When Hip Pain May Mean Arthritis

Learn about the various causes of hip pain, including different kinds of arthritis.

Many forms of arthritis and related conditions can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the hips. Hip pain can occur on the outside or inside of the hip, the upper thigh or outer buttock. Here are some diseases that can affect the hips.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. Previously known as “wear and tear” arthritis, OA is a disease of the joint that causes inflammation and damage to the tissues in the joint, including cartilage, which cushions the ends of the bones where they meet to form joints. The result is stiffness, pain, loss of movement and the formation of bony growths (bone spurs). Pain from hip OA is often felt in the groin area and front of the thigh. Stiffness may be worst after periods of inactivity, like first thing in the morning.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the immune system doesn’t work properly and attacks the body's own tissues, including the joints. Hip involvement in RA is often signaled by pain, stiffness or swelling in the hips, thighs or groin area. RA usually affects the same joint on both sides of the body, such as both hips. 

Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile arthritis (JA) refers to rheumatic diseases, including arthritis, that affect children and teens 16 years and younger. Several types of juvenile arthritis may cause hip joint pain and swelling.


Axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) causes inflammation of the spine, running from the neck to the lower back, and especially the joints that connect the spine and the hips, called the sacroiliac joints. It can lead to fusion of the vertebrae, chronic pain and stiffening in the back, hips and ribs.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) typically involves not only joint damage but also the skin disease psoriasis. Arthritis pain and inflammation can affect large and small joints, including the hip. Hip involvement in PsA is often signaled by pain in the groin, outer thigh or buttocks.


Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction and cushion the areas between bones, tendons and muscles. They are found in hips and other parts of the body. When these soft tissues become inflamed, they cause pain in the affected area. The condition is called bursitis. Injury or overuse of bursae are common causes of bursitis.


Tendons are fibrous tissues that join muscle to bone and some of them surround the hip joint. When they are injured due to overuse, stress or as a result of certain medications, they can cause pain. The condition is called tendinosis (previously called tendinitis until it was determined that these injuries don't generally involve inflammation). 

Infectious Arthritis

Also called septic arthritis, this condition is caused by an infection from bacteria, virus or fungus. The infection travels through the bloodstream and can affect many joints, including the hip. Symptoms usually come on rapidly and involve intense swelling, pain and fever. Infectious arthritis rarely affects more than one joint.

Reactive Arthritis

Reactive arthritis is a chronic form of arthritis that often occurs following an infection of the genital, urinary or gastrointestinal system. Large joints are often affected, especially the shoulders, hips and knees.

Arthritis-Related Conditions


Myositis belongs to a group of disorders that causemuscle inflammation and weakness. Pain and weakness in the hip and shoulder muscles is often a first sign of myositis. The weakness may make it difficult to lift heavy objects or even lift your arm to comb your hair or to put on a coat.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica is a rheumatic disorder that causes pain and stiffness, especially in shoulders and hips. It usually develops gradually but may come on suddenly. It is rare in people under the age of 50. Symptoms tend to affect both sides of the body and are worse in the morning. 

Getting a Proper Diagnosis

Other common sources of hip pain include stress fractures, muscle strains and hip dislocations. 

Arthritis is difficult to self-diagnose. Talk with your primary care doctor as soon as possible about your symptoms. You may be referred to a rheumatologist or orthopedist to get an accurate diagnosis so you can get the appropriate medical care you need. Left undiagnosed and untreated, your condition may worsen and cause disability. 

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