Symptoms of Hip Pain

The hip joint is formed by the hip socket of the pelvis and the upper end of the femur bone known as the femoral head.  The anatomy of this joint allows for an incredible amount of motion.  Any problem that affects the hip joint will likely result in pain as the hip joint undergoes movement.  The most common complaint of patients who are experiencing true hip joint symptoms is pain in the groin region or buttock region.  Occasionally this pain may be referred down the thigh and even experienced in the knee, particularly in pediatric patients.

Many patients often mistakenly think the bony prominence located at the outside portion of the upper leg (known as the greater trochanter) is the hip.  This is a common area of pain and tenderness experienced by many patients but does not coincide with the hip joint itself.  Patients experiencing pain on the outside portion of the hip region often have bursitis or tendinitis.

Another common area of misconception is that pain arising in the low back or sacral region is perceived to be coming from the hip joint.  This is rarely the case, particularly if the pain radiates down the back of the leg or below the knee.  These symptoms are more commonly a result of referred pain from the spine or sacrum, or neurogenic pain.

The severity, quality, and character of the pain is highly variable from patient to patient.  True hip joint pathology is often exacerbated with standing or any form of movement such as walking or running.  It is often alleviated with rest or activity modification.  The pain is often better in the morning hours with progressive worsening during the course of the day.  Patients may experience a catching or popping sensation.  They may also notice a decrease in the range of motion that the hip joint will tolerate without pain.  Depending on the etiology of the pain, patients may experience throbbing or aching in the affected joint.

In contrast, patients with neurogenic type pain will often experience sharp or shooting pain that can travel down the leg often below the knee.  This may be associated with weakness or diminished sensation.  Patients affected by bursitis or tendinitis often experience pain over the outside portion of the hip region which is very tender to palpation.  It is often difficult to lie on the affected side.  The symptoms tend to be exacerbated by standing or walking after prolonged periods of inactivity but seemed to improve gradually after several minutes.

In summary, patients who experience discomfort or symptoms in the groin region often have true hip joint pathology.  They often feel like the pain is deep or internal and have difficulty pointing to the exact spot or reproducing symptoms by simple palpation.  They rarely have sharp or shooting pain that travels down the leg particularly below the knee.  Hip joint pain is often exacerbated by walking or standing and tends to be worse later in the day. For further details or questions, contact your orthopedic doctor.

Written by Dr. Judd Cummings

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