A hip injury can cause pain, reduced mobility and other symptoms throughout the body. Your doctor will use a detailed medical history, physical exam and imaging tests to diagnose the hip injury or condition that is causing your symptoms.
Many injuries start small and progress to worsen over time without treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment by an orthopedic doctor can prevent the injury from deteriorating.
The hip contains multiple fluid-filled sacs, called bursae, that reduce friction when the hip is used. When overuse or repetitive stress causes too much friction, the bursa can become inflamed and irritated. Trochanteric bursitis is the most common type of hip bursitis. It occurs when the bursa located on the outside of the greater trochanter (the tip of the hip bone) becomes inflamed and irritated. Symptoms include pain in the outer part of the hip and thigh, especially when lying down or getting up from a chair. Pain may also extend down the front of the leg and into the groin and buttock.
A hip doctor Chicago can diagnose trochanteric bursitis with a history and physical examination. They will ask when the pain started and what activities make it worse. They will palpate the hip, groin and buttock areas and check range of motion. They will most likely order X-rays or ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent of the inflammation.
Symptoms usually improve after the first few treatment sessions. A hip doctor will teach you how to perform exercises that gradually strengthen and stretch the muscles around your hip to help keep the ball of the femur moving smoothly in the socket. They may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to reduce pain and swelling. Occasionally, a cortisone injection will be recommended to decrease pain and inflammation quickly.
Hip Flexor Strain
The large bones that form the hip joint—the femur and pelvis—serve as anchors for several muscles. These muscles move across the hip (hip flexors and glutes) and down the thigh to the knee (abductors, adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings). When these muscles are injured, they may cause pain and difficulty moving the leg or hip. Hip flexor strains are one of the most common types of hip injuries.
Muscle strains are often treated conservatively with rest, at-home treatments like icing and over-the-counter medications, and physical therapy. For severe strains, surgery is sometimes needed to repair the damaged muscle.
A hip doctor will begin by doing a physical exam to assess the injury and determine the severity. They may also order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan to get clearer images of the area and confirm the diagnosis.
Resting the affected hip and avoiding activities that aggravate it is essential for healing. If the pain persists, a hip doctor will usually recommend using heat or alternating between ice and heat to help relieve discomfort. Applying a warm or cold compress—such as a heating pad, hot bath, or a wet washcloth—for 20 minutes at a time can also ease hip pain and tightness. For long-term relief, a hip doctor will prescribe stretching and strengthening exercises to help re-strengthen the affected muscles.
The hip labrum is a rim of fibrocartilage that surrounds the socket of the hip joint (acetabulum). A labral tear occurs when the cartilage breaks down or gets pulled away from the bone. This makes the acetabulum less stable, and it allows fluid that keeps the cartilage smooth to more easily escape from the joint. This can cause pain and a feeling of grinding or catching in the hip. Labral tears are more common in young people and in women. They can occur due to repetitive movements or because of a condition such as hip dysplasia.
A hip specialist will examine your hips, legs and back to find out what’s causing the pain. They may use a physical exam that includes several maneuvers that test your hip’s range of motion and stability. These maneuvers include the flexion/adduction/internal rotation impingement test. They will also ask you about your past injuries and any previous surgeries that you have had.
An MRI scan can provide detailed images of your hip’s tissues, including the labrum. A hip specialist may also use a minimally invasive surgical procedure called an arthroscopy to repair a labral tear. In this procedure, the doctor makes two or three small keyhole incisions and inserts a thin scope into the joint. The doctor can then stitch or remove damaged tissue.
The hip is one of the largest ball-and-socket joints in the body. The round top of the femur bone (the “ball”) fits into a curved socket in the pelvis bone, called the acetabulum. The joint is supported by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Falls cause the most common injuries to the hip.
Many hip sprains and strains start as microscopic tears. Over time, chronic overuse causes them to get bigger and worse until the ligament, muscle or tendon completely ruptures and the hip cannot support weight. Hip sprains and strains can be prevented by adequately stretching and strengthening the hip muscles before exercise. In some cases, a hip injury may not need immediate medical attention, but it is important to visit a doctor to have it assessed and treated.
Hip fractures are the most serious type of hip injury. They can range in severity from grade I – the break is so slight that you can’t feel it unless you press on the area – to grade III – the ligament, muscle or tendon has completely ruptured and the hip no longer supports weight. X-rays and a CT scan are often needed to diagnose a hip fracture.
Most hip fractures need surgical treatment. Getting the surgery done soon after injury helps prevent complications such as blood clots and pneumonia.