Hip Pain When Walking: Top Causes and Treatments

Do your hips hurt when you walk? You’re not alone. Hip pain when walking is a common complaint that affects people of all ages. The sudden onset of hip pain can be alarming and frustrating, especially if you enjoy staying active. 

In this article, we’ll explore the anatomy of the hip joint and go over the most common causes of hip pain when walking. You’ll learn about specific conditions like arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis that could be the culprit behind your pain. We’ll also provide tips on how to prevent and treat hip pain from walking so you can get back to living your active lifestyle.

Whether you experience a sharp stabbing pain or a dull ache, understanding why your hips hurt can help you find the right solutions. Let’s take a closer look at how to get to the root of hip pain when walking.

Anatomy image of a hip

Your Hip’s Anatomy

Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint that allows the thigh to move in different directions. The ball-looking portion of the hip joint is the round portion of the femur (thigh bone), which fits into the socket portion formed by the acetabulum of the pelvic bone. 

The main bones that make up the hip joint are:

  • Femur: The femur is the strongest and longest bone in the body. The round femoral head forms the ball portion of the hip joint.
  • Pelvis: The pelvis is made up of 3 fused bones: ilium, ischium and pubis. The cup-shaped acetabulum is part of the pelvis and forms the socket portion of the hip joint. 
  • Sacrum: The sacrum is the triangular-looking bone at the bottom of the spine that also connects to the pelvis.

Some of the key muscles, tendons and ligaments around the hip joint include:

  • Gluteal muscles: A group of 3 large, powerful muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus) that cover the buttocks and rotate and extend the hip.
  • Iliopsoas: Flexor muscle made up of the psoas major and iliacus muscles. It helps lift the thigh and flex the hip. 
  • Tensor fasciae latae: Muscle that flexes and abducts the hip. Helps stabilize the knee and pelvis.
  • Hamstrings: Group of 3 muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, semitendinosus) at the back of the thigh that extend the hip.
  • Ligaments: Thick connective tissues that help hold the hip joint together and provide stability (e.g. iliofemoral ligament).


Common Causes of Hip Pain When Walking

Hip pain when walking can have many different causes. Here are some of the most common:


Arthritis is often the culprit behind hip discomfort experienced during walking. The hip joint may be affected by various forms of arthritis, including:


Osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease, leads to the deterioration of cartilage in the hip joint. This condition results in the bones grinding against each other, causing pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility in the hip area. Typically, osteoarthritis develops slowly over time.

Rheumatoid Arthritis 

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition, leads to inflammation and damage within the hip joint. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the synovial membrane, which is responsible for lubricating and lining the joints, resulting in significant hip stiffness and pain.


Lupus, also an autoimmune disorder, can cause arthritis in the hips, leading to joint inflammation that often results in pain and stiffness while walking.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of arthritis include joint pain and stiffness, especially with movement or walking. There may be tenderness when pressing on the hip joint. Arthritis is often diagnosed based on medical history, physical examination of the joints, and imaging tests like x-rays or MRI scans. Blood tests can also help confirm autoimmune forms of arthritis.



A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that serves as a cushion among bones, tendons, joints, and muscles, reducing friction to facilitate smooth movement. The human body contains more than 150 bursae.

Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa. It can occur from chronic overuse or acute trauma and often causes pain and stiffness near the affected joint.

Some common types of bursitis that can lead to hip pain when walking include:

Trochanteric Bursitis

This involves inflammation of the bursa on the outer hip over the prominent bone (trochanter). It typically causes pain in the side or back of the hip that worsens with walking, running or lying on that side.

Iliopsoas Bursitis 

This affects the bursa between the iliopsoas tendon and hip bone. It leads to pain in the front of the hip that may radiate down to the groin or inner thigh. Pain usually worsens with hip flexion.

Ischial Bursitis

This involves inflammation of the bursa over the ischial tuberosity (sitting bone). This can cause pain when walking that feels deep within the buttock.



Tendonitis in the hip flexor tendons is a frequent cause of hip pain while walking. These muscles, located at the front of the hip, enable knee lifting and bending at the hip joint.

Tendonitis occurs when the tendons connecting these muscles to the bone become inflamed, often due to overuse or repetitive strain. This can cause pain and stiffness that is felt in the front of the hip and groin area.

Common Hip Flexor Tendonitis

The most commonly affected tendon is the iliopsoas tendon which attaches the iliopsoas muscle to the femur. Iliopsoas tendonitis often develops from repetitive hip flexion motions during activities like walking, running, or climbing stairs. 

You may feel a snapping sensation or tenderness when the inflamed tendon rubs over the hip bone. Pain usually worsens with walking uphill or upstairs and improves with rest.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of hip flexor tendonitis include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the front of the hip that may radiate down to the knee
  • Aggravated by walking, especially uphill or upstairs
  • Snapping sensation over the hip bone
  • Difficulty lifting the leg

Your doctor can diagnose hip flexor tendonitis based on a physical exam and your description of symptoms. They may order imaging tests like an MRI to confirm inflammation of the tendon and rule out other causes. 

