Hip pain is common. And it has some common — and uncommon — causes. The pain can change your life in big and small ways.

There are many different causes for hip pain. Some are serious, but some are easy to treat at home. The specific location of your hip pain can give you a good clue to what might be causing it — and what to do to get some relief.

These are a few of the most common hip issues and what you can do about them.

Bursitis

Where it hurts: On the side of your hip.

What it is: Bursitis is one of the most common causes of hip pain. It starts when the small sacs that cushion the bone surfaces become inflamed. It can come from overuse. That could include excessive running or other athletic activities. But it can also develop from a fall or trauma to the region.

How you can treat it: Start with ice. You can also use heat to relax the area. Limit your activities. Try an over-the-counter pain reliever.

When to see the doctor: When the pain disrupts your daily life.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Where it hurts: In the front of the hip or the groin area.

What it is: OA is the most common form of arthritis. Arthritis leads to swelling in the hip joint and the breakdown of cartilage that cushions the hip bones. The pain slowly gets worse.

How you can treat it: Limit running, jumping or other high impact activities. Many doctors encourage their patients to lose weight to see if that helps. Physical therapy may be needed.

When to see the doctor: When you have pain with each step. When the pain limits what you can do and gets worse with activity.

In severe cases: When the joint wears out, the surfaces touch and bone-on-bone movement can occur. In that case, hip replacement may be called for. The good news is that today’s artificial hips can handle more strain than older models, so they can last longer. Recovery times have also improved. Some surgeries are done on an outpatient basis or only require a day or two in the hospital. Patients can recover at home with a visiting nurse and a physical therapist. They start walking the day of their surgery and can drive after three or four weeks. Full recovery may take several more months.

Tendinitis

Where it hurts: In the front of your hip.

What it is: Tendinitis is a common inflammation of the tendons — bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones. It often comes from overuse. It happens to runners, gymnasts and others who are very active.

How you can treat it: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relievers. It almost never requires surgery.

When to see the doctor: When the pain disrupts your daily life.

Hip Fracture

Where it hurts: In the front of your hip or groin.

What it is: A fracture of the upper part of your femur (thigh bone). They often come from a fall. The risk increases as people age, especially for women over 65 or those with weak bones. But young, active people can also get stress fractures from high impact activities, sometimes from trying to “run through the pain.”

How you can treat it: This is a serious injury that cannot be treated at home. Surgery is usually required.

When to see the doctor: Right away. If the pain is severe, don’t wait. Call 9-1-1 for immediate attention.

Other Causes

Hip pain can come from other causes, too. Those causes include a hernia, when the intestine protrudes through the abdominal wall. The bulge is in the front and can cause hip and groin pain.

Sciatica is a low back pain that isn’t from the hip joint but causes pain in the back of the hip area.

A tear in the labrum, the ring of cartilage that cushions the hip joint, is common in people who play sports like hockey, soccer and football. It can be treated with minimally invasive surgery.

You can learn more about these and other hip problems from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Don’t Delay

If pain lasts for more than a week, it needs to be looked at, said Dr. Arnie Herbstman, an orthopedic surgeon and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plan medical director. Call your doctor right away if:

  • It’s a sudden, major pain
  • The pain stems from injury
  • You can’t put weight on the hip joint
  • It looks hot, red or swollen
You can start with your primary care doctor. Your doctor will know if you need to be referred to a specialist. Delaying treatment can make the problem worse. And untreated hip problems can cause other issues, such as pain in other parts of the body because you are walking differently. The sooner you get it taken care of, the sooner you can be back to your regular activities.