How can I help myself when I have hip pain?

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There are several things that you can try if you have hip pain. These include using painkillers, exercising and reducing the strain on your hip.

Painkillers

Simple painkillers such as paracetamol will often help to ease pain. It’s best to take them before the pain becomes very bad, but you shouldn’t take them more often than every 4 hours up to a maximum of 8 in 24 hours.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, which you can buy at chemists and supermarkets, can also help.

You can use painkillers and NSAIDs for a short course of treatment of about a week to 10 days. If they’ve not helped after this time then they’re unlikely to and you should see your doctor. However, if they do help but the pain returns when you stop taking them, you could try another short course. You can also try rubbing anti-inflammatory creams or gels onto affected areas.

If you smoke, or if you have circulation problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, you should check with your doctor or pharmacist whether it’s suitable for you to use over-the-counter NSAIDs because they may interact with any medication you’re taking. You shouldn’t take NSAIDs if you’re asthmatic. If you have stomach problems after using over-the-counter medication, you should stop taking the tablets and see your doctor.

Exercise

An episode of hip pain may respond to rest, but you should still do some gentle exercise to avoid the hip becoming stiff and your muscles weakening. We recommend that you don’t rest for more than a few days – start some gentle exercise as soon as the pain begins to ease. Simple exercises can help to restore your range of movement, promote strength, ease stiffness and get your hip back to normal.

As with any physical activity, you’ll need to use some common sense in doing these exercises. While some aches or discomfort during or following exercise are normal and should be expected, if an exercise makes your symptoms significantly worse it should be stopped.

It’s common for people to stop exercising once their pain has cleared up, but if you stop exercising all the improvements to your physical condition disappear within a few weeks. It’s important that you continue with exercise on a regular basis and don’t stop when the pain is gone and you’re feeling better.

Try our simple hip exercises (PDF, 830 KB).

Reducing the strain

It’s generally best to carry on doing your normal activities, but try not to overdo things. You might need to pace yourself to allow you to do a little bit more each day. Try the following tips:

  • Avoid sitting in low chairs as this bends the hip a lot and might give you more pain.
  • Don’t carry heavy weights. Use a trolley when you go shopping if carrying a basket is uncomfortable.
  • Find a comfortable sitting position at work to lessen the strain on your hip.
  • Use a stick to make walking a bit easier – a physiotherapist can assess you and tell you how to use it properly.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight.
  • Alter activities where you have to stand on one leg; for example, when you get into a car, sit on the side of the seat and swing both legs in rather than stepping in one leg at a time.

Complementary therapies

Many different complementary therapies and herbal remedies are believed to help with pain relief. Some people do feel better when they use complementary therapies, but on the whole these treatments aren’t recommended for use on the NHS because there’s no conclusive evidence that they’re effective.

Generally speaking, complementary and alternative therapies are relatively safe, although you should always discuss their use with your doctor before starting treatment. There are some risks associated with specific therapies.

In many cases the risks associated with complementary and alternative therapies are more to do with the therapist than the therapy. This is why it’s important to go to a legally registered therapist or one who has a set ethical code and is fully insured.

If you decide to try therapies or supplements, you should be critical of what they’re doing for you, and base your decision to continue on whether you notice any improvement.

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