Top 5 hip injuries

There are a variety of hip injuries that we see regularly, here is a list of the top 5 hip injuries that physiotherapists deal with.

  1. Gluteal tendinopathy

  2. Piriformis syndrome

  3. Labral tear

  4. Bursitis

  5. Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI)

Some of the sports and activities that lead to hip injuries include;

Gym / Weightlifting

Going to the gym is where we envisage gaining strength and ultimately preventing injuries. However, it is also a place where injuries can occur. Most commonly hip injuries occur with poor biomechanics or poor loading technique. It is important to start with light weights and progressively load over time. It may be beneficial to have a coach assess your technique as well.


Netball is a sport that combines fast movements, changes of direction and large forces. This combination will always create some vulnerability and this can cause pain in the hips.


Typically when playing rugby, the scrum can be a source of injury as there is a lot of load and pressure that goes through the hip. This can lead to muscle tears, hip labral tears, or even hip tendonitis.


Tennis is a stop-start sport with lots of changes of direction. This loading pattern can cause pain and injury in the hip, especially on hard courts. Having strong glutes, hamstrings and quads can assist in injury prevention.

Hip pain treatment


For the most part, there are some simple things you can do to help alleviate hip pain yourself. If you are not sure regarding your injury, it is best to seek medical advice.

Gentle exercises

Hip flexion (bending) exercises usually provide relief in acute hip pain, you can do these exercises lying down or sitting in a chair. It is important to relax your leg muscles and then use your hands to bring your knee to your chest.

Use heat and / or cold

When you are suffering acute pain, ice can be effective in reducing the pain initially. Heat packs are useful in decreasing muscle spasms and tension. It’s best not to use heat packs if there are any signs of inflammation.

Avoid painful movements and exercises

This may sound obvious but is often overlooked. If you are experiencing hip pain when running for example, then it is probably best to stop running! This is a short term strategy to allow muscles to heal, after which you should be able to slowly reintroduce the painful sport/activity.


Stretching and using the foam roller can be quite helpful in relieving muscle soreness. Focus on stretching your glutes and hamstrings, as they are usually a source of tightness in hip injuries.

Pain medication

You may need some over the counter pain medication if things continue to persist, it is best to get the advice of your local pharmacist or GP if you are considering taking any medication.

Seeking medical care

If you are in an accident or have significant pain, you must visit your GP immediately. They will be able to give you the right advice and direction as to the best treatment options, as well as refer you for scans if necessary.

Make an appointment with a physio if

Majority of the time, hip injuries can be treated by your local physiotherapist. If you have seen your GP they can refer you, otherwise, you can just find a physiotherapist local to your area.

Hip injuries can be limiting and stop you in your tracks. They make simple activities like walking and even sitting uncomfortable. Your local physiotherapist will begin with a thorough assessment of your hip pain to determine the cause. Important elements such as your history, level of activity and any previous injuries can help your physio determine what will be the best treatment.

Treatment of hip injuries will focus on restoring normal movement and reducing pain, physiotherapists have a wide range of tools at their disposal;

Treatment for hip pain will include;

Your physiotherapist will determine the best combination of these techniques to provide you with a successful outcome.

Frequently asked questions

What are the first signs of hip pain?

Hip pain can manifest in a variety of different ways. Usually, the first signs are;

How do I know if my hip pain is serious?

If you are at all concerned about your hip pain, please seek the advice of a medical professional. Signs that hip pain is serious can be;

Is walking good for hip pain?

Majority of the time, the answer is yes! Walking is a natural movement that we all need to do more of. Hip pain usually occurs in situations where people are sitting for too long a period, with minimal exercise throughout the day. Get the advice of your local physiotherapist if you are unsure.

Anatomy of the hip

The hip joint is the largest ball and socket joint in the body. The acetabular (socket) is part of the ilium (pelvic bone), whilst the femoral head (ball) is part of the femur (thigh bone).

It is largely responsible for all weight-bearing of the lower limb and as such, plays a crucial role in ambulation and movement of the human body.

Several ligaments that maintain stability and control of the hip joint. Primarily they are;

There is also a strong synovial membrane that lines the hip joint to provide further stability.

Due to the nature of the hip joint, the musculature around it is quite large and strong.

The posterior muscle group of the hip is largely responsible for extension movements as well as external rotation.

The posterior hip muscles include:

They make up the region of the body better known as the buttocks!

The anterior muscle group is responsible for hip flexion and internal rotation movements.

The anterior muscles include:

The other important muscle to note in the hip is the tensor fascia lata (TFL) which sits laterally on the hip joint, connecting into the large band of tissue known as the ITB. The TFL muscle is involved in the abduction and internal rotation of the hip. It works in synergy with the gluteal muscle group.

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