When to See a Doctor for Hip Pain
As the largest ball-and-socket joint in the body, the hip enables you to stand, sit, walk and run. But when inflammation or injury strikes, the ensuing hip pain can inhibit mobility and decrease your quality of life. Hip pain can be caused by injury, such as a broken hip, inflammatory conditions like arthritis, or many other conditions. If your hip pain becomes chronic or causes you to reduce your activity level, it may be time to visit an orthopedic doctor to get a diagnosis and learn about treatment options.
Hip pain usually arises due to injury or inflammation in or around the joint. The most common causes of hip pain include:
Bursitis, which occurs when one of the two lubricating sacs of the hip joint becomes inflamed
Sciatica, which is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve
The location of your hip pain often can tell your doctor a great deal about what is causing it. For example, hip pain when climbing stairs may indicate sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Hip pain after sitting might be caused by trochanteric bursitis—inflammation of a bursa located on the outer point (the outer ridge near the top of the femur) of the hip.
When hip pain is mild, or if it comes and goes, you might be able to treat it at home and find relief. Try these home remedies for hip pain:
Applying heat with a heating pad (take care to use the low setting and to place a barrier, such as a towel, between the pad and your skin to avoid a burn)
Applying ice, alternating between 20 minutes with the ice pack on followed by 20 minutes with the pack off
Hydrotherapy including either taking a hot shower or soaking in a hot tub or whirlpool. At home, you can add Epsom salts to a warm bath for added benefit.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin or naproxen sodium (Aleve)
Resting the hip including avoiding activities that make the pain worse. Avoid sleeping on your side. If you routinely sleep on your side, use a firm pillow between your knees to help align your hips.
Stretching exercises for the lower back and hip area
If hip pain comes on suddenly and severely, or if home remedies don’t alleviate the pain within a week, you should seek medical attention.
When to See a Doctor for Hip Pain
In certain situations, you should seek immediate medical attention for hip pain. Call 911 if:
You cannot bear weight on the hip joint
The joint appears deformed
You cannot move the affected leg
Your toes begin to turn blue or feel numb
You experience sudden, severe swelling in the hip or associated leg
You have a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit along with the hip pain
The pain is severe
For milder cases of hip pain that linger over the course of weeks, you should consult your primary care provider or an orthopedic physician to receive a diagnosis and obtain treatment options. Professional medical care for even mild conditions can keep the problem from worsening and help prevent complications.
If your hip pain does not respond to home remedies, you should consider consulting an orthopedic specialist for an evaluation. Keep in mind some insurance companies require a referral before seeing a specialist, so you can start with your primary care provider if necessary. Chiropractors also may be able to pinpoint the cause of your hip pain. As part of your treatment, you may work with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles that support your hip and lower back.
Left untreated, hip pain can progress from annoying to debilitating. Avoiding activity because of pain can lead to additional problems. By seeing a doctor early in the process for an accurate diagnosis, you may be able to use conservative treatments to relieve the discomfort and avoid any lasting damage to the joint and surrounding muscles.