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Painful Hip Lump Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

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Last updated October 29, 2020

Painful hip lump quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your lump.

A painful hip lump can appear from many factors concerning conditions of the skin, trauma from an injury, or nerve damage. Finding a skin abscess or cyst on the hip can cause hip pain. Read below for more information on common and rare causes of painful bumps on the hips.

13 most common causes

Iliopsoas Bursitis
Wart
Illustration of a person thinking with cross bandaids.
Skin cyst
Skin Abscess
Illustration of a person thinking with cross bandaids.
Pimples
Illustration of a health care worker swabbing an individual.
Melanoma
Hip Strain
Femoral Stress Fracture
Trochanteric Pain
Illustration of various health care options.
Benign bony growth (osteochondroma)
Illustration of a health care worker swabbing an individual.
Boil (furuncle)
Illustration of various health care options.
Atypical mole
Illustration of a person thinking with cross bandaids.
Fibrous dysplasia of bone

Painful hip lump quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your lump.

Take painful hip lump quiz

Painful lump on hip symptoms explained

The health of your hips is important — from going up stairs, to dancing with loved ones, or just walking down the street. Having a painful hip lump can severely impact your mobility and even be bothersome when you aren't moving at all. In order to address your painful hip lump, keep the following details in mind and perhaps take note of your hip's anatomy.

Hip anatomy

The hip is a relatively strong and stable ball-and-socket joint formed by the femur (the round end of the thigh bone) and the acetabulum (a cup-shaped socket) in the pelvis. See this image for a visual representation the hip joint and the different bones that form it. There are multiple muscles that surround and support the bones and the hip that allow for movement. These muscles include:

  • Gluteal muscles: These are the muscles in the buttocks that are important for abducting the hip (moving the hip away from the body laterally).
  • Adductor muscles: These muscles are important for moving the hip towards the body.
  • Hamstrings muscles: These muscles help extend the hip.
  • Iliopsoas muscle: This muscle is important for flexing the hip.

Common characteristics of a painful hip lump

Associated symptoms and characteristics of a painful hip lump may include the following:

Less-concerning characteristics

New lumps and bumps on the body are also concerning since they can be the initial sign of a cancerous process. However, there are signs and symptoms that are reassuring. Lumps in the hip are less concerning if they have the following characteristics:

  • Soft
  • Easily mobile
  • Get smaller in size with rest

More concerning characteristics

Lumps in the hip that require prompt follow-up include the following characteristics:

  • Hard
  • Rigid/stuck in place
  • Grows in size over time

Make an appointment with your physician if you experience these symptoms in order to get appropriate treatment and counseling.

What does a painful lump on your hip mean?

There are various specific structures within the hip region such as muscles, nerves, and bones.

In addition to the bones and muscles mentioned above, the hip has specific nerves and blood supply that can become injured and manifest with pain. These include:

  • Nerves: The three major nerves and their branches in the hip and thigh the femoral nerve, the sciatic nerve, and the obturator nerve together provide both sensory information and innervation to the muscles of the thigh and hip.
  • Other structures: There are also various tendons, ligaments, and arteries throughout this area. Tendons connect muscle to bone and ligaments connect bone to bone.

Conditions that affect these structures can result in hip lumps that can be grouped into the following categories:

Traumatic causes

Causes related to trauma to the hip that can result in a painful hip lump include the following.

  • Direct: Trauma to the hip area can range from minor events such as bumping a table to a fall to serious events such as a motor vehicle accident. Traumatic causes may also be associated with visible deformity and bleeding depending on the severity of the trauma.
  • Repetitive: The hip is a major weight-bearing joint of the body and is susceptible to injury from repetitive movements. These movements may causea comparatively small injury but result in significant pain. Mechanical or anatomical problems with the joint and how it interacts with other joints and connections of the leg and hip may result in irritation that may result in a painful lump as well.

Rheumatologic causes

Rheumatologic causes that can result in a painful hip lump may include the following.

  • Arthritis: Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Arthritis can result in thickening and swelling that can result in damage and deformity of the bones and cartilage in the form of nodules.
  • Cysts: Cysts are sacs that can be filled with fluid, air or other material that can form in any part of the body. Cysts can occur in the hip and cause pain that can lead to injury from constant inflammation. The hip is especially susceptible to the formation of cysts given that it has many bursae small, fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction in the joints. These bursae can become inflamed causing pain and a noticeable.

Inflammatory causes

Inflammatory causes that can result in a painful hip lump include the following.

  • Infections: Some infectious pathogens (mainly bacteria) can infect the bones of the hip resulting in a condition known as osteomyelitis. An infection of the skin can also result in a painful, pus-filled collection called an abscess.
  • Dermatologic: There are many dermatologic conditions that can result in a painful lump on the hip. For example, panniculitis is a group of inflammatory diseases that affect the fatty tissue under the skin and result in skin nodules.

