Hip pain while walking: causes and treatment

Hip pain when walking is a common problem, according to a 2015 study. It is usually caused by problems in the following areas:

Muscles, tendons and joints


Arthritis is a major cause of hip pain when walking. There are over 100 types of arthritis and people of all ages can develop them.

Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are types of arthritis that affect the joints.

Arthritis typically causes pain and stiffness in the affected area.


Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis. It is caused by the breakdown of cartilage between the bones, which eventually allows the bones to rub against each other.

This can lead to pain, stiffness, and restricted movement. A person with osteoarthritis of the hip may also experience pain in the groin, buttocks, and sometimes the inside of the knee or thigh.

Treatments for OA include:

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) occurs when a person’s immune system isn’t working properly and attacks the joints.

A person with RA in the hip may have pain, stiffness, and swelling in the hip, thigh, or groin. Usually both hips are affected.

Treatments for RA include:

  • NSAIDs
  • immunosuppressive therapy
  • hot and cold treatments
  • topical products such as gels, creams, and patches
  • a balance of rest and movement


Tendons are the tissues that connect skeletal muscles to bones.

When tendons are inflamed, they can become swollen, irritated, or painful. This condition is called tendonitis and is often caused by an injury or overuse of the tendons.

A person with tendinitis may feel a dull ache where the tendon and bone meet.

Treatments for tendonitis include:

  • Calm, ice, compression, elevation (RICE)
  • Physiotherapy or occupational therapy
  • Splints, orthoses or slings
  • pain reliever drugs, such as an NSAID
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • surgery

Narrowness of the iliotibial ligament

The iliotibial ligament (IT) consists of fascia fibers that run from the lateral hip to the tip of the tibia.

If overused, the IT tape can tighten and cause inflammation and pain. It most commonly causes knee pain when bending with referred pain in the hip.

Treatments for the narrowness of the IT band include:

  • Apply ice
  • massage
  • Cryotherapy
  • pain reliever drugs, such as an NSAID
  • rest


Small bags filled with fluid called bursa reduce the friction between muscles, bones, and tendons around the joints. If the bursa becomes infected, it is called bursitis.

A person with bursitis will feel pain near the affected joint. A person can develop bursitis if they overuse their muscles.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, bursitis often affects the hips, which can be tender and painful while moving.

Treatments for bursitis include:

  • rest
  • hot and cold treatments
  • Pain relievers, like an NSAID
  • exercise
  • physical therapy
  • Rails and brackets
  • surgery

Labrum tear on the hip

Labral tears can affect the labrum, a ring of cartilage that holds the femoral head (ball) in the acetabulum (base) of the pelvis.

Labral tears are a major cause of pain in people with symptomatic hip dysplasia. A person with a hip labral tear will experience pain all over the hip and may experience a clicking sound and a blocking or shifting sensation in the joint.

Treatments for labral tears include:

  • rest
  • Pain relievers, like an NSAID
  • physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • surgery

Stress on the hip flexors

Hip flexor strain can occur when the hip flexor muscles that connect the thighbones to the lower back and hips are injured or strained. This can make it harder to move your knees and thighs up toward your chest.

A person will usually experience cramps or pain in the thighs and a pulling in the thighs and groin.

Treatments for hip flexor strain include:

  • rest
  • hot and cold treatments
  • stretch
  • Pain relievers, like an NSAID

Sprain or strain

Sprains or strains can occur when a person overuses the muscles and ligaments in their hips and legs. A person may feel a sharp pain that gets worse with activity.

Treatments for sprains and strains include:

  • Calm, ice, compression, elevation (RICE)
  • hot and cold treatments
  • Pain relievers, like an NSAID

Toxic synovitis

Toxic synovitis is an inflammatory disease of the hip joint that primarily affects children. A person with toxic synovitis may feel pain that spreads across the hip area, which may increase with exertion.

Treatments for toxic synovitis include rest and pain medication such as an NSAID.

Bone causes

Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis)

Avascular necrosis, also called osteonecrosis, limits or stops blood flow to the hip and other joints. A person with this condition may feel a dull or throbbing pain in the hip that can spread to the groin.

Treatments for avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis include:

  • Pain relievers, like an NSAID
  • physical therapy
  • Immobilization of the joint with a splint or orthosis
  • the use of crutches
  • surgery

Break (break)

According to a 2014 study, most people fracture their hip joint from a fall. Risk factors for hip fractures include low activity, low bone density, and long-term use of medication.

A person with a hip fracture will feel pain in the groin and may not be able to put any weight on the affected side.

Treatments for a broken hip joint include:

  • Rehabilitation therapy
  • physical therapy
  • surgery


The condition of osteoporosis causes brittle, weak bones. According to a 2002 study, fractures due to osteoporosis can affect almost any bone.

A person may experience severe, sudden pain in their hip, which gets worse with movement.

Treatment for osteoporosis includes:

  • Stress exercise
  • Increase the absorption of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Medicines used to treat osteoporosis

Joint effusion

Joints contain a small amount of fluid. When arthritis affects a joint, especially an inflammatory type like rheumatoid arthritis, fluid can build up in the joint and cause swelling.

A person with joint effusion may experience associated pain that ranges from mild to sharp.

Treatments for joint effusion include:

  • physical therapy
  • Fluid aspiration
  • NSAIDs


A hip dislocation occurs when the femur slips in the acetabulum. According to a 2018 study, a person should seek and receive treatment within 6 hours of the injury to prevent further harm.

A person who has dislocated their hip may feel a lot of pain, and the hip joint may feel loose and unstable.

Treatments for dislocations include closed reduction, where a doctor gently applies force to bring the hip back into its socket, or open reduction, where a doctor cuts into the joint, removes excess bone or tissue, and repositions bone.


Hip osteomyelitis is an inflammatory bone disease typically caused by microorganisms that infect the bone (s) of the hip joint. It leads to progressive bone destruction and loss.

A person may have associated muscle spasms and deep, aching pains in the pelvis and / or thighs.

The type of treatment a person is given will depend on the type of osteomyelitis.

Treatment for acute osteomyelitis includes antibiotics or antifungal drugs.

Treatment for subacute osteomyelitis or chronic osteomyelitis includes:

Nerve damage

Nerve problems near the hip joint can also cause hip pain when walking.

Pinched nerve

A pinched (pinched) nerve may appear in the hip area. A nerve can be pinched by bones, tendons, or ligaments, causing nerve signals to be irritated by pressure or friction.

A person may experience severe pain in the thighs, buttocks, groin, and hips, as well as restricted mobility, numbness, or tingling.

Treatments include:

  • rest
  • stretch
  • NSAIDs
  • hot and cold treatments


Sciatica refers to pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is more of a symptom than a condition. This means that a person should work with a doctor to find the cause of sciatica in order to improve their symptoms.

The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body and runs from the buttocks to the feet.

A person may experience mild to severe pain felt in the buttocks, hips, and legs.

Treatments for sciatica include:


Sacroiliitis refers to inflammation in which the sacral spine is connected to the pelvic bone, which usually causes pain that can worsen when standing or walking.

Treatments for sacroiliitis include:

  • rest
  • hot and cold treatments
  • Pain relievers like NSAIDs
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • surgery