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Hip Pain: What’s the Cause?

The hip is a ball and socket joint that is composed of 2 bones, 21 muscles, and 5 ligaments all of which contribute to the enhanced mobility and function of the joint.1 The risk of developing hip pain is significantly increased due to the amount of mobility and functionality of the joint. Hip pain occurs in 14.3% of individuals who are 60 years old and up; a majority of these individuals are females.2 In this article, we will discuss:

  • Different types of hip pain
  • How to test your hips
  • Closing Thoughts

Types of Hip Pain

When we think of hip pain from the perspective of a physical therapist there are 2 broad categories, true hip pain, and pseudo or false hip pain. True hip pain is defined as pain located on the front and side of your waist/hip or in your upper groin. Pain located in these areas leads us to believe that the pain is being caused by a structure within the hip itself. Pseudo or false hip pain is considered pain in the buttock or the back side of the waist/hip. This type of pain requires a little more investigation to determine the causal structure. When you were younger you might have heard a song called “Them Bones” which taught us that “the backbones connected to the hip bone. The hip bones connected to the knee bone” so on and so forth. If we break this song down its message is clear; every part of our body is connected to the next part. This is how we go about determining pseudo or false hip pain; we look at the surrounding joints of the body and determine if/how it is contributing to the problem. While we use these categories to narrow down what is causing your pain, it is important to remember there are exceptions to these rules.

Test Your Hips

Some quick tests to see if you have strong and healthy hips are demonstrated in the pictures below. The first test is the single limb balance. Standing next to your kitchen counter, slowly pick one foot up off the ground and balance on one foot with your hands hovering over the countertop. While balancing count how long you are able to stand without touching your hands or other foot on anything. Being able to balance on one leg for 30 seconds is considered a strong and healthy hip. Repeat with both legs.

The second test is the number of times you can go from sitting to standing in 30 seconds without using your arms for assistance. For this test you sit in a firm chair of normal height, a kitchen table chair is a great option, and you go from sitting to standing back to sitting as many times as possible in 30 seconds. Reference the picture below to see how to perform a sit to stand properly for this test. After performing the test look at table 1 below to determine if you met the average number of sit to stands for your age and sex.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, hip pain is a common ailment that individuals experience every day. Our hips are very powerful and mobile joints which put them at higher risk of injury. There are 2 types of hip pain, “true” hip pain and “pseudo or false” hip pain. Test the strength of your hips to see if this could be a factor contributing to your hip pain. If you are an individual living with hip pain and would like to learn more about your pain and what can be done to help correct it, click the link below to schedule your free discovery visit.

1. Jones O. The Hip Joint. Teach Me Anatomy. https://teachmeanatomy.info/lower-limb/joints/hip-joint/. Updated on January 19, 2019. Accessed February 26, 2019.
2. Christmas C, Crespo CJ, Franckowiak SC, Bathon JM, Bartlett SJ, Andersen RE. How Common is Hip Pain Among Older Adults? J Fam Practice. 2002; 51(4). http://pmmp.cnki.net/Resources/CDDPdf/evd%5Cbase%5CJournal%20of%20Family%20Practice%5C%E9%9A%8F%E6%9C%BA%E5%AF%B9%E7%85%A7%E5%AE%9E%E9%AA%8C%5Cjfp20025104345.pdf. Accessed February 26, 2019.
3. Rikli RE, Jones CJ. 30 Second Senior Chair Stand Test Norms. Senior Fitness Test Manual. http://www.lvhn.org/assets/your_lvh/healthy_you/2010-03/fitness-chart.pdf. Accessed March 5, 2019.



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