Anti-inflammatory medication, rest, physical therapy, and modifying activities are usually recommended to treat this condition. With proper treatment, symptoms generally improve within a few weeks.



Fractures or broken bones in the hip area can also cause pain when walking. There are two main types of hip fractures:

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures result from repetitive strain and overuse, leading to small cracks in the bone. These fractures commonly affect the femur and may become more severe with ongoing walking and bearing weight.

Traumatic Fractures

Traumatic fractures are breaks in the bone caused by an injury, fall, or trauma. The femoral neck is prone to breaks, which can lead to a complete displacement of the joint. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Fractures are diagnosed through imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans or MRIs. An MRI may be done to evaluate a stress fracture. Your doctor will examine for tenderness over the site of the fracture and inability to bear weight on the affected leg. 

Treatment depends on the type and location of the fracture, but often includes limiting activity and weight bearing, pain medication, crutches, physical therapy and possibly surgery.



Hip dislocation occurs when the femur’s ball top exits its socket in the pelvic bone. This can happen if the hip joint is subjected to a major force, often during a high-impact accident like a car crash or a hard fall. 


  • Automobile accidents are a common cause of traumatic hip dislocations, especially high-speed collisions where the occupants’ bodies are violently thrown around inside the vehicle.
  • Falls from heights, like falling off a ladder, are another major cause of hip dislocations. The impact of the fall can force the hip joint out of place.
  • Contact sports and extreme sports carry a risk of hip dislocation due to collisions or forceful, awkward movements.


  • Severe hip or groin pain, especially when trying to move the hip.
  • Inability to move the hip normally. The hip will appear deformed.
  • Numbness in the leg due to nerve damage from the dislocation.
  • Bruising, swelling and tenderness around the hip area.

Diagnosis and Treatment

  • To identify a dislocated hip, doctors will assess the hip area, checking for any joint deformity and instability. They may also use imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans for confirmation.
  • Treatment involves putting the hip back into the joint under sedation. This is done as soon as possible to protect the hip cartilage and nerves.
  • After relocation, the joint is immobilized to allow healing. Physical therapy will work to restore range of motion and strength.
  • Surgery may be needed for recurrent dislocations or if there is damage to the joint.


Treatment Recovery

Physical therapy is effective for alleviating hip pain during walking. A therapist will assess the strength and mobility of the hip joint to tailor a specific exercise regimen. Techniques such as massage, stretching, joint mobilization, and targeted strength training are utilized to improve motion range, increase flexibility, diminish inflammation, and fortify the muscles surrounding the joint.

Medications that help manage pain and inflammation are often prescribed for hip pain while walking. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can provide relief by reducing swelling. Your doctor may also recommend acetaminophen for pain reduction. In some cases, steroid injections are used directly into the joint for more severe inflammation. Talk to your medical provider before taking any over-the-counter medications for pain you may be experiencing.


If conservative treatments are not effective, hip replacement surgery may be considered. This is usually only done when other options have failed and the damage is severe. Some surgical procedures for hip pain while walking include total hip replacement, hip resurfacing, femoral osteotomy, and arthroscopic surgery. A specialist will determine the best approach based on the specific cause and location of your pain.



There are several things you can do to help prevent and manage hip pain while walking:

Exercise and Stretching 

  • Do low-impact exercises like swimming or water aerobics to strengthen muscles around the hip without stressing joints. 
  • Try yoga poses like pigeon pose or knee-to-chest stretches to improve flexibility in the hips.
  • Strengthen your core and glutes through exercises like planks and bridges. Strong core muscles can help take pressure off the hip joint.
  • Stretch hip flexors, hamstrings, and quadriceps regularly. Tight muscles can contribute to hip pain.
  • Properly hydrate! Dehydration can cause hip pain.


Proper Walking Form

  • Maintain good posture while walking – stand tall, engage core muscles, and keep your gaze forward.
  • Take shorter strides rather than over-striding, which can put extra stress on the hip joint.  
  • Make sure to swing your arms naturally as you walk to help propel you forward.
  • Wear supportive and cushioned shoes designed for walking. Replace shoes regularly.
  • Walk on soft surfaces like dirt trails and grass when possible to reduce impact.


Weight Management

  • Maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting extra strain on weight-bearing joints like the hips.
  • Losing weight can help reduce hip pain if you are overweight. Consult your doctor about safe weight loss strategies.
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats.


Enhancing hip strength through tailored exercises, practicing proper walking form, and maintaining a healthy weight are key to preventing and easing hip pain. For persistent discomfort, consider consulting with our specialists in hip and knee replacement or hip arthroscopy. Their advanced expertise can guide you to the right treatment path.


Have Hip Pain? Schedule an Appointment Now

Don’t let pain hold you back from living your life to the fullest. Request an appointment with Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies today and take the first step towards your recovery. Whether you’re dealing with minor pain in one or both of your hips, or you’re experiencing intense pain you’ve never had before, our team of experts is ready to help you get back to walking comfortably.


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