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Hip Pain: A Comprehensive Guide

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Pain Guide
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Good hip mobility is not only essential for sports performance, but for everyday movements as well. We don’t usually realise how much we rely on it until we are held back by pain. If you’re experiencing any restriction in this area, we gathered facts to help you make sense of what’s happening and what can be done about it. 

1. What are the structures that make the hip?

This is a ball-and-socket multiaxial joint that allows it to have a wide range of motion (flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, external rotation, internal rotation, and circumduction).

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Structure Illustration

Important structures that make up the hip include:

  • Bones and joints
  • Ligaments and tendons
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Blood vessels
  • Bursae

The hip is not just bones and joints, it also involves other structures that help run the system. Ligaments, for instance, are soft tissue structures that connect a bone to another bone. These little bands of tissue encircle the hip to serve as the main source of stability for the hip – which means that it holds it in place. Meanwhile, tendons are fibrous structures that join your hip muscles to the bone.

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Joints Illustration

Nerves also run throughout the hip to carry signals from the brain to the hip muscles and stimulate movement. These nerves also help a person appreciate sensations like touch, pain, and temperature.

Alongside your nerves are large vessels that supply blood to the lower limbs. One can even feel the large artery pulsating when you place your hand at the front of the upper thigh. Smaller vessels run from within the pelvis to introduce blood supply to the buttocks and hips.

The bursae are structures that lubricate the area and reduce friction.

2. What are the symptoms of hip problems?

Red flags that signal issues to your hip include:

  • limping
  • pain in the thigh, groin, or buttocks
  • loss of motion of the hip
  • warmth
  • swelling over the hip
  • tenderness of the hip
  • difficulty sleeping on the hip
  • Muscle stiffness

What’s tricky about these symptoms is that while we may think that it stems from hip problems, they may also come from somewhere else. Therefore, the symptoms listed above should always be confirmed through a diagnostic test to ensure that your treatment is geared towards the right problems – as there could be many.

3. How are hip pain issues spotted?

The basic steps into making a diagnosis are through history taking and physical examination. In addition to that, the right tests, imaging, and analysis are vital in pursuing suitable hip pain treatment.

All these must be under advise by a duly certified orthopaedic surgeon for they have the capacity to prevent, diagnose, and treat disorders of the bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Some orthopaedists are generalists, but for hip pain, it is beneficial if help is sought from an orthopaedic surgeon speciliasing on the hip.

History Taking

These details will include family history and medical history, as well as previous issues with hip pain and procedures. For instance, having a close family member struggle with hip osteoarthritis can be an indication that you may have it too. A prior hip injury can also raise risks for future issues.

Physical Assessment

During this process, a doctor will evaluate your gait or the way you walk. Your range of motion will also be examined to determine where the pain comes from. Internal and external rotation of the hips will be done to check for leg length discrepancies, hip muscle strength, and range of motion in the back.


It’s necessary to differentiate pain radiating from somewhere else from that coming from the hip joint itself. There are devices that can reveal conditions or problems that may be previously unseen.


X-ray is a commonly used diagnostic imaging technique that can reveal the condition of the bones and joints of the hip. This device emits electromagnetic waves (radiation) which goes through the body to get an image of the body’s internal makeup. The energy emitted is safe, but the doctor will take special precautions, especially if pregnancy is possible. It is often part of the standard procedure because there’s a wealth of information that can be gleaned by the images obtained. It can show a loss of joint space or the growth of bone spurs, which indicate osteoarthritis.


What x-rays miss out to detect, MRIs cover for what it lacked by revealing greater sensitivity and specificity. It provides a clear resolution that demonstrates fine detail of structures like the articular cartilage, tendons, muscles, peripheral nerves, or bursa. It can also detect fraying or tears in soft tissues.

CT Scan

CT (Computed Tomography) scans also overcomes the inconsistencies in conventional x-rays by giving clearer detailed cross-sectional images of the body.

4. Causes Behind Hip Pain

Diagnostics can lead medical health professionals and patients to discover the different reasons that result in hip pain. Here are 11 probable reasons that may be behind this nagging symptom.

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Pain Cause Arthritis Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Fractures Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Pain Outside Hip Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Tendonitis Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Strain Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Labral Tear Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Primary Bone Cancer Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Avascular Necrosis Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Impingement Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Septic Joint Illustration
A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Gynaecologic Illustration

5. What can I do about my hip pain?

Generally, what you can do at home is to:

  • Rest
  • Observe non-weight-bearing activities
  • Apply a cold compress
  • Take anti-inflammatory medications 

However, there are also other treatments to manage serious problems. For local inflammation, steroid injections can help tame it down. If an infection is present, antibiotics can be prescribed. However, complex issues like fractures can be fixed using surgical repairs using plates, screws, pinning, and joint replacement. Meanwhile, severe arthritis can be corrected with a total joint replacement if possible.

Read: 5 Ways to Reduce Hip Inflammation

6. What are the exercises that can help relieve hip pain?

Due to the complexity of the hip structure and the several ways that sports athletes use their bodies, it’s worth noting that there’s no catch-all prevention measure. However, there are exercises that can help relieve hip pain, and these include:

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Hip Exercises Illustration

Hip pain could signal something serious, and exposing it with undue stress with the wrong workout routine can worsen the problem. Therefore, it’s important that you seek professional advice on the exercises that are suitable for you. For athletes, proper conditioning prior to any game can help prevent injuries.


7. When should I see a doctor for my hip pain?

You must approach your doctor if you experience:

  • Persistent pain 
  • Intense pain
  • Swelling/ sudden swelling
  • Redness
  • Warmth around the joint
  • Hip pain at night or when you are resting
  • Inability to move your leg or hip
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected leg

8. Who do I need to approach for my hip pain? 

You can seek help from general practitioners, family medicine doctors, orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatologists, and sports medicine specialists. Physical therapists and rehabilitation doctors can also be part of the treatment process. 

If you aim to find relief from hip pain, get your symptoms checked by A/Professor Andrew Dutton, a Harvard fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon and sports injury specialist. We offer prompt and attentive service through our customised treatment approach in response to each patient’s unique case.

Your needs come first, and if you’re struggling with persistent hip pain,
set your appointment with us today.

About A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton

A/Professor Dutton, also known as, has been in clinical practice since 1996 after graduating from Marist College, Canberra and the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. A/Professor Dutton has worked at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney, and the St. George Hospital, Sydney, before completing his orthopaedic surgery training in Singapore. He is currently an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

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