It's often said that aging tends to go hand-in-hand with a long list of ailments, and unfortunately, many people can add hip pain to that list. Hip pain can be extremely debilitating and uncomfortable, and it can occur for numerous reasons.

The term "hip pain" generally refers to any pain in or around the hip joint. Contrary to popular belief, the pain is not always felt directly over the hip; instead, you may feel it in the middle of your thigh or in your groin. By the same token, pain you feel in your hip may actually reflect a problem in your back, rather than with your hip itself.

Causes of Hip Pain

According to the National Institutes of Health, some of the most common causes of hip pain include:

  • Arthritis, which is often felt in the front part of your thigh or in your groin;
  • Trochanteric bursitis, which typically causes pain when the patient gets up from a chair, walks, climbs stairs, or drives;
  • Tendinitis, from repetitive or strenuous activity;
  • Strain or sprain;
  • Lower-back pain, such as sciatica; and/or<
  • Infection.

Understanding Hip Fractures

In addition, hip pain is often caused by fractures, which become much more frequent as people grow older because falls are more probable and bone density decreases. People with osteoporosis can get a fracture from simple, everyday activities, not only from dramatic falls or injuries. A hip fracture is considered a medical emergency, so be sure to seek immediate help if you suspect you may have suffered one.

Hip fractures can drastically affect a patient's quality of life. Less than 50 percent of those with a hip fracture are ever able to resume their former level of activity. Also, while recovering from a fracture, patients may suffer potentially life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia and blood clots in the leg, which can dislodge and travel to cause a clot in the lungs. Both conditions are generally the result of immobility following a hip fracture and hip surgery.

What's more, those suffering from hip fractures may be at risk for aseptic necrosis, a condition that develops when there's inadequate blood flow to the hip. Aseptic necrosis can occur from prolonged steroid usage or in sufferers of sickle cell anemia. Injury and regular use of alcohol may also increase your risk.

Exercising Without Stressing Your Hips and Knees

There are several nonabrasive exercises that may help condition your body without exacerbating your pain. Consider talking to your doctor about the following options:

  • push-ups or leg lifts;
  • hand weight routines, including repeated lifting in different directions with small hand weights;
  • exercise ball routines;
  • swimming; and
  • gentle yoga.

It may also help to work with a physical therapist to find appropriate exercises and learn how to increase your activity.

Prevention and Self-Care

Some preventative strategies for avoiding hip pain include:

  • Abstaining from activities that elevate one of your hips above the other for extended periods of time, like running on an uneven surface. Running on a treadmill keeps your hips level.
  • Always warm up before exercising and cool down afterward. Stretch your hips, lower back, and thighs.
  • Take precautions to avoid falls.
  • Wear hip pads for contact sports.
  • Learn how to prevent osteoporosis and to increase bone density.

If you think that you may have hip pain, try these tips for home care:

  • Avoid activities that aggravate the pain.
  • Try over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Sleep on your non-painful side with a pillow between your legs.

As always, be sure to seek the advice of a medical professional before making any specific lifestyle changes or pursuing treatment options.