Hip pain is more common in women than men and is most prevalent in women aged 40–60 years. It is mainly caused by injury or overuse, although there are some other causes.
In this article, we take a look at these causes, along with available treatment options and tips for preventing hip pain at night.
Common causes of hip pain at night
Hip pain at night can be caused by a variety of different conditions affecting the hip joint, connected muscles, or surrounding tissue.
Greater trochanteric pain syndrome
Hip pain may be caused by conditions affecting the joint, muscles, or surrounding tissue.
The muscles around the buttock are called the gluteal muscles. Poor strength in the gluteal muscles can cause the front of the hip to overcompensate to stabilize and support the rest of the joint.
This causes the tendons attaching the gluteal muscles to the hip and pelvis to become squeezed, leading to pain at the hip known as greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS).
GTPS specifically involves the tendons and fluid-filled sacs surrounding the greater trochanter, which is the prominent bony part of a hip. An injury to either the tendons or sacs can cause pain and tenderness to the hip, particularly at night.
Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that act as cushions, helping to reduce friction at the hip joint. Bursitis occurs when the bursae become inflamed.
Inflammation of the bursae causes pain from the hip that spreads down the side of the thigh. This sharp, intense pain may worsen at night.
Tendinopathy refers to any disease of the tendons. Tendons in the hip attach the gluteal muscles to the hip and pelvis. Together, they work to stabilize the pelvis and support hip mobility during day-to-day tasks, such as walking and going up the stairs.
Tendons in the hip may become inflamed or break down due to compression or overloading without having time to recover. This can cause hip pain at night.
Frequently sitting with legs crossed, or standing with all the weight on one hip can also cause tendinopathy and hip pain.
Osteoarthritis of the hip joint is another common cause of hip pain at night. Osteoarthritis is a result of age-related “wear and tear” of the tissue known as cartilage that surrounds the ends of bones.
As the cartilage at the hip wears away, the bones at the hip rub against each other, which leads to inflammation, swelling, and pain.
Osteoarthritis can present as stiffness and soreness of the hip, which can make everyday tasks difficult and painful over time. Hip pain can move around to the buttocks or down the leg, affecting mobility, and can be painful at night.
Strenuous exercise — such as soccer, running, or dancing — has been linked to increased risk of hip pain. This could be due to a range of conditions, including bursitis, tendinopathy, or injury to the iliotibial band, a band of tissue connecting the pelvis and the shin bone.
A recent change to the frequency of exercise may also be a trigger for injury or pain in the hip.
Several other factors could lead to hip pain occurring at night:
- Age: Both osteoarthritis and trochanteric bursitis are more common in older adults. People transitioning to menopause and post-menopausal women are also at greater risk of hip pain at night.
- Overweight and obesity: People who are overweight or obese are more likely to get osteoarthritis as their joints have to deal with more pressure from increased body weight.
- Accident or injury: Hip pain at night can be brought on by an injury that dislocates the hip joint or an accident, such as falling over.
- Pain from the knee, pelvis, or back: A person may feel pain from other areas of the body in the hip. For example, pain in the back caused by pressure on a nerve there can also occur in the hip.