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Hip pain can affect anyone. It can be a mild inconvenience or so severe that it interferes with daily functioning. Possible causes include muscle injury, osteoarthritis, and pelvic floor conditions. It can also occur during pregnancy.
In this article, we look at some of the causes of hip pain in females, the treatment options, and when to seek help.
Psoas syndrome is an injury to the iliopsoas muscle, which is a hip flexor.
Psoas syndrome commonly affects athletes, particularly runners, high jumpers, and dancers. People may refer to it as jumper’s hip or dancer’s hip.
According to a 2020 article, female athletes may have a higher chance than male athletes of developing psoas syndrome. Those with hip osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis are also at higher risk.
The pain typically occurs in the buttocks, pelvis, and groin. People may also report the feeling of slipping or catching in their groin when they flex their knees to 90 degrees.
A person may experience pain when they change position from sitting to standing, and they may have difficulty standing straight.
Treatment typically includes physical therapy. The aim is to strengthen and stretch the spine and hip joints.
A person can also take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
A doctor may sometimes prescribe corticosteroid injections or surgery.
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that happens because of wear and tear on a joint, so it usually affects people aged 50 years and older.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), over time, the cartilage in the hip joint wears away. As a result, there is less cushioning between the bones.
When bone rubs against bone, this can cause pain that worsens over time. The pain may appear in the thigh, groin, or hips and may radiate to other areas. It may come and go but worsen with activity.
The hip may also click and be less flexible than usual.
There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but physical therapy, pain medication, and steroid injections may help. People may also benefit from making lifestyle changes to help them reach or maintain a moderate weight. Examples include adopting a healthful diet and doing regular physical activity.
When the pain is severe or does not respond to other treatments, a person may need surgery, such as a hip replacement.
Pelvic floor disorders can occur when the pelvic floor muscles, which are the muscles that support the bladder and reproductive organs, become weak.
When this happens, a person might also have other symptoms, including:
- difficulty urinating
- pain during sex
- back pain
- changes in sex, such as difficulty reaching orgasm
Causes can include childbirth, surgery, and aging.
Pelvic floor physical therapy can help some people, but others may benefit from also taking medication.
A person may also use a pessary, which is a device that helps support the muscles.
In some cases, surgery may be the best treatment option.
Bursae are small sacs located throughout the body. They help cushion the space between bones and soft tissue, including in the hip joint.
When they become inflamed, they can cause intense joint pain. Doctors call this bursitis.
According to the AAOS, factors that can increase the likelihood of bursitis developing include:
- repetitive stress injury
- hip injury
- spine conditions, such as scoliosis
- legs that are different lengths
- rheumatoid arthritis
- bone spurs
- previous surgery on or around the hip
If the pain is sharp and intense but gets duller over days or weeks, bursitis might be responsible.
A person might also have bursitis if the pain is at the point of the hip, gets worse at night, and spreads down the thigh.
Various treatments, including pain medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy may help.
If the bursa is still inflamed after a person has tried nonsurgical treatment options, they may need surgery to remove the bursa.
Hip pain is common during pregnancy.
In a 2018 study looking at musculoskeletal problems in pregnancy, 32.1% of the 184 participants reported experiencing hip pain when pregnant.
Pelvic girdle pain
A 2012 case report states that pelvic girdle pain, or symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), can affect 31.7% of pregnant women.
According to the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG), this happens because the joints of the pelvis become less stable. Together with the added weight of the growing uterus, this can cause pain.
Women may experience a sharp, stabbing pain in the pelvis, groin, vagina, rectum, or hips.
Other symptoms of pelvic girdle pain include:
- shooting pains
- pain during sex
- pain during daily activities
The pain tends to worsen when changing position, climbing stairs, or rising from a sitting position.
Pelvic girdle pain is not a disease or a sign that something is wrong with the pregnancy, and it does not require women to change their birth plan.
This pain usually goes away after birth.
During pregnancy, changing position slowly, supporting the pelvis when walking, physical therapy, and pain medication may help.
Women can also use pregnancy support belts or pelvic blocks to help ease the pain.
Several home remedies may help with hip pain, including the following practices:
- changing sleeping positions
- getting more exercise
- avoiding prolonged periods of sitting or standing
- stretching the hips and legs each day
- taking a warm bath or applying heat or ice packs
- using OTC pain relievers, such as acetaminophen
According to the RCOG, women may get relief from putting a pillow or two between the legs when they are sleeping. They can also try using a leg pillow or support cushion.
Pregnant women experiencing pain should talk to a doctor or midwife at their next medical appointment.
For other people with hip pain, it is important to see a doctor if:
- the pain does not improve
- the pain gets worse
- using the treatment that a doctor recommends makes the pain worse or causes side effects
- the pain is unbearable
Hip pain can be very unpleasant, and it may make everyday activities feel impossible.
A person does not have to live with hip pain, though. Even if the first treatment does not work, a range of interventions may help.
If possible, it is a good idea to see a doctor and give them a complete list of all symptoms.
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