Why does my hip hurt when I walk?

Hip, Self Care

 

Woman walking holding her hip

Your hip joint is the largest joint in your body. When it hurts, it can slow you down or even stop you.

Hip pain can result from injury or diseases that directly affect the bone, cartilage, or other parts of the joint. Pain can also occur when something goes awry with the heavy-duty muscles supporting the hip joint: quadriceps in the front of the thigh, hamstrings in the back of the leg, and gluteus maximus or buttocks.

If you experience pain in the outside of the hip, in the groin, thigh, buttock, or low back when you walk, it can point to an illness or injury in your hip.

Common conditions that cause hip pain.

Arthritis


Illustration of hip osteoarthritis

 

The first and most apparent cause is arthritis. Inflammation from arthritis stresses the hip joint, causing wear and tear. As you walk, you may feel pain from:

• Swelling in the hip joint
• Illness or injury to other supporting tissues
• A breakdown of cartilage leading to bone-on-bone contact

Pain from arthritis is often felt toward the front of the body in the hip, thigh, or groin.

Internal pelvic issues

Sometimes, gynecological problems or disease or inflammation in the pelvic area, cause pain to radiate to the hip. This pain may be sharp or a dull ache, depending on the cause.

Fractures

Large hip fractures can be extremely painful and life-limiting. But even hairline fractures or cracks in the hip bone can cause hip pain. Major hip fractures often happen because of injury or osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak bones.

The culprits causing hairline fractures or cracks may be overuse or sports-related injuries. People who run, swim, cycle, or play competitive ball games, including golf, are more susceptible to hip pain due to overuse.

Connecting- and soft-tissue illnesses and injuries also cause hip pain.

Sprains and strains

When people think about sprains and strains, wrists and ankles readily come to mind. But ligaments and tendons supporting all types of joints can be stressed, strained, or become inflexible, including those in the hip.

Sprains and strains result from pulling, overstretching, or tearing muscles, ligaments, and other connecting tissues in the joint. Pain from sprains ranges from mild discomfort when moving to an inability to move the leg at all.

Sprains and strains caused by an overuse injury will become more severe over time. As more force is applied to the connecting tissues and ligaments, micro-tears progress in size until the ligament ruptures.

If you’re active and notice any of the following symptoms, stop your activity.

• Hip or leg pain when walking
• Swelling, heat, or bruising near the hip
• Muscle twitches or spasms in the thigh, buttock, hamstrings, or hip

When caught early, the best treatment for sprains and strains is a rest from activity. If the pain continues you may have a ligament tear. Torn ligaments require the care of an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist.

Tendons issues

When tendons cause hip pain, it may indicate tendonitis or tendinosis.

Though both conditions affect the tissues attaching the muscles to the hip bones, they are different.

Tendonitis is the swelling and inflammation of the tendon sheath. When tendons experience illness or injury, the body heals itself by flooding the area with oxygen-rich blood. The additional blood flow restricts movement, causing swelling and inflammation. It may take up to 6 weeks for your body to heal from tendonitis.

Tendinosis is caused by wear and tear that changes the shape and function of the tendon. Since tendinosis affects the fibers of the tendon, it often takes 12 weeks to 6 months to heal.

Conditions affecting the tendons cause pain in the hip, back, or legs. The pain usually builds over time as the hip joint becomes more swollen and stiffer. The hip may feel warm to the touch when tendonitis or tendinosis causes pain.

The best ways to prevent severe tendon injuries are by stretching before activity and building strength of the leg, core, and back muscles to support the hip joint.

If you suffer from a tendon illness or injury, talk to your orthopedic provider before taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medications like ibuprofen. Some studies show NSAIDs can slow the healing of tendon injuries.

If you suspect a tendon condition, contact your orthopedic care provider for the best treatment.

Bursae conditions


Illustration of bursitis in the hip

Where you have tendons, muscles, and ligaments, you also have bursae. Where you have bursae, you have the potential for bursitis.

The bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion soft tissues as they move against the bones. Like other parts of the body, these sacs can become inflamed when they are overused, injured, or infected.

There are two types of bursae in the hip: the trochanteric on the bony or outer side of the hip and the iliopsoas on the groin side.

The symptoms of bursitis of the hip include pain and stiffness that becomes worse with movement. If you have bursitis, you may feel pain when you:

• Move your leg
• Lie on the outside of the hip
• Walk up the stairs
• Get out of a deep-seated chair.

If you experience these symptoms, contact Bone & Joint and make an appointment with an orthopedic provider. 

Tight Hip Flexors

Tight hip flexors are another cause of hip and back pain. The hip flexors consist of the psoas muscles that attach the lower region of the back to the femur and the iliacus muscles on the front side of the body, connecting the pelvis to the femur. These powerful muscles work together to move the hip when walking or flex the legs when sitting. When people sit for hours at a time and hold the flexors in a contracted position, they become tight and inflamed.

Man holding his lower backSpecial exercises to lengthen the hip flexors can help relieve discomfort and add flexibility to the joint.

Hip Dislocations

Hip dislocations are another extremely painful condition affecting the hip. When the hip joint suffers the trauma of a sports-related injury or another type of accident, the hip joint’s ball-and-socket may move out of place. This painful injury requires medical attention. Unfortunately, once a person dislocates their hip, the risk of dislocating the hip again, increases.

These are just a few of the many injuries of illnesses that create hip pain. If you experience pain in your hip that makes it difficult to follow your daily routine, contact one of Bone & Joint’s orthopedic providers. They have the expertise to diagnose the cause of your hip pain and get you back on the road to recovery.

 

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