Content Editor

Advice and information for patients
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. It is made up of the head of the femur, or thigh bone ("ball") and acetabulum, part of your pelvic bone ("socket").  The acetabular labrum is a ridge of cartilage that runs around the rim of your hip joint socket, to make the hip socket deeper and more stable.  Ligaments surround the hip joint.  They are a short band of tough, flexible fibrous connective tissue which connect the two bones and holds the joint together whilst still allowing movement.  The surrounding muscles also help to keep the joint stable, both when we are still and when the hip joint is moving.  Therefore, the hip joint is brilliantly designed to create a joint that is both very stable and very mobile.

Hip pain
The hip is a very strong joint and is one of the main weight-bearing joints in the body.  It is therefore very difficult to damage or injure.  Hip pain often results from a simple strain or sprain of "soft tissues", such as muscles, ligaments or tendons.  "Strains" are injuries to muscles or tendons and "sprains" are injuries to ligaments. Such 'soft tissue injuries' may be caused by a specific injury or may gradually build up over time, maybe as the result of disuse or weakness in certain muscles, overuse or overtraining.  Soft tissue injuries are particularly common around the outside of the hip – a condition sometimes termed "Greater trochanteric pain syndrome".  As we get older, or after a previous injury, osteoarthritis may develop in the hip, which can cause pain and stiffness.  Most hip pain has a simple cause and clears up within a few days; sometimes it lasts a few weeks.  However, even more persistent problems, such as osteoarthritis can be self-managed successfully with good advice and exercises.

How can I help myself to get better?
Minor injuries, such as mild sprains and strains, particularly around the outside of the hip, can often be initially treated at home using a protection, rest, ice regime for the first two or three days after onset:

  • Protection: protect the affected area from further injury; for example, avoid the painful activities that may have caused the injury if this is easily traced.  However do not stop moving altogether as  this will likely cause your knee to stiffen further.
  • Rest: rest the knee for two or three days only. Resting the leg for a short time may help any inflammation or discomfort to settle.  However resting beyond two to three days may lead to the surrounding muscles becoming weaker which will not be helpful in the longer term
  • Ice: should you notice any swelling or tenderness around the joint, apply an ice pack to the affected area for about 15 minutes every two to three hours.  This may help to reduce the swelling and  give  some pain relief.  A bag of frozen peas, or similar, will work equally as well. 
    • NB  please be sure to wrap the ice pack / frozen peas in a moist towel or similar to avoid direct contact with the skin.
Contrary to many people's beliefs, it is good to stay active when you have pain in your soft tissues or joints. As we have said, pain can be the result of overuse or overtraining.  If this is the case, try to reduce the amount of activity (rather than stopping it altogether) that may be exacerbating your symptoms for a short period, until the pain settles.  You should then aim to slowly work back up to your previous activity level.  If exercising does not affect your symptoms or improves them, try to stay as active as possible.
  • Some basic exercises can be useful in easing your hip pain and to help it move better.  These simple hip exercises from ARC UK may be a useful starting point.  ARUK hip pain exercises
  • Pain relief  through  medication may be useful – however it is essential that prior to using pain-relieving medication that you check with either your GP or pharmacist that you are OK to use them - even if they are "over-the-counter" type medications such as paracetamol, ibuprofen or creams that you can buy at the chemist.
When should I see my doctor or physiotherapist?
Hip pain usually gets better or improves on its own, or with the self-management approaches as discussed above.

However you should seek medical advice for the following:   
  • After a sudden traumatic injury such as a fall onto a hard surface, a high impact injury or a sudden twisting injury.
  • If the pain is severe or the hip is hot or very swollen
  • If you have tingling or numbness in the leg
  • If you develop acute hip/groin pain at the same time as feeling unwell or if you develop a fever similarly to the onset of your hip pain, it is possible you may have developed and infection of the joint, so you should see your doctor immediately/the same day.  If  you  are  unable to  see your  doctor  you  may  need to  attend at your local Walk in Centre or A+E.
The Healthy Living Teams in provide tailored support and guidance to local people who would like to be more physically active.  To find out more about the programmes available, please click on the link below for your Borough: 
Specific hip conditions
Here are some leaflets to help you manage your specific condition, if you have been given a diagnosis. These have been reviewed and approved by our clinical staff to be the best information for patients.