Hip Replacement Information: Symptoms & Causes

What are some symptoms of a serious hip problem?

As people age, sore, stiff or achy hips become common. Indications of a more serious hip condition, however, may include: sudden onset of sharp, shooting hip pain; dull persistent pain in or around the hip joint; reduced flexibility or range of motion; difficulty walking; or unusual swelling in the hip or upper thigh. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, please notify your doctor immediately to discuss possible causes and treatments.

What are common causes of hip pain?

Hip pain can occur in people of all ages, living active or sedentary lifestyles. The most common causes of hip pain include:

  • Inflammation. Overexertion can inflame the thick bands of tissue around hip (the “capsule”) and cause it to swell and fill with fluid, making the hip and surrounding area tender and painful.
  • Hip fractures. Fractures of the hip are a particular problem in the elderly. With age, bones can become weak, brittle and more likely to break during a fall.
  • Tendinitis. Tendons attach bones to muscles. Tendinitis is inflammation or irritation of tendons, which is usually caused by repetitive stress from overuse.
  • Muscle or ligament strain. Repeated activities can put added strain on the muscles and ligaments that support the hips. When these structures become inflamed they can become painful, and prevent the hip from functioning normally.
  • Trauma. Bumps, bruises and falls can produce localized pain and discomfort, or result in more serious damage, such as a hip fracture or dislocation.
  • Disease. Hip pain may also be traced to debilitating diseases such as:
    • Osteoarthritis—often called ‘wear-and-tear’ arthritis because it causes the hip joint’s protective cartilage to thin and eventually deteriorate; osteoarthritis is the most common cause of hip pain in people over 50.
    • Rheumatoid arthritis—a painful autoimmune disease in which the body’s natural defenses attack its own joints, membranes and tissue and cause them to deteriorate.
    • Avascular necrosis—occurs from the temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to the bones, most often from a hip fracture or dislocation. Bone tissue may weaken and die, causing a joint or joint surface to collapse. Although it can affect other bones, avascular necrosis most often occurs in the hip.
    • Cancers. Cancerous tumors that start in or spread to the hip or thigh bone can cause severe pain and discomfort throughout the entire hip joint area.

What is a hip fracture?

A hip fracture is a break in the upper portion of the thigh bone (femur). Hip fractures occur most commonly in elderly patients, especially those with ‘thinning’ bones or osteoporosis.

In the U.S. alone, about 300,000 individuals 65 and older suffer a hip fracture every year. Surgery could be required to repair or replace a fractured hip. Damage from a hip fracture is often obvious, but not always. Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Inability to move immediately after a fall
  • Severe pain in the hip joint, upper thigh or groin
  • Stiffness, bruising and swelling in the hip area
  • Shorter leg on the side of your injured hip
  • A deformity of the leg
  • Loss of function or movement in the injured area