Malignant causes

In general, any growth is the result of cells dividing and growing uncontrollably. Sometimes there is a genetic mutation in DNA or a specific protein or failure in an important checkpoint that results in this unchecked growth. These abnormal cells accumulate to form a noticeable lump. A lump (also known as a tumor) can be benign; however, if this lump grows and invades the body it is considered malignant.

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Wart

Warts, also called common warts or verrucae, are small, rough, rounded growths on the top layer of the skin. They may appear singly or in clusters.

Common warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and are contagious through direct contact, especially through a break in the skin. They may spread from one place on the body to another simply through touch.

Anyone can get warts but they are most common in anyone with a weakened immune system, as from illness or chemotherapy. Children and teenagers are also susceptible to warts.

Warts often first appear on the hands and fingers, especially near the nails or after any injury to the skin. This is why biting fingernails is a risk factor for warts.

Warts are benign, meaning they are not cancerous. But they can be unsightly and interfere with normal use of the hands, so treatment is often beneficial.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination. Warts in children sometimes go away without treatment, but otherwise most warts can be easily removed in a doctor's office.

Painful hip lump quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your lump.

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Skin cyst

A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.

It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.

These cysts are not contagious.

Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.

Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.

Skin abscess

A skin abscess is a large pocket of pus that has formed just beneath the skin. It is caused by bacteria getting under the skin, usually through a small cut or scratch, and beginning to multiply. The body fights the invasion with white blood cells, which kill some of the infected tissue but form pus within the cavity that remains.

Symptoms include a large, red, swollen, painful lump of pus anywhere on the body beneath the skin. There may be fever, chills, and body aches from the infection.

If not treated, there is the risk of an abscess enlarging, spreading, and causing serious illness.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

A small abscess may heal on its own, through the body's immune system. But some will need to be drained or lanced in a medical provider's office so that the pus can be cleaned out. Antibiotics are usually prescribed.

Keeping the skin clean, and using only clean clothes and towels, will help to make sure that the abscess does not recur.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: rash with bumps or blisters, red rash, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, pus-filled rash, rash

Symptoms that always occur with skin abscess: rash with bumps or blisters

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Pimple

Pimples are also called comedones, spots, blemishes, or "zits." Medically, they are small skin eruptions filled with oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

Pimples often first start appearing at puberty, when hormones increase the production of oil in the skin and sometimes clog the pores.

Most susceptible are teenagers from about ages 13 to 17.

Symptoms include blocked pores that may appear flat and black on the surface, because the oil darkens when exposed to the air; blocked pores that appear white on the surface because they have closed over with dead skin cells; or swollen, yellow-white, pus-filled blisters surrounded by reddened skin.

Outbreaks of pimples on the skin can interfere with quality of life, making the person self-conscious about their appearance and causing pain and discomfort in the skin. A medical provider can help to manage the condition, sometimes through referral to a dermatologist.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment involves improving diet; keeping the skin, hair, washcloths, and towels very clean; and using over-the-counter acne remedies.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump

Symptoms that always occur with pimple: pink or red facial bump

Urgency: Self-treatment

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole. Most s have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal, or "ugly looking."

You should visit your primary care physician. Surgery is the first treatment of all stages of melanoma. Other treatments include chemotherapy and radiation, biologic, and targeted therapies. Biologic therapy boosts your body's own ability to fight cancer. Targeted therapy uses substances that attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Iliopsoas bursitis

Bursae are small fluid-filled sacks located around the body in strategic locations to provide a cushion and help reduce friction. Iliopsoas bursitis, or hip bursitis, is an inflammation of the hip bursa, causing pain at the point of the hip. The pain may extend to the outside of the thigh area.

You should visit your primary care physician. Treatment for this condition usually involves avoiding activities that worsen the symptoms, over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Surgery is rarely needed.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: thigh pain, groin pain, limping, snapping or clicking sensation of the hip, pain in the front of the hip

Symptoms that never occur with iliopsoas bursitis: fever, back pain, butt pain from an injury, pain in both hips, unmovable hip lump, hard hip lump, back pain that shoots down the leg

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Hip strain

Hip strain means that a muscle and/or a tendon that supports one of the ball-and-socket joints of the hip has become overstretched or torn.

Most hip strains occur during sports or other physical work, though they can happen while doing ordinary activities. Both the pelvic bones and the femur, or thighbone, are large weight-bearing bones. The tendons, which attach muscles to these bones, can be subject to strain during hard work and are most vulnerable when the person is out of condition or did not warm up before exercising.

An acute strain happens suddenly, usually after a fall or other injury. It may be very painful and swollen, and interfere with movement. A chronic strain comes on gradually after weeks or months of overuse and may only produce some discomfort.

Once a muscle or tendon has been strained, it is vulnerable to being injured again if not treated.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and x-rays.

