Hip and leg pain can make participating in daily activities difficult and painful. There are many possible causes of hip and leg pain.
Some causes are temporary while others can be long-term. Anyone with severe or persistent pain in the leg or hip should see a doctor for diagnosis.
In this article, we discuss some of the possible causes of hip and leg pain, including their symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.
Tendonitis, or tendinitis, is tendinitis that can result from tendon ruptures or degeneration of the tendon. Researchers aren’t sure what exactly causes tendonitis, but they believe that injury can trigger the process that leads to it.
Symptoms of tendonitis can include:
- Pain as a result of injury or stress
- Weakness in the affected area
- Difficulty moving the tendon
- a grinding or cracking sensation when moving the tendon
The most common risk factor for developing tendinitis is sudden or repetitive movements or activities, including:
- run and jump
- wrong posture
- wrong technique in sport
- overexertion of the muscles
A doctor will usually do a physical exam, but they may order an ultrasound to further examine the injury. If they suspect a bone injury, the doctor may also take an X-ray.
The first-line treatment for tendonitis is rest. A doctor may also recommend physical or occupational therapy to relieve the pain, or sometimes a short steroid injection.
In severe cases, a person may need to undergo tendon release surgery.
Arthritis is a condition that leads to pain and inflammation of the joints. There are more than 100 types of arthritis including:
Symptoms of arthritis include:
- Pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints
- cannot use the joints
- it is difficult to fall asleep and sleep through the night
- the pain worsens as the day goes on
Symptoms of inflammatory arthritis such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Pain and persistent stiffness in the morning
- Pain when not using the joint
- increasing pain over time when using the joint
Risk factors for osteoarthritis are:
- be female
- previous injury to the joints
- Have obesity
- genetic mutations
Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis are:
- be female
- Environmental factors such as smoking
- have a close family member with rheumatoid arthritis
Risk factors for gout are:
- genetic mutations
- Cannot get rid of uric acid
- be male
- have chronic kidney disease
- Consume large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time
- take diuretic medication
Risk factors for septic arthritis are:
- have a weakened immune system
- Have diabetes
- Use of joint prostheses
- have rheumatoid arthritis
- use injectable drugs
A doctor will do a physical exam to determine what type of arthritis a person has.
You can also order multiple imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs, ultrasound, or CT scans. These can show how far the disease has progressed and whether there are any problems with the surrounding tissue.
Treatment options vary between different types of arthritis.
People can relieve pain and other symptoms by undergoing physical therapy, using braces and acupuncture, and eating healthy. A doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatory drugs.
In severe cases, a doctor may recommend joint replacement surgery.
The main treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is disease-modifying anti-inflammatory drugs (DMARDs). However, people may need to take anti-inflammatory drugs in addition to DMARDs to manage pain and swelling.
Anti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve pain and make gout more manageable. A doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid injections. People with recurring gout or chronic kidney disease may need to take a drug that reduces the amount of uric acid in the body.
A doctor can treat septic arthritis by dehydrating the joint and prescribing a course of antibiotics.
Hip, knee, or ankle dislocation can cause hip and leg pain. The most common causes include injuries from activities such as jumping or exercising. An accident, such as a car accident or a fall from a great height, can also lead to dislocations.
Symptoms of a hip dislocation are:
- hear a rattling or popping noise
- immediate pain after an injury
- the socket looks “loose”
Symptoms of knee dislocation are:
- be able to extend the knee more than 30 degrees more than usual
- Swelling around the knee
Symptoms of ankle dislocation include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Swelling around the joint
- in severe cases, skin loss around the joint
Risk factors for joint dislocation are:
- Participation in high-performance sports
- take part in activities with the risk of falling
- Have obesity
A doctor can diagnose a dislocation by doing a physical exam and asking the person what caused the injury. You can also use imaging tests, such as X-rays, to examine the area and determine the severity of the dislocation.
Most of the time, a healthcare professional can “put” a joint back in. In some cases, apart from bone fractures, joint dislocations also occur, which are also treated by a doctor or healthcare professional. In other cases, a person may need to undergo surgical treatment.
Bursitis is the inflammation or swelling of a bursa. Bursae are small sacs that sit between the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the body.
A common cause of bursitis is that the bursae are stressed over a long period of time. For example, people who kneel for long periods of time without padding can develop bursitis in the knee.
Repeated movements of a joint can also lead to bursitis.
Symptoms of bursitis include:
- Pain when touching the bursa
- a decrease in joint movement
- a slight increase in skin temperature around the bursa
Risk factors for bursitis are:
- doing a job or activity that puts a lot of pressure on the bursa
- Exercise or other activities that involve repetitive motion
- being feminine for some types of bursitis
- Have obesity
A doctor can diagnose bursitis through a physical exam, but they can also order imaging tests to rule out other conditions.
Bursitis usually goes away on its own. People can speed up the healing process by using the RICE method:
- R: rest the area
- I: Freezing of the area
- C: compress the area
- E: raise the area
People should also make sure they pad the affected area to protect it from further pressure. Pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help treat symptoms.
In some cases, doctors may recommend corticosteroid injections, sometimes with a local anesthetic, for relief.
Sciatica is a condition in which people experience pain or weakness as a result of entrapment or compression of the sciatic nerve.
Symptoms of sciatica are:
- Pain along the spine and hip
- Pain or burning in the buttocks
- Weakness or heaviness in one leg
Risk factors that can lead to sciatica include:
- Work as a machine operator or driver
- have a herniated disc in your back
- Misalignment of the spine
- Back or pelvic muscle spasms and inflammation
A doctor will usually be able to diagnose sciatica by taking a person’s medical history and performing a physical exam. If the pain is severe or lasts 6-8 weeks, a doctor may order some imaging tests to rule out other conditions and determine the best treatments.
People can treat sciatica at home by:
- Use hot or cold packs to reduce inflammation
- Avoidance of pain-inducing activities
- light stretching exercises and light physical activities such as swimming and walking
- Use proper technique for lifting heavy objects
A doctor may prescribe a brief course of anti-inflammatory medication, as well as muscle relaxants. If the anti-inflammatory agents aren’t effective, a doctor may prescribe oral corticosteroid treatment. People can also receive corticosteroid injections.
Deep tissue massage and physical therapy can also help manage symptoms.
Many different conditions can cause hip and leg pain. Some may go away on their own or with treatment, but others require continued pain and symptom management.
It is important to schedule a doctor’s appointment if hip or leg pain is interfering with daily life and activities.