How To Relieve Hip Pain

Hip pain can be caused by overuse or damage to the hip joint, cartilage, or surrounding muscles, and can significantly impact your ability to perform everyday activities, including walking, going up and down stairs, and sitting and standing for prolonged periods of time.

There are many different treatment options for hip pain that include conservative measures like pain relievers and home remedies, specialty services such as chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and more invasive procedures like injections and surgery.

When To See a Doctor for Hip Pain

If you have been experiencing significant hip pain that is interfering with your ability to perform everyday tasks, making it uncomfortable to sit, stand, or walk, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor to address your symptoms.

You should seek immediate medical attention if you fell or feel like your hip gave out, causing pain with standing and movement of your leg. These are possible signs that you may have fractured or dislocated your hip.

woman holding her hip in pain

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Pain Relievers 

Over-the-Counter Medications

Over-the-counter pain relieving medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen sodium (Aleve) can help reduce hip pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Prescription Medications

If symptoms are severe enough, your doctor may prescribe opioid medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and tramadol to help relieve pain. Corticosteroids such as cortisone and prednisone may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation.

Home Remedies 

Topical Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter creams and ointments, especially those that contain capsaicin, an extract derived from chili peppers, can be applied topically to the hip to help relieve pain by decreasing the intensity of pain signals sent along nerve pathways.

Hydrotherapy

Whirlpools and tubs that submerse the hip in water can help improve blood flow to the hip and reduce pain. Pools are often heated to relax tight muscles and stiff joints, but cold water immersion can also be used to decrease inflammation.

Should I Use Ice or Heat for Hip Pain?

Heat and ice are both beneficial for relieving pain, but are appropriate for different conditions. Heat is best used for chronic issues to help loosen and relax tight muscles and stiff joints, while ice is best used to decrease inflammation, especially after surgery, acute injuries, bursitis, or tendinitis

Exercise

Aerobic exercise, including low-impact activities like walking and bicycling, can help increase blood flow to the hip to decrease pain and stiffness. Stretching can help improve flexibility to decrease tension in tight muscles, including the hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and piriformis muscles surrounding the hip joint. Resistance exercises and strength training can also help strengthen surrounding muscles to support the hip joint and decrease the risk of injury.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors can make adjustments to the spine and hips and use other manual techniques and therapeutic modalities to provide pain relief. Chiropractic care can help manage symptoms, but generally cannot fix the underlying issue causing hip pain.

Acupuncture 

Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into the muscles of the hip to help relieve pressure points and reduce pain. Acupuncture is more effective for superficial conditions that affect the soft tissues, rather than conditions that are deep within the hip joint that are difficult to access.

Supplements and Herbs

Certain dietary supplements can help support healthy cartilage cells to protect the hip joint from wear and tear. Glucosamine and chondroitin can help repair damaged cartilage in the hip joint and prevent enzymes from breaking down cartilage further. Vitamin D3 is also important for maintaining good bone health and supporting immune system functioning to decrease inflammation throughout the body.

Certain herbs are thought to play a role in promoting a healthy immune system and reducing inflammation, including licorice, ginseng, cat's claw, and echinacea. Other herbs like Chinese skullcap, devil's claw, curcumin, yucca, ginger, and witch hazel may be beneficial for decreasing joint pain associated with arthritis.

Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Herbal supplements can decrease the effectiveness of prescribed drugs a patient may already be taking.

Specialist-Driven Procedures

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help relieve hip pain by improving joint mobility, range of motion, balance, and strength to help with everyday tasks like sitting, standing, and walking. A physical therapist will evaluate your legs and examine your gait pattern to check for muscle imbalances and give you exercises and manual treatment to help address your areas of limitation.

Injections

Cortisone injections can be injected into your hip by your doctor to help relieve inflammation within the hip joint or surrounding soft tissue. Intra-articular injections are injected directly into the hip joint to relieve problems with the cartilage or hip joint surface that occur with arthritis.

Injections can also be injected into the trochanteric bursa to help treat hip bursitis, or directly into the psoas muscle tendon, which lies on top of the hip joint to treat tendinitis.

Surgery

Hip Arthroscopy

Hip arthroscopy, or hip scope, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure where small incisions less than one inch in length are used to insert a small camera to view the inside of the hip joint. Surgical tools are then inserted into the incisions and guided by the camera to debride structures or remove problematic tissue. A hip arthroscopy can also be performed to repair a torn labrum, a ring of cartilage in the hip joint that provides support and stability.

Hip Replacement

For severe osteoarthritis of the hip that does not improve with nonsurgical options, a total hip replacement, or arthroplasty, is performed. The entire head of the femur, or ball in the ball-and-socket hip joint, is cut off and replaced with a metal stem with a ball attached to the end. The acetabulum, or socket of the hip joint, is then lined with a metal cup. These metal pieces help the joint move more smoothly without pain and avoid direct bone-on-bone contact that results from worn away cartilage.

Hip Resurfacing

Hip resurfacing is similar to a hip replacement, where a metal cup is inserted into the hip socket to decrease pain caused by degradation of cartilage. The head of the femur is shaved down and topped with a metal cap instead of being cut off completely. 

Hip Revision

A hip revision is a surgical procedure used to repair a previous hip replacement that has become damaged over time due to injury, infection, or wear and tear with aging.

A Word From Verywell 

Conservative measures like pain medication and physical therapy are often prescribed first to help manage hip pain. If symptoms persist after several weeks or months, diagnostic imaging like x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs may be needed to diagnose the exact cause of your hip pain to determine the next steps in your treatment plan.

Prevention is key for avoiding hip pain and possible complications that may require surgery. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and staying active and exercising can help lower levels of inflammation to reduce the risk of injury and hip pain.

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Article Sources
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