The two bones that come together to create your hip are the femur (the large bone in your thigh that's also considered part of your knee) and the pelvis.
The top part of your femur (the femoral head) is shaped like a ball and it fits into the round socket on the side of your pelvis (the acetabulum). So, like your shoulder, your hip is a true ball-and-socket joint - a design that allows for the wide range of motion necessary for daily activities (e.g., walking).
The femoral neck attaches the femoral head to the rest of the femur. And the part of the femur that juts outward (you can feel the bump on side of your hip) is the greater trochanter. Large muscles, including the gluteus medius, connect to the greater trochanter and keep your pelvis stable as you walk.
There are also several important ligaments in your hip. Ligaments are soft tissue structures that connect bones to other bones, hold them in place and provide stability. Like your shoulder, a special type of ligament (a ring of fibrous cartilage) forms a unique structure inside the hip called the labrum. The labrum creates a deeper cup for the acetabulum socket. When this small rim of cartilage is injured, it can be very painful and cause "clicking" in the hip.
In fact, problems with the joint are often the cause of hip pain. You will feel this type of pain on the inside of your hip or in your groin area. But the muscles, ligaments, tendons and other structures that support your hip joint can also be the root of hip pain. You will feel pain associated with these components on the outside of your hip or the upper thigh. Diseases and conditions in other areas of your body can even cause hip pain. Physicians refer to this as "referred pain."
If you're experiencing an inability to walk comfortably on the affected side, hip pain that occurs at night or while resting, inability to bend the hip or swelling of the hip or the thigh area, it's a good idea to speak with a board-certified physician—before the condition gets worse. If the pain and/or limited motion persists for more than three months, it's considered chronic and you should consult with a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) specialist right away.
Before discussing your symptoms with a doctor, it may be helpful to review some common conditions.
Physiatrists are uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal pain and injury because it's the focus of their education and training. Physiatrists complete four years of medical school, plus an additional four years of residency training, and many go on to complete fellowships in various specialties. In order to become a board-certified physiatrist, physicians must then pass comprehensive tests (oral and written) administered by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (ABPM&R) or the American Osteopathic Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AOBPM&R). Physiatrists will assess your condition, needs and expectations thoroughly and develop a tailor-made treatment regimen.
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