Hip and leg pain can make it difficult and painful to take part in daily activities. There are many possible causes of hip and leg pain.

Some causes are temporary, whereas others can be long term. Anyone with severe or persistent pain in the leg or hip should see a doctor for a diagnosis.

In this article, we discuss some of the possible causes of hip and leg pain, including their symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.

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Image credit: kali9 / Getty Images.

Tendinitis, or tendonitis, is inflammation of a tendon, which can result from tendon tears or the tendon degenerating. Researchers are not sure exactly what causes tendinitis, but they believe that injuries may start the process that leads to it.


The symptoms of tendinitis may include:

  • pain as a result of injury or stress
  • weakness in the affected area
  • difficulty moving the tendon
  • a grating or cracking sensation when moving the tendon
  • swelling

Risk factors

The most common risk factor for developing tendonitis is sudden or repetitive movements or activities, including:

  • running and jumping
  • incorrect posture
  • incorrect technique when playing sports
  • overexercising muscles


A doctor will usually do a physical examination, but they may order an ultrasound to investigate the injury further. If they suspect a bone injury, the doctor may also an X-ray.


The first-line treatment for tendinitis is rest. A doctor may also recommend physical or occupational therapy to help manage the pain, or, sometimes, a short course of steroid injections.

In severe cases, a person may have to undergo tendon release surgery.

Arthritis is a condition that results in pain and joint inflammation. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, including:


The symptoms of arthritis include:

  • pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints
  • not being able to use the joints
  • fatigue
  • finding it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep
  • the pain becoming worse over the course of the day

The symptoms of inflammatory arthritis, such as gout and rheumatoid arthritis, include:

  • pain and prolonged stiffness in the morning
  • pain when not using the joint
  • increasing pain over time when using the joint

Risk factors

Risk factors for osteoarthritis include:

  • becoming older
  • being female
  • previous injury to the joints
  • having obesity
  • genetic mutations

Risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • being female
  • environmental factors, such as smoking
  • having a close family member with rheumatoid arthritis

Risk factors for gout include:

  • genetic mutations
  • being unable to get rid of uric acid
  • being male
  • becoming older
  • having chronic kidney disease
  • consuming large amounts of alcohol over an extended period
  • taking diuretic drugs

Risk factors for septic arthritis include:

  • becoming older
  • having a compromised immune system
  • having diabetes
  • using prosthetic joints
  • having rheumatoid arthritis
  • using injectable drugs


A doctor will perform a physical examination to determine which type of arthritis a person has.

They may also order several imaging tests, such as X-rays and MRI, ultrasound, or CT scans. These can show how advanced the condition is and whether there are any problems with the surrounding tissue.


The treatment options vary among the different types of arthritis.


People may be able to reduce pain and other symptoms by undertaking physical therapy, using braces and acupuncture, and eating a healthful diet. A doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatory medication.

In severe cases, a doctor may advise joint replacement surgery.

Rheumatoid arthritis

The main treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). However, people may also need to take anti-inflammatory drugs alongside DMARDs to manage pain and swelling.


Anti-inflammatory medications may help reduce pain and make gout more manageable. A doctor may also prescribe corticosteroid injections. People who have recurring gout or chronic kidney disease may need to take a medication that decreases the amount of uric acid in the body.

Septic arthritis

A healthcare professional may treat septic arthritis by draining 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 sustained during activities such as jumping or playing sports. An accident, such as a motor vehicle crash or fall from a height, can also cause dislocations.


Symptoms of a hip dislocation include:

  • hearing a clunking or popping sound
  • immediate pain after an injury
  • the joint socket looking “loose”

Symptoms of a knee dislocation include:

  • pain
  • being able to extend the knee more than 30 degrees farther than usual
  • swelling around the knee

Symptoms of an ankle dislocation include:

  • pain and tenderness
  • swelling around the joint
  • in severe cases, a loss of skin around the joint

Risk factors

Risk factors for joint dislocation include:

  • participating in high impact sports
  • taking part in activities with a risk of falling
  • having obesity


A doctor may diagnose a dislocation by carrying out a physical examination and asking the person what caused the injury. They may 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 “pop” a joint back into place. In some cases, joint dislocations appear alongside bone fractures, which a doctor or healthcare professional will also treat. In other cases, a person may have to undergo surgical treatment.

Bursitis is the inflammation or swelling of a bursa. Bursae are little sacs that sit between the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the body.

A common cause of bursitis is putting pressure on the bursa for a prolonged period. For example, people who spend long periods kneeling without padding can develop bursitis in the knee.

Repetitive 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 the temperature of the skin around the bursa

Risk factors

Risk factors for bursitis include:

  • doing a job or activity that puts a lot of pressure on the bursa
  • doing sports or other activities that involve repetitive motions
  • being female, for some types of bursitis
  • having obesity


A doctor can diagnose bursitis from a physical examination, but they may also order imaging tests to rule out other conditions.


Bursitis usually goes away by itself. People can speed the healing process by using the RICE method:

  • R: resting the area
  • I: icing the area
  • C: compressing the area
  • E: elevating the area

People should also make sure that they are padding the affected area to protect it from further pressure. Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can also help with symptom management.

In some cases, doctors may recommend corticosteroid injections, sometimes with a local anesthetic, to provide relief.

Sciatica is a condition in which people feel pain or weakness as a result of the impaction or compression of the sciatic nerve.


Symptoms of sciatica include:

  • pain along the spine and down the hip
  • pain or burning sensation in the buttocks
  • weakness or heaviness in one leg

Risk factors

Risk factors that may lead to sciatica include:

  • working as a machine operator or driver
  • having a herniated disk in the 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 has lasted for 6–8 weeks, a doctor may order some imaging tests to rule out any other conditions and determine the best treatments.


People can treat sciatica at home by:

  • using hot or cold packs to reduce inflammation
  • avoiding activities that trigger the pain
  • performing gentle stretches and doing low impact physical activities, such as swimming and walking
  • using the proper technique to lift heavy objects

A doctor may prescribe a short course of anti-inflammatory medication, as well as muscle relaxants. If the anti-inflammatories are not effective, a doctor may order a course of oral corticosteroids. People may also have corticosteroid injections.

Deep tissue massage and physical therapy can also be helpful in managing the symptoms.

Many different conditions may cause hip and leg pain. Some may go away by themselves, or with treatment, but others require ongoing pain and symptom management.

It is important to make an appointment with a doctor if any hip or leg pain is causing interference with daily life and activities.