The hip joint is a very mobile joint formed by the articulation of the rounded head of the thighbone (femur) and the cup-like acetabulum of the pelvis. It forms the primary connection between the bones of the lower limb and the trunk and pelvis.
Hip pain is not just felt in the hip itself. Some people may feel pain in the groin, lower back, or legs or from the muscle of the hip joint itself. This is ‘referred pain’, which is where pain experienced in one area of the body is actually generated in another region. It is important that referred pain is diagnosed correctly. Other related signs of hip problems, that should be reviewed by a doctor include:
- Hip pain that persists beyond a few days
- Hip pain that occurs at night, or while resting
- Not being able to stand in one place for too long
- Swelling of the hip or the thigh area
Pain from the hip joint is often felt in the groin. This may feel like a tightening or throbbing in the inner thigh. Pain over the outside of the hip is usually not caused by a hip joint problem, and is more commonly related to Trochateric Bursitis or a trapped nerve in the lower region of the back, causing lower back pain as a consequence.
Stiffness and grinding in the hip are typically symptoms of hip arthritis, which is a wearing away of the normal smooth cartilage within the hip joint. This can leave bone to grind against bone. Stiffness can also be experienced by patients who have childhood conditions that cause an abnormally shaped hip joint, such as Congenital Hip Dislocations (Dysplasia), or Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease.
A limited motion of the hip in normal activities can result from a damaged or deformed hip joint. For example, the degenerate bone and subsequent related pain from hip osteoarthritis often makes it painful for a person to carry out the full range of hip movements. Some people may have trouble bending their hip to put on their socks or shoes, or lifting the leg to walk upstairs.
More commonly seen in people who participate in such sports as ice hockey, football, golf and ballet are at higher risk of developing a hip labral tear (rupture of the ring-like structure that helps to hold the femur in place). Structural abnormalities of the hip also can lead to a hip labral tear, accompanied by cyst formation. Symptoms include hip pain or a “catching” sensation in your hip joint. Initial treatment may include pain relievers and physical therapy. Using arthroscopic techniques, surgeons can remove loose fragments from within the joint and trim or repair the hip labral tear.