Common Causes of Hip Pain


The hip is the part of your body between your trunk and your thigh and includes the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint with the socket, or acetabulum, sitting inside the pelvis. The ball part of the joint is the top of the thigh bone, or femur and it connects to the acetabulum to form the joint.


There are many different causes for pain in the hip region, so it is important that any discomfort or pain is accurately diagnosed for successful treatment.

The 3 Most Common Causes of Hip Pain

1.   The Hip Joint

The hip joint provides balance and stability, allows you to bear body weight and allows movement of the upper leg to create motion. It is highly mobile, and the body needs a lot of strength and power in this area even for the simplest movements such as getting off a chair or squatting to pick something up from the floor.


To function well, the hip joint needs to be highly stable, meaning the ball must move well within the socket of the pelvis and this is determined by the coordinated control by the muscles in the area during movement. When this stability in the hip is less than optimal, and often in combination with excessive physical activity, the area is prone to injury.


The hip joint is one of the largest joints in the body and this contributes to the fact that it can be prone to pain and injury. Hip joint issues usually cause pain in the front of the hip or the groin. Some common issues that arise in the hip joint are:


  Femoroacetabular Impingement Syndrome (FAIS):

An impingement in the hip is often due to an overgrowth of the ball of the hip joint which causes repetitive abutment of the ball against the rim of the socket.


During certain movements it can become painful, particularly during twisting, kicking, sudden change of direction or sitting for long periods. A clicking, popping or locking sensation may also be evident. An x-ray will determine if this condition is present.


  Acetabular Labral Tear (ALT):

The labrum is a tough covering on the socket that deepens the socket and improves the stability of the hip joint along with protecting the bony surface of the socket.


If there is an impingement in the joint, it can become damaged and tear. However, it is possible for a labral tear to occur without an impingement and an MRI is the best way to determine any issues.



The term arthritis is damage to the bony surface of the labrum, most often as a result of a hip impingement or labral tears. An x-ray or MRI will be able to determine the extent of the problem.


Damage to the hip joint can be managed by strengthening the hip muscles so they can better support the hip during movement. Exercises to improve stability will help the socket to move well. Some rest may be helpful until pain levels are manageable, but rest alone will not assist with repair without also retraining the muscles.


The majority of those who experience damage to the hip joint will have great success with physiotherapy. For qualified physios who are experienced in hip pain, Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy will undertake a thorough assessment and provide a tailored treatment plan.

2.   Lumbar Spine

If there is lower back pain along with hip pain, there is a high chance it is coming from the lower back. The pain can be felt anywhere in the hip area, including the side of the hip or the glute area. Some pain may be felt going down the leg also. Sometimes people may only experience pain in the hip, even when the cause of the pain is in the lower back.


A scan is usually not needed to diagnose this type of hip pain as it can be correctly assessed by a physiotherapist who will always include the back during an initial assessment. Exercises will be provided to settle the symptoms, with treatment focused on the lower back region.

3.   Tendon Injury

Pain can stem from the tendon in the side of the hip and can travel down the outside of the thigh. Some of the common names for tendon pain in the area are gluteus medius or minimus tendinopathy, bursitis or greater trochanteric pain syndrome. Basically, they all refer to the same problem.


Most people will find it difficult to run, walk up stairs, lie on the affected side, or walk after being stationary for a while (getting out of bed in the morning or sitting for a long time). It is worth noting that if pain travels below the knee, lower back pain is more likely to be the cause.


Treatment of this tendon will involve strengthening it so it can handle the load placed on it. Exercises will generally be simple double-legged movements to begin with and progress to jumping drills.

Physiotherapy for Hip Pain

Whether you have had hip pain for many years or have recently sustained an injury, a sports physiotherapist will provide an effective treatment plan to alleviate the discomfort and work towards recovery. 


Massage and soft tissue mobilisation are common treatment options, along with stretches, strengthening and dry needling if appropriate.


Hip pain can be difficult to diagnose accurately so make a call to the helpful and successful team at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy to discuss. Make an appointment on the phone or book online to be moving pain free as soon as possible.

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