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Hip Pain SmartSiteTM

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Sports injuries, bursitis, and strains


Many exercises, stretches, and other methods can treat the causes of hip pain.


Bursitis is the swelling and irritation of a bursa. A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between muscles, tendons, and joints.

When you have bursitis of the hip, you may notice:

  • Pain when you move or press on the side of your hip
  • Stiffness and achiness when you move your hip
  • Warmth, swelling, or redness around the hip
  • Difficulty sleeping on the side of the bursitis

Muscle strains

A strain is when a muscle becomes damaged because of pulling or twisting.

This painful injury, also called a "pulled muscle," can be caused by a quick twist or pull of a muscle, overuse of a muscle, or an accident.

A muscle strain may be acute (start suddenly and more painfully) or chronic (be present over a long period of time). The injury may be from over-stretching or from contracting (or tightening) the muscle too strongly or too many times.

The muscles are often grouped based on which direction they move your hip.

  • Hip flexors are the muscles in the front of your hip. These muscles move your knee towards your chest (they bend your hip). They are most active when you sprint or kick.
  • The muscles on the inner part of the thigh are called the groin muscles. These muscles (called hip adductors) pull your thigh in towards your body. They are most active when you are kicking or running. These muscles are used a lot to change directions when running.
  • Gluteal muscles are located in the back of your hip. These muscles make up your buttocks. They are used when you need to pull or swing your leg backwards suddenly.

When you have a muscle strain around your hip, you may notice:

  • Pain and difficulty moving your hip
  • Discolored and bruised skin
  • Weakness of the muscle
  • Swelling, bruising, or redness


Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendinitis refers to swelling and irritation of a tendon. Tendinitis may be acute (start suddenly and more painfully) or chronic (be present over a long period of time).

Tendinitis can be caused by a quick twist or pull or by overuse of a muscle. As a person ages, their tendons become less elastic, or stretchable, and tendinitis is more likely to occur.

Iliotibial band syndrome is a hip disorder related to irritation or injury of the thick band that runs from the side of your hip to the outside of your knee.

When you have tendinitis, you may notice:

  • Pain and tenderness along a tendon
  • Pain at night
  • Pain that is worse with movement or activity
  • Pain when you crawl on your knees

Labral tears

The hip joint is a ball (head of your thigh bone, called a femur, or leg bone) and socket (part of the pelvic bone) type of joint. Very strong cartilage, called the labrum, attaches along the rim of the hip socket.

The labrum makes the socket a little deeper and provides stability to your hip joint. It also helps cushion your hip joint.

A torn labrum may happen:

  • Suddenly, with a quick change in direction during such sports as basketball, soccer, or snow skiing.
  • After a fall or heavy landing.
  • Slowly, after years of wear and tear from activities or playing sports that involve stress on the hip joint.

When you have a torn labrum, you may notice:

  • Pain that may be in front of your hip (groin) or lower back.
  • Pain that occurs or may worsen during weight-bearing, twisting motions of your hip, climbing, or squatting. You may have a limp during some activities.
  • Your hip may feel weak or unstable. When the hip truly locks, it is a sign of a tear or other damage to the labrum.

Snapping hip syndrome

Snapping hip syndrome is when you hear or feel a snapping sensation when walking, getting up, or swinging your leg around. The snapping is from a tendon moving over a part of a bone in or near your hip.

Most of the time there is no pain. Younger athletes and dancers may complain of this problem. Bursitis may develop and cause some pain.

If the pain becomes more severe, or your hip joint seems to catch or lock up, you may have a more serious injury in your hip joint.

Impingement syndrome or femeroacetaublar impingement (FAI)

The hip joint is made up of a ball (the head of the femur, or leg bone) and socket (part of the pelvic bone).

Extra bone may grow on either the ball or the socket because of arthritis.

As a result, when your hip moves to its range of motion, the cartilage or the labrum is pinched (or impinged) by the extra bone. The cartilage and the labrum help to cushion the hip joint. Over time, they are damaged and may wear away or even tear.

This problem may also be called femoroacetabular impingement (FAI). The extra bone growth can be normal, or it may result from trauma, fractures, and certain hip problems occurring in childhood.

Repeated stress from playing certain sports may also cause this syndrome. Hockey, soccer, and football players, as well as runners, may develop this problem.

When you have impingement syndrome, you may notice that:

  • Pain may be at the front of the hip (groin) and perhaps on the side of your thigh or in the buttocks.
  • Pain occurs when you sit or walk for a long time, as well as when you walk uphill.
  • Pain may be more of a dull ache, or sharp and catching with certain movements of your hip or pelvis.
  • You may have difficulty doing sports.

When the hip truly locks, it is a sign of a tear or other damage to the labrum.

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Review Date: 12/31/2018

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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