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What causes the hip joints to ache?

Updated March 23, 2017

Aching hip joints are usually the sign of other health issues, including bursitis, sciatica, or hip fracture. While bursitis and sciatica may be resolved by getting plenty of bed rest and taking over-the-counter medication, you might need surgery if you have a hip fracture. Seeking prompt medical attention is necessary to determine the exact cause of hip joint ache.

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Bursitis is caused when bursae (fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction between tissues) become inflamed. Trochanteric and ischial bursae are located around hip joints. If they're inflamed, you may experience aching and dull pain while sleeping, sitting for prolonged periods of time or when walking up hills. Inflammation of bursae is usually caused by soft tissue injury (aseptic bursitis) or bacterial infection (septic bursitis).

Treatment for aseptic bursitis includes cold compresses and anti-inflammatory medications. Septic bursitis requires antibiotic medications. Septic bursitis is not common in hip joints, however.

Hip Fracture

Elderly people and those diagnosed with osteoporosis are at risk of fracturing a hip. A fractured hip can cause severe pain and may require extensive physical therapy or surgery depending on the location of the fracture. X-ray images are the only way to determine if the hip is fractured.

Hip Dislocation

Hip dislocation can occur after severe injury or accident. The pain you feel after dislocating the hip is due to the thighbone separating from the hip socket. Pain can be felt in hip joints, legs, and the sciatic nerve, located along the back of the legs. Pain is more severe while walking. Medication and physical therapy is usually needed after the thighbone is returned to the hip socket.


Repetitive motion can cause tendinitis, or aching and tenderness in joints. While tendinitis in hip joints is not as common as in other joints, such as elbow or knee joints, performing repetitive work, related movements or sports postures for prolonged periods of time may cause tendinitis in hip joints. Bed rest, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications), steroid medications and hot/cold compresses are used to help reduce aches and pain. Changes in how you perform work-related tasks and other movements throughout the day are recommended to prevent further injury.


Sciatica is pain that occurs in the legs and is usually the outcome of trauma to the sciatic nerve. Pelvic injury, slipped disc and degenerative disc disease are common causes. The sciatic nerve starts in the spine and runs down both legs.

Sciatica can cause aching in hip joints and increasing pain throughout legs and feet. Depending on the cause for the sciatica, treatment options include cold compresses, medication and physical therapy.

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About the Author

Based in the Washington metro area, Jessica Jones has been a freelance writer since 2006, specializing in business topics. Her fiction has also been featured in publications such as "The Jamaican Observer Sunday Literary Supplement" and at websites including HackWriters. Jones earned a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from Lesley University.

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