When you have hip pain, you just want it to stop. But hips hurt for a variety of reasons that may require different remedies. Here’s a quick guide that will help you know what you can do to feel better at home and when it’s time to hobble to your doctor.

Osteoarthritis

What is it? Cartilage, the spongy tissue that cushions joints, deteriorates, causing bones to rub against each other.

Where is the pain? It is usually in the groin, but you can also feel pain in the buttocks.

How is it diagnosed? The doctor will test your hip’s range of motion; loss of range is an arthritis tip-off. He’ll likely then take an X-ray, says Calin Moucha, MD, associate chief of joint replacement surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “It could show joint-space narrowing, bony spurs and cysts in the bone.”

Home treatments. Don’t overdo activities, but don’t prop your feet up either, says Dr. Moucha. “Keep your joints in motion with low-impact activities like swimming, biking and walking.” Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil), according to label instructions for pain.

When to see a doctor. Call the doctor if the pain worsens and if over-the-counter measures like NSAIDs don’t help.

 

Tendinitis

What is it? Tendinitis is inflammation of the band of tissue that connects muscles to bones and is often caused by overuse, says Dr. Moucha.  

Where is the pain? If it’s hip tendinitis, you’ll feel a dull, deep ache in your groin, especially when you climb stairs or rise from a chair. If you have hamstring tendinitis, you’ll be smarting in the buttocks, says Peter J. Millett, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. 

How is it diagnosed? Your doctor may ask you to lie down, bring your knee to your chest, and then push your knee against his resisting hands. “If that causes groin pain, it’s probably tendinitis,” says Dr. Moucha, especially if X-rays don’t show joint damage that would indicate osteoarthritis.

Home treatments.Stop doing what hurts and rest the tendon. Take NSAIDs and apply ice to the spot that hurts for 20 minutes several times a day.

When to see a doctor. If the pain doesn’t respond to ice and NSAIDs, or if you can’t put weight on your leg, it’s time to get help. Also see a physician if you feel pain at night.

 

Bursitis

What is it? Bursitis is inflammation of the bursae, sacs of lubricating fluid that cushion tendons. 

Where is the pain? It’s burning the side of your hip.

How is it diagnosed? You’ll yelp when the doctor presses the sore spot. 

Home treatments. Take NSAIDs, apply ice several times a day and give the area a rub. “One theory is that the bursa doesn’t get a great blood supply, so increasing it [through massage] helps healing,” says Dr. Moucha. And several times a day, stretch your iliotibial band, the fibrous tissue on the outside of the hip, which can also become inflamed. Standing up, cross your legs and touch your toes, holding for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch legs.

When to see a doctor. If you’re smarting after two weeks, the pain gets worse, you can’t stand or you have night pain, then head to the MD.