Hip Hurts – Causes of Sore Hips and Hip Joint

Sore hips is a sensation that we all may experience in life, even in childhood. Most of the time this is due to muscle strain in children, teens and young adults. However, with advancing age there may e a host of other causes of sore hips, which are often chronic and can even lead to some degree of disability.

Why do the hips hurt?

The hips is made up the bones, namely the pelvic bone and femur, which articulate at the hip joint. It is supported and strengthened by muscles, tendons and ligaments. Within the pelvic bone lies the pelvic cavity which contains several organs. Any injury, irritation or tissue damage may cause pain. This hurting of the hip is usually associated with the bones, joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments.

However, the organs within the pelvic cavity and even above the hips in the abdominal cavity may also account for sore hips. Soreness is a term usually used to describe mild discomfort or a dull ache. Sometimes it may also be used to describe moderate to severe pain. Therefore terms like ‘sore’ and ‘hurt’ are subjective to some degree.

Read more on pain about the right hip and pain above the left hip.

Even with discomfort or an ache, it may be a milder form of pain or a prelude to overt pain. Therefore it is important to understand why pain occurs. Pain is the body’s response to tissue damage and serves to warn the body. It is a feature of inflammation and often accompanined by other symptoms like swelling, heat, redness and impaired function.

Causes of Sore Hips

The hip is made up of the femur and pelvis, specifically where the femur head articulates with the pelvis (pelvic bone). Sore hips may involve injuries, diseases and disorders of these bones as well as the soft tissue around it. Some of the possible conditions that can lead to the hips hurting have been discussed below which are largely the same as hip pain.

Read more on hip pain.


The term strain is usually used to described overuse of the muscles. However, the term strain is where the muscles are stretched beyond its limits and may become tor. With hip soreness this may be due to strain of the gluteal, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, adductors or abuctors.

Both overuse are stretching are due to physical exertion or activities that the body is not conditioned for. This typically occurs with events like a fall, blow during contact sports, repetitive actions or any other event involving trauma or exertion.


Injuries to the hips may occur for many of the same reasons as muscle strain. In the elderly, this is often due to falls but there may be pre-existing hip problems like osteoporosis that worsen the consequences of a fall.

The injury may be limited to the soft tissue or extend to the bone depending on the severity and nature of the trauma. Therefore an injury may cause bruising of the skin, muscle strain, sprains, dislocations or even result in fractures of the bones.


A dislocation of the hip is usually as a result of trauma. Most of the time this occurs with events like falls and car accidents, as a major force is necessary to cause a hip joint dislocation. This is where the head of the femur (thighbone) is pushed out of the the socket in the pelvic bone (hip bone).

The muscles, tendons, ligaments and other tissue that surround the joint as well as providing support and strength to the joint are also injured or damaged as a result of the dislocation. Soreness may therefore persist even after the femur head is re-inserted in it normal position (reduction).


Fractures or breaks in the bones are usually a result of major force. With the hip, a fracture is more likely to occur with a fall or a direct blow to the hip. This can occur with a fall or car accident but in some cases even minor force like standing and twisting can cause a fracture.

The latter is more likely to occur if the bones are severely weakened with diseases like osteoporosis as may be seen in the elderly. People using bisphosphonates for long periods are also at risk. Hip fractures are where there is break in the upper part of the thigh bone (femur).

Inflammation and Infection

Several inflammatory conditions that may occur for various reasons apart from just injury or strain can also cause the hips to hurt. This may involve the joints, bones or soft tissue. Arthritis is joint inflammation which may occur due to wear and tear (osteoarthritis) or immune dysfunction (rheumatoid arthritis). Septic arthritis arises with a bacterial infection of the joint.

Tendinitis and bursitis are inflammation of the muscle tendons and soft pockets (bursae), respectively. Both occur with injury and strain. Osteomyelitis is infection of the bone which is usually bacterial.  Nerve inflammation (neuritis) involving the nerves of the lower back and pelvis may also cause pain around the hips.

Bone Diseases

There are several types of bone diseases that may involve the femur or pelvis, apart from fractures and infections. Osteoporosis is weakening of the bones that increases the risk of fractures and hampers bone healing.

Osteomalacia (in adults) and rickets (in children) is where the bones become less hard due to low vitamin D levels. Avascular necrosis is where a portion of the bone tissue dies due to an interruption in the blood supply to the bone.

Nerve Problems

A host of different nerve problems may cause pain or soreness of the hips. Large nerves like the sciatic nerve run down the buttocks to the legs. The femoral nerve is another large nerve that runs down the front of the thigh. Nerve compression is one of the common cause and may arise from where the nerves exit the spinal cord (root compression) due to conditions like a herniated IV disc.


Hip tumors may involve the bones and less commonly the soft tissue of the hip. There are several different types of bone cancers, such as osteosarcoma and chondrosarcoma. Sarcomas may aggect the muscles, fat or joint tissue.

These cancers may originate in the hip area or spread to the hip from cancer elsewhere. Another type of cancer that can cause hip pain is leukemia. Sometimes cancer of the pelvic organs may also be described as hip pain or soreness.

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