What's Causing My Chronic Hip Pain?

What's Causing My Chronic Hip Pain?

Chronic hip pain is a fairly common medical complaint for both women and men, and like a lot of joint-related pain, it tends to be more common among older people and people who put a lot of strain on their hips. Data show that about 15% of older Americans suffer from hip pain, and an alarming 40% of athletes complain of chronic hip discomfort.

One reason why hip pain is so common is that lots of issues can cause discomfort in this large ball-and-socket joint. Joshua Harris, MD, is a leading provider of hip pain treatment for patients in Houston, Texas. 

Before prescribing any treatment, Dr. Harris performs a thorough exam of your hip and an evaluation of your symptoms so he can pinpoint the cause. When considering your hip pain, here are eight most common conditions that could be to blame.

1. Arthritis

Arthritis is a chronic condition when the joint surface wears away, causing inflammation inside the joint. Arthritis can affect anyone, but it’s more common among athletes and older people.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, developing when wear and tear slowly breaks down the joint’s slick cartilage surface. Rheumatoid arthritis is less common, causing joint destruction when the immune system attacks the joint structures.

2. Bursitis

Bursae are tiny fluid-filled sacs found near some joints, like your hip and your shoulder. The purpose of the bursae is to facilitate smooth joint movement while providing a cushion that prevents excessive wear.

In bursitis, these tiny sacs become inflamed and irritated, resulting in chronic pain in or near the joint. Hip bursitis is responsible for a type of chronic hip pain called greater trochanteric pain syndrome, named for a bony prominence on the top of the thigh bone. This type of bursitis causes pain or aching on the outside of the hip or the outer part of the thigh.

3. Labral tear

The labrum is a ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip joint, cushioning the joint while also helping to hold the joint components in place. Labral tears happen from hip impingement (FAI), dysplasia, traumatic injuries, and wear and tear over time.

4. Hip impingement

Also called femoroacetabular impingement or FAI, hip impingement happens when the ball part of the joint (the femoral head) or the cup part of the joint (the acetabulum) is misshapen. (Sometimes, both are misshapen). The abnormal shape interferes with normal joint movement. In addition to chronic pain, untreated FAI can lead to arthritis and joint damage.

5. Tendonitis, muscle strain

Tendons are strong, fibrous bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Not surprisingly, your hip comprises several tendons. If one or more of these tendons is stretched, irritated, inflamed, or torn, you can experience chronic hip pain, especially when moving your hip or placing weight on it.

Muscle strain in the muscles surrounding your hip typically resolves with a little TLC, and it’s rarely a cause of chronic symptoms. However, if a muscle is torn and not “just” strained, it can cause chronic or worsening pain in and around your hip. Hamstring tears are an excellent example of a muscle tear that can cause persistent hip pain.

6. Avascular necrosis

Also called osteonecrosis, avascular necrosis happens when blood flow to the hip slows down, cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the bone tissue. Over time, the bone tissue begins to die, causing significant pain in your hip.

Avascular necrosis is often associated with a prior hip fracture, hip dislocation, and long-term use of corticosteroids, although many other issues can also cause it. 

7. Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a cause of chronic hip pain due to the shape of the hip’s socket being shallow. The shallow socket may cause hip instability, pain, labral tears, and arthritis. It is often associated with pain with weight-bearing activities, like sports involving running and jumping, and high flexibility sports like ballet, gymnastics, figure skating, yoga, and martial arts. It is more common in females than males.

8. Non-hip causes

While most chronic hip pain directly involves the hip joint, other medical issues involve hip pain as a symptom. That includes problems with your knees, your lower back, your nerves or blood vessels, your pelvic organs, and even your feet. Sciatica is a good example of a non-hip cause of chronic hip discomfort. Even a hernia can cause hip pain.

During your exam, Dr. Harris considers all potential sources of pain, making referrals to outside specialists when needed, so you can feel confident you’ll get the most appropriate care — and the most meaningful relief from your painful symptoms.

Relief for your chronic hip pain

This list is just a sampling of the many possible causes of chronic hip pain. To find out what’s at the root of your painful symptoms — and to learn how Dr. Harris can help you find relief — call 713-441-8393 or book an appointment online today.

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