What are the Most Common Causes of Pain in the Side of the Hip?

Dan Cavallari

Like many injuries to the body, pain in the side of the hip is most often due to direct trauma, or an injury resulting from direct force applied to the side of the hip. This may occur during athletic activities, a fall, or some other type of accident. Other causes include bursitis, arthritis, and tendinitis, as well as muscle strains and ligament strains. In some cases, simple overuse may cause pain in the hip, and this type of pain generally abates after a sufficient amount of rest and stretching.

Severe cases of hip pain may only be relieved through hip replacement surgery.
Severe cases of hip pain may only be relieved through hip replacement surgery.

Hip bursitis is an inflammation of a fluid-filled sac within the hip structure. The sac, known as a bursa, acts as a cushion between two surfaces within the body, such as ligaments or muscles. The trochanteric bursa is located on the outside of the hip, so when this bursa becomes irritated and inflamed, it can cause pain in the side of the hip. Hip bursitis can make sleeping painful, as well as walking or climbing stairs. In most cases, the condition can be treated with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication, but if the fluid in the sac becomes infected, antibiotic treatment may be necessary. In either case, the fluid may need to be aspirated, or removed via a needle.

Conditions such as tendinitis and arthritis can also cause pain in the side of the hip. Tendons are fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones throughout the body, and when these tendons become inflamed, the result is known as tendinitis. It may be accompanied by swelling, sensitivity, and a loss of mobility. This condition is treated similarly to muscle strains and ligament sprains: rest is necessary, and ice can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain. In some cases, steroids such as cortisone may be injected. Stretching and exercise will also be necessary to help recondition the tendons to prevent further pain.

Arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the bones within a joint begin to wear out, allowing them to rub against each other and against nerves in the body. When this happens in the bones of the hip, it can cause pain and inflammation in the side or another part of the hip. While there is no cure, some steps can be taken to alleviate the pain and make living with arthritis more manageable. Anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed to sufferers, and losing weight can help take the pressure off of the joint. If the pain becomes severe, surgery to realign the joint or even a hip replacement may be necessary.

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