Hip Pain When Walking: Causes, Prevention, and Management

women walking


If you're plagued by hip pain while walking, you're not alone. Data suggests that one in 10 adults are having the same experience. While hip pain when walking can be frustrating, getting down to the root cause as well as implementing some easy techniques for relief can make it feel more manageable. Read on to find out how you can manage pain and walk in comfort.

Causes of Hip Pain

Hip pain can be due to several conditions that are unrelated to disease. Simply laying on your side for too long (or continually while you sleep), a sports injury, or sitting in an awkward position can even cause hip pain. And because this ball-and-socket joint is responsible for anchoring our bodies in an upright position, it is subject to more stress than others.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, hip pain also can occur because of a fall, a direct blow to the hip, overstretching, and overuse. In fact, overuse is often seen among walkers because the muscle or tendon in the hip can be impacted by the repetitive motion of walking.

There also are a number of risk factors that can lead to hip pain such as tight hip flexors and differences in leg length. Injuries that affect your gait can also play a role. Additionally, more mature walkers may experience hip pain due to a decrease in the range of motion of the hips as they age.

Hip pain also is a symptom of both arthritis and osteoarthritis, and in some cases caused by bursitis which is an inflammation of fluid-filled sacs called bursae that pad joints. Bursitis often develops due to overuse and commonly affects the hips. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation indicates that bursitis often affects the hips causing them to become tender and ache when moving around.

How to Manage Hip Pain While Walking

The management of hip pain while walking will be dependent on the cause. For example, if the underlying cause is bursitis, management may include the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy.

Treatment for hip pain caused by arthritis or osteoarthritis may include all of the above, with the addition of corticosteroid injections. It is important to note that weight management also may be a tool in managing any kind of hip pain, as excess bodyweight can cause strain on joint, including the hips.

General hip pain can be managed through a variety of at-home protocols, including stretching, foam rolling, and pressure point therapy. As with any condition, chronic hip pain should be properly diagnosed by healthcare provider. They will develop an individual treatment plan and may even advise on emerging modalities including surgery.

How To Prevent Hip Pain

Weight management may be the first-line measure of prevention of hip pain for some individuals. As noted above, excess weight causes stress on all joints, including the hips. A healthcare provider can help determine if active weight management might be necessary for overall improved health, including the prevention of hip pain.

Secondarily, maintaining a strong core and lower body can help prevent hip pain. Performing exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip joint, most notably the hip abductorsand glutes, can help keep the hips in better condition for walking comfortably.

Hip pain is positively associated with increased pain during sleep, and management of sleeping position may lessen the severity of discomfort and prevent pain in some cases. Moreover, some research suggests that getting adequate rest can decrease the perception of joint pain, so committing to a full seven to nine hours of sleep may be another preventive measure.

Wearing proper footwear may also play a role in the prevention of hip pain while walking. While some research suggests that improper footwear can result in foot pain and disorders, it is worth noting that this too can impact the hip joint, as it is responsible for connecting the lower extremity of the body.

Custom orthotics may be advisable for some individuals. A healthcare provider who understands gait and posture and the impact on the hip will be able to determine if orthotics are needed in your situation.

When To Call A Healthcare Provider

While some hip pain can be managed with little effort, there are some cases that require immediate medical attention. Sciatica, for example, is a nerve condition that may result in numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" feeling due to irritation of the sciatic nerve, which runs through the lower back, hips, and legs.

These sensations can also be symptomatic of general nerve damage, compression, or pinched nerves, all of which require consultation with a healthcare provider. Additionally, if hip pain renders you immobile, or if the joint feels as though it is radiating heat, consult with a medical provider.

A Word From Verywell Fit

Hip pain can generally be prevented and managed on an individual basis. Healthy sleep hygiene, proper footwear, engaging in hip strengthening exercises, and maintaining an ideal bodyweight can all help minimize hip discomfort while walking.

If you sense that hip pain may be more serious, for example the symptoms are consistent with nerve damage, seek the guidance of a medical professional. The can evaluate your symptoms and develop a treatment plan that addresses your hip pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is walking good for hip pain?

    Walking is a low-impact activity that increases mobility, which is key in managing hip pain caused by arthritis. It also can be beneficial in helping you move more throughout the day—especially when your hip pain is caused by sitting too long or riding in a car for extended periods of time.

    Whatever your condition, walking has many health benefits and can be included as part of an overall balanced lifestyle. That said, if walking causes severe hip pain or your pain does not improve with movement, you should see a healthcare provider.

  • How do you strengthen your hips?

    Exercises that assist in proper joint alignment can aid in strengthening the hips. Likewise, strengthening the muscles that support the hips, such as the abductors and glutes, can help prevent hip injury. Moves such as bridges, clams, side band walks, and planks can all be included.

  • How do I know if hip pain is serious?

    Pain that feels like heat, numbness, tingling, or pins and needles may be a sign of a serious medical condition. In this case, contacting a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms is recommended.

9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip strains.

  3. Arthritis Foundation. Bursitis.

  4. National Library of Medicine. Bursitis.

  5. Hospital for Special Surgery. Hip arthritis.

  6. Tyler TF, Nicholas SJ. Rehabilitation of extra-articular sources of hip pain in athletesN Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2007;2(4):207-216. PMID:21509140

  7. Parimi N, Blackwell T, Stone KL, et al. Hip pain while using lower extremity joints is associated with sleep disturbances in elderly Caucasian women: The Study of Osteoporotic FracturesArthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2012 doi:10.1002/acr.21630

  8. Staffe AT, Bech MW, Clemmensen SLK, Nielsen HT, Larsen DB, Petersen KK. Total sleep deprivation increases pain sensitivity, impairs conditioned pain modulation and facilitates temporal summation of pain in healthy participantsPLOS ONE. 2019. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0225849

  9. Buldt AK, Menz HB. Incorrectly fitted footwear, foot pain and foot disorders: A systematic search and narrative review of the literatureJ Foot Ankle Res. 2018. doi:10.1186/s13047-018-0284-z

By Nicole Rodriguez, RDN, NASM-CPT
Nicole Rodriguez, registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, resides in the metro New York area, where she offers nutrition counseling and fitness coaching to a diverse clientele.