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How are hip problems diagnosed?

If your hip pain continues to get worse for more than two weeks, you should see a doctor. They’ll ask you about your pain and what movements make it worse.

Pain when bending the hip to get up and down stairs, and in particular when putting on socks, is often a sign of a hip problem. Your doctor will also ask how your symptoms started, how they affect your day-to-day activities and whether you’re getting pain at night.

They’ll examine your hip to find out how well it moves, and this will usually give them enough information to plan your treatment, although you may need other tests to diagnose some conditions.

What tests are there?


X-rays are often the best way of finding out what’s wrong with the hip as they clearly show the condition of the bones. They’re very good at looking for arthritis in the hip, but they may also show problems in your pelvis which could explain your pain. They’re not as useful for looking at the soft tissues around the joint.

CT scans

A CT scan can often be very helpful to work out if the hip joint has an unusual shape. There are conditions where the socket of the hip can be very shallow, and a CT scan often helps to show this up.

MRI scans

MRI scans are useful for looking at the muscles and tendons around the hip. They’re particularly helpful for diagnosing avascular necrosis (see Specific hip conditions).

If your doctor thinks you have a torn acetabular labrum, they may suggest you have an MR arthrogram. A small amount of a compound called gadolinium contrast is injected into the hip joint before an MRI or CT scan is performed. This allows the capsule, the articular surface of the bones and the surface of the cartilage to be examined.

Blood tests

If your doctor thinks your pain is caused by an infection or rheumatoid arthritis, blood tests can often help.


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