Treatment involves rest; ice; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling; physical therapy; and sometimes surgery.

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, also called trochanteric bursitis or GTPS, is an inflammation of the bursa of the greater trochanter.

Bursae are the small "cushions" between tendons, bones, and muscles. The greater trochanter is the larger of two bony knobs at the top of the thigh bone. Overuse, trauma, or infection can cause inflamed and irritated bursae around the greater trochanter.

Most susceptible are individuals with low back pain, osteoarthritis, and obesity.

Symptoms include chronic, persistent pain on the outside of the hip that radiates down the outside of the leg, sometimes to the knee.

The symptoms are similar to other conditions such as degenerative joint disease, and so a medical provider should be seen for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and observation of simple movements.

Treatment largely involves managing the symptoms through weight loss, physical therapy, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In some cases, corticosteroid injections into the hip work well to relieve pain, and surgery can sometimes help.

Fibrous dysplasia of bone

This is a genetic condition where part of a bone develops incorrectly using the wrong type of materials (fibrous instead of bony tissue), causing a weak area of bone that is prone to fractures. This process begins before birth, and the cause of the gene mutation is not fully known.

You should visit your primary care physician who will confirm the diagnosis with X-Ray. Surgical treatment is often necessary to stabilize the bone.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: spontaneous bone pain, groin pain, pain in one thigh, spontaneous hip pain, upper leg bump

Symptoms that always occur with fibrous dysplasia of bone: spontaneous bone pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Femoral stress fracture

Femoral stress fracture means there is a break in the femur, or thighbone. The femur is the largest and strongest bone in the body and is important for bearing weight. A femoral stress fracture usually occurs in the top of the bone where it connects to the pelvis.

Stress fractures happen from overuse and/or from weakness in the bone from disease, rather than from trauma. Those in heavy physical training, such as athletes and military trainees, are vulnerable to femoral stress fracture. But anyone suffering from malnutrition or osteoporosis is vulnerable to a stress fracture, even with ordinary activities of daily living.

Symptoms include pain deep in the thigh or groin, especially during exercise. The pain may have started gradually instead of being sudden, as with a traumatic injury. The condition might be thought to be a simple strain.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, with simple tests such as hopping on the painful leg, and imaging.

Treatment involves rest; improved nutrition; study of proper training and striding techniques; and sometimes surgery.

Boil (furuncle)

A furuncle, also called a boil, is infection of a hair follicle. The infection forms under the skin at the root of the hair and may occur anywhere on the body.

The infection is caused by bacteria, most often Staphylococcus aureus or "staph." Irritation caused by clothes or anything else rubbing the skin can cause the skin to break down and allow bacteria to enter.

Staph bacteria are found everywhere. Frequent and thorough handwashing, and otherwise maintaining cleanliness, will help to prevent its spread.

Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system; diabetes; and other skin infections.

Symptoms include a single bump under the skin that is swollen, painful, and red, and contains pus.

It is important to treat the boil, since infection can spread into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes fluid sample from the boil.

Treatment may involve incision and drainage of the infection, followed by creams to apply to the site of the boil and/or a course of antibiotic medicine.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pink or red facial bump, small facial lump, painful facial bump, marble sized facial lump, constant skin changes

Symptoms that always occur with boil (furuncle): pink or red facial bump

Symptoms that never occur with boil (furuncle): fever

Urgency: Self-treatment

Benign bony growth (osteochondroma)

An osteochondroma is a non-cancerous growth that usually develops during childhood or adolescence. It is a benign tumor that forms on the surface of a bone near the growth plate.

You should visit your primary care physician for X-Ray evaluation. In most cases this condition is treated by careful observation over time to make sure the tumor does not grow. Surgery is considered if the osteochondroma causes pain, puts pressure on a nearby nerve or blood vessel, or has a large cap of cartilage.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: lower leg bump, upper leg bump, numbness in one thigh, painful thigh lump, hip bump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Atypical mole

Moles are growths on the skin. They happen when pigment cells in the skin, called melanocytes, grow in clusters. Certain moles are considered "atypical" because of their size and characteristics, which require careful watching and possibly even biopsy in order to monitor for development into cancer. Atypical moles, also called dysplastic nevi deserve more attention than normal moles.

You should go see your primary care doctor to examine the mole. He or she can determine if next steps are necessary.

Painful hip lump quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your lump.

Take painful hip lump quiz

How and when to treat a painful hip lump

When to see a doctor for a painful hip lump

Since the causes of hip lumps are varied, it is important to make an appointment with your physician in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Depending on the cause of your symptoms, your physician may suggest the following.

  • Surgery: Surgery is often the first-line option for removing both benign and malignant growths from the hip and other areas of the body. Surgery for malignant growths is often also treated with other chemical treatments.
  • Pain medication: Medications such as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) that help alleviate the pain associated with hip lumps