There are a few most common causes of hip pain. The first thing to distinguish is to identify which pain is coming from the hip, as opposed to some other source. So four causes of hip pain, and the pain can come from muscles, ligaments, tendons, and within the joint itself. But those types of pain present in different ways. So those are the most important distinguishing factors to find out if the hip actually is the cause of the pain.
When hip pain comes from muscles, tendons, or ligament injuries, it typically come from overuse syndromes. This can come from overusing the strongest hip muscles in the body such as iliopsoas tendinitis; it can come from tendon and ligament irritations, which typically are involved in snapping hip syndrome. It can come from within the joint, which is more characteristic of hip osteoarthritis. Each of these types of pain present in slightly different ways, which is then the most important part in diagnosing what the cause is by doing a good physical examination.
In terms of diagnosing hip pain, typically a patient will expect when they come in to be asked about their symptoms, and it’s very important to find out when did these symptoms start, how long they have been going on, how frequent they are, if they come on in the morning or the evening, do they come on with any certain activity, and if there is something that makes it better or worse. The intensity of the pain is also important. Does it have any associated radiating symptoms? Is it localized in one spot or does it move? After getting a history and finding out what type of pain the patient is having, which also includes whether the pain is dull, aching, sharp, or intense, then it’s important to do a good physical exam. The physical examination involves testing the muscle strength, testing for sensation, doing provocative maneuvers which might help us rule out one type of injury from another.
In diagnosing the causes of hip pain, it’s important to understand hip anatomy. The hip is basically a ball-and-socket joint similar to the shoulder joint and the arms. The hip joint is impressive in that it serves two factors, it is a support structure and also very flexible. Because it is a strong support structure, it tends to get injured. Because it’s very flexible, it similarly can be susceptible to injuries.
The bones of the hip are supported by specific muscles. The strongest muscle in the body is actually one of the main flexors of the hip, it is called the iliopsoas muscle. It has two attachments to the inner part of the hip as well as the lower part of the back. This muscle is involved in iliopsoas tendinitis, iliopsoas bursitis, and is one of the most common causes of muscle pain that causes hip pain. The tendons attach the muscles to the bones and the ligaments attach bone to bone. Areas that are often susceptible to increased pressure are the tendons or the muscles attached to the bone, so that is another source of pain in iliopsoas tendinitis. The bursa are pockets of fluid that also protect the top part of the bone to prevent pressure on the bone. There are about 160 bursa in the body, and when they get irritated, it can develop into bursitis.
A doctor typically begins the hip pain diagnostic process with a patient interview and physical exam to pinpoint the condition causing the pain. This video describes the causes of hip pain and the steps to diagnosis.