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Understanding your hip pain

The hip joint is the link from the pelvis to the lower limb and allows us to be able to stand upright and move freely (like running, jumping or walking). The hip is a ball-and-socket joint — due to the cup shape of the hip socket known as the acetabulum, and the ball shape of the top part of the femur (commonly known as the thigh bone). The structure of the joint allows for stability and mobility and is surrounded by muscles and strong ligaments, allowing it to support the weight of the body in sitting and standing. With all the heavy usage, it’s no wonder it can get sore!


Let’s take a look at some of the most common hip problems:


Femoral acetabular impingement (FAI)

FAI is a motion-related clinical disorder caused by impingement of the femoral head and the acetabulum. FAI can arise due to a change in the shape of the hip joint or due to increased joint mobility with insufficient muscle strength and control. Management of this condition looks to first identify the underlying cause, then develop a plan to help settle the symptoms by avoiding aggravating activities and then targeting strength or mobility deficits.


Labral tears

The labrum is an extremely strong bit of connective tissue that attaches to the hip socket to help provide extra joint stability. Tears to the labrum are common and can be painful; however, injuries to this tissue rarely happen in isolation and the main cause for the injury must be identified. Management focuses on identify the underlying mechanism of the injury, allowing symptoms to settle and then working on strength and/or range of motion deficits.


Muscle imbalance

The hip is a powerful and robust joint that requires many groups of muscles to work together to allow it to function. One group of muscles around the hip, which are often weak or imbalanced largely due to increasing sedentary behaviour, are the gluteal muscles. The gluteals or glutes are a very important group as they provide significant support stability and strength to the hip.


Gluteal tendinopathy

Tendinopathy is the medical term for a problem with a tendon. In the hip, the important gluteal muscles can have problems with their tendon and this is known as a gluteal tendinopathy. A gluteal tendinopathy is brought on by a change in requirements such as an increase in standing, walking or running and pain, and is experienced on the bony part of the hip known as the greater trochanter. Treatment focuses on settling symptoms followed by a management plan to help improve the tendon by strengthening the gluteal muscles and the other muscles surrounding the hip.



The greater trochanter is the bony outer part of the hip on the thighbone. Within this area is a bursa — a fluid-filled sac that reduces friction between the tissues of the body — and the greater trochanter. Irritation of the bursa can result in inflammation known as greater trochanteric bursitis, and this can occur due to an overloading of the joint due to poor technique, a sudden change in hip use or if there is insufficient strength and muscle control. Treatment aims to first settle symptoms by avoiding aggravating activities and then focuses on addressing the deficits, as the inflamed bursa is usually just a symptom, not a cause of the problem.


Post-op rehab for total hip replacement

A hip replacement is performed when there is significant damage to the hip joint due to arthritis over a period of time. Post hip replacement rehabilitation focuses on graded movement and exercise, used to help achieve the best possible outcome to initiate and promote healing. It is a common misconception that rest is is needed to heal and that surgery has fixed the problem, when surgery is actually just the first step. Working with your physiotherapist, surgeon and GP, a comprehensive treatment plan will be made to help you recover fully.


Hip pain in young people and young adults

It is important to remember that hip pain can affect all ages and that there is no “I’m simply too young to have hip pain”. In children and adolescents, there are two pain problems to be aware of: Perthes’ disease and slipped upper femoral epiphysis (SUFE).

Perthes’ disease affects children 3–11 years old and is caused by poor blood supply resulting in degeneration of the joint.

SUFE refers to a separation of the ball on top of the hip joint from the thighbone and is seen mostly in boys. Both of these conditions require further medical involvement if suspected during a physiotherapy assessment and patients will be sent for further investigations and opinions.


Hip pain treatment with Life Ready Physio

For a pain-free hip, you require strong muscles around the joint as well as good range of motion. With expert treatment such as joint mobilisation, massage and therapeutic exercises for improved functionality, Life Ready Physio will not only alleviate hip pain — we’ll provide you with the tools to prevent future injuries too.

For an in-depth assessment by one of our skilled physiotherapists, book a consultation here. We look forward to joining you on this journey to pain free living.

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