When Should I See My Doctor About My Hip Pain?
Summit sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon Brent Warner, M.D., explains when you should see your doctor about hip pain.
Hip pain can really hurt your mobility. It can make it difficult to walk, or even to sit or stand for long periods of time. Pain in your hip may also affect how you walk (your gait), which could put you at greater risk of falling. But how do you know when it’s time to schedule a visit to talk with your doctor about your hip pain?
The first thing to consider, according to Summit sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon Brent Warner, M.D., is whether the pain you’re experiencing is actually coming from your hip at all. Often, pain on the side of your body, near the hip, or pain in your buttocks may not be a hip problem at all.
“In many cases, buttock pain or lateral pain is caused by a lower back problem, which is resulting in referred pain,” Dr. Warner said. “True hip pain is often felt as a deep pain on the front of the pelvis, almost in the groin area.” If you’re not sure, your orthopedic specialist can help you determine what’s causing your pain and can refer you to the right expert, if needed.
How long has the hip pain been going on?
When you’re thinking about whether to talk with your doctor about your hip symptoms, it’s smart to consider how long it has lasted.
If the pain is short-lived, and if it goes away with home care, such as RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) or a few days or weeks of rest, “then generally it’s safe to monitor and not race to the doctor,” Dr. Warner said.
If, on the other hand, the pain lasts for a long time, or if it comes back with activity, that is a red flag. If the pain is getting worse, and if it doesn’t get better with home care, those are also signs that it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor to talk about your hip discomfort.
How talking with your doctor can help fix your hip pain
If you’re sick of living with painful hip symptoms, talking with your doctor can help in several ways. Your doctor will:
- Listen to you and ask questions to learn more about your hip symptoms. Where is it? How did it start? How long has it been going on? What makes it worse? Better?
- Conduct a physical exam. “Certain maneuvers to help us tease apart what is hip pain, what is back pain, and whether it’s caused by a problem with a joint, a muscle, a tendon, or a ligament,” Dr. Warner said.
- Order an X-ray. X-rays are important tools to rule out conditions like hip impingement, hip fractures, and arthritis.
- Refer you to physical therapy. Working on your strength, balance, and range of motion can really help relieve your hip discomfort.
- Prescribe an injection. Injections, typically cortisone, serve two purposes: they can relieve pain, and they can also help pinpoint the source of the pain. “Injections are not only to make the patient feel better, although we hope they do,” Dr. Warner said. “Injections can also help us make a diagnosis.”
There are lots of reasons for pain in your hip, so if your symptoms aren’t going away, it’s time to talk with your doctor. “These are often complex problems, and there are a lot of potential sources for hip pain. Extensive evaluation may be needed to really get to the bottom of what’s causing the hip pain, so we can make it better,” Dr. Warner said.
When to seek treatment for your arthritis
Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options.
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