Hip pain is a common complaint that can be caused by a wide variety of problems. It is a symptom of several conditions, including arthritis, hip injuries, bursitis, and childhood illnesses. Athletes who move their hips in multiple directions are more likely to have hip injuries and suffer hip pain.

The location of pain can vary significantly depending on the source that is causing it.

Problems within the hip joint itself usually lead to pain on the inside of your hip or your groin. Pain in and around the hip may also result from injury to the surrounding muscles, tendons, or bursae (small fluid-filled sacs that cushion and lubricate joints). Sometimes, hip pain can be caused by diseases and conditions in other areas of your body, such as your lower back, a condition called referred pain. You can even feel pain that originates in the hip from your leg down to your knee and in your buttocks.

A look at the different conditions and injuries that can cause hip pain, along with conservative ways to treat it.

Common Hip Problems

Many different conditions and injuries can cause hip pain. Some of the more common ones include:


Arthritis is the most common cause of the breakdown of hip tissue. Three kinds of arthritis commonly affect the hip:

  • Osteoarthritis – Also known as degenerative joint disease, this is the most common type of arthritis. It occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones gradually breaks down over time, causing the bones to rub against each other, causing hip pain and stiffness.
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis – This is a common form of osteoarthritis that occurs due to a physical injury to any kind to a joint. It is often the result of an injury or fracture that changes the mechanics of the hip joint, making it wear out more quickly as a result.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – This is an autoimmune disease, that attacks the hip joint capsule’s lining, known as the synovial membrane. It causes it to become inflamed and swollen. This disease process can eventually destroy cartilage and bone within the joint, leading to pain and stiffness.

Bursitis of the Hip

The bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushions the bones, tendons, and muscles near your hip joint. Bursitis of the hip causes pain in the hip when a bursa becomes irritated or inflamed.

There are two major bursae of the hip, both of which can be associated with stiffness and pain around the hip joint.

The Trochanteric Bursa is located on the side of the hip and separated significantly from the actual hip joint by tissue and bone. Bursitis in this bursa frequently causes pain and tenderness in the outer hip and thigh, making it difficult for those affected to lie on the involved side, causing difficult sleep.

The Ischial Bursa is located in the upper buttock area. Bursitis in this bursa can cause dull pain that is most noticeable when climbing uphill, or after prolonged sitting on hard surfaces.

Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis is a disease that results from the temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to the bone. Without an adequate blood supply, bone tissue starts to die, and as it loses its structural integrity, tiny breaks called microfractures begin to form. These microfractures can cause the collapse of the weight-bearing surface of the bone, causing pain. If the bone affected is near a joint, the joint may also collapse.

Hip Pointer

A hip pointer is a deep bruise to the ridge of bone on the upper outside of your hip, called the iliac crest. It’s often a result of a direct blow to the hip or a hard fall.

Conservative Hip Treatment Options

There are conservative, non-invasive treatment methods available to manage and treat hip pain. On the outset, physical therapy and weight management can provide relief for many.

You can often treat hip pain with the RICE protocol. “RICE” stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It’s a simple self-care technique that can help relieve pain and swelling and promote healing and flexibility.

With RICE, “Rest” with a break in the activity that may be causing pain or soreness to give your hip a chance to recover. “Ice” helps reduce the pain and swelling with cold. “Compression” wrapping for 24 to 36 hours, but not too tightly, will help decrease swelling. And “Elevating” the hip above your heart for a few hours each day will also help to minimize swelling.

Other non-surgical techniques to help alleviate your hip pain include:

  • Cortisone injections are the first line of defense against osteoarthritis symptoms and other joint pain the hips. They can help relieve joint pain and inflammation. These injections usually contain a corticosteroid medication and a local anesthetic. The number of injections you can get in a year is limited because of potential side effects.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections can treat osteoarthritis joint pain. PRP therapy takes a patient’s own blood, concentrates the platelets in that blood, and then reinjects them to accelerate the healing of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. Research studies and clinical practice have also shown PRP injections can alter the immune response to help reduce inflammation. Currently however, PRP therapies are not covered by most health care plans.

A key to success with conservative hip pain treatment options is to visit a healthcare expert early when the hip pain becomes persistent.

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Platelet-Rich Plasma – PRP – often pops up in sports injury news headlines. From what we read, plasma-rich platelet injections are often a well-publicized factor in professional athletes’ treatment and recovery.

These stories stir the imagination of the public at large. If PRP treatment works for our sports heroes, will it work for our own injuries?

The answers to these questions and others are not clear at this point. Doctors are currently using PRP treatments to accelerate the healing process of soft tissues. But it is a therapy still very much in the early stages of development.

Tiger Woods was one of this therapy’s early adopters. We’ll use his example as a starting point in answering “what is PRP therapy.”

Tiger Woods’ Knee Issues

In 2008, Tiger had two major knee surgeries within a span of 10 weeks. The first happened in April of that year when he finished second in the Masters Golf Tournament. Two days later, he had arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage damage in his left knee.

Shortly after, Tiger competed in the 2008 U.S. Open in June. He played with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), an injury that dated back to just after the 2007 British Open. He also had leg stress fractures.

Despite those physical challenges, Tiger still won the tournament. But sports commentators at the time noted how much in agony Tiger looked as he hobbled to victory.

Nine days after that U.S. Open victory, Tiger had reconstructive surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee. However, the post-surgery recovery was slower than he had hoped. He was impatient and wanted to get to play again more quickly. So, he looked for a way to accelerate his healing process.

He turned to PRP, then a not widely known therapy. He received 4 PRP injections to his knee ligament. Tiger has since publicly commented that he believes the treatments were vital for his timely return to competitive golf.

Tiger Woods smiling on a golf course.
A happy Tiger Woods walks a golf course.

What Is PRP Therapy?

In the years since Tiger placed his faith in PRP, this therapy has evolved and improved dramatically. The answers to what it is begin by reviewing some fundamental basics.


Plasma is the liquid portion of your whole blood. It includes water and proteins. It allows red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets to circulate through your body.


Platelets, or thrombocytes, are small, colorless cell fragments. When you cut yourself, platelets help blood clot so that you stop bleeding. They also are critical to your body’s natural healing processes.


PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma. The PRP procedure starts with your doctor drawing your blood. They then process the blood in a centrifuge to separate and concentrate your platelets.

PRP Therapy

PRP therapy involves injecting platelet-rich plasma into injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, or joints to accelerate healing. This injection focuses the natural healing components of platelets on the injury. It enables your doctor to direct biological healing processes where they are most needed.

PRP test tube and platelets illustration.
Centrifugal force is used to separate the components of blood – red blood cells (38-48%), plasma (52-62%), and platelets & leukocytes (<1% of total blood).

What is Platelet-Rich Plasma Used For?

Clinical studies have shown that platelet-rich plasma stimulates and improves the healing process. It is not a magical cure, but it does have a role in minimizing pain and improving function. For those who respond to PRP injections, it can reliably decrease inflammation and promote healing.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy may be appropriate to treat knee, elbow, shoulder, and hip osteoarthritis. It may also help with many overuse sports injuries. It is not suitable for all conditions, however.

Doctors are using PRP procedures for soft tissue injuries where there is a firm scientific rationale and sound medical evidence.

Prospective patients, however, also need to have realistic expectations. For example, platelet-rich plasma injections will not heal a rotator cuff tear without surgery. However, PRP can accelerate recovery after this kind of surgical repair.

If successful, a PRP injection generally results in long-lasting relief compared to a cortisone shot. PRP therapy stimulates injured soft tissue to heal or repair itself. In contrast, cortisone injections relieve inflammation pain without directly promoting any healing or soft-tissue repair.

Final Takeaways

PRP is a promising therapy for soft tissue repair. However, there have yet to be any clear standards that have been established for different available treatments.

There are both beneficial PRP treatments available as well as cases where marketing has gotten ahead of the science. Patients should recognize that it is a procedure still under clinical development.

Medical insurance typically does not cover PRP. The out-of-pocket costs for similar procedures can vary widely across different medical providers.

That all being said, legitimate research on PRP at some of the nation’s top medical institutions is leading to significant progress. PRP is an alternative to consider for accelerated musculoskeletal soft tissue injury recovery by patients who have done adequate due diligence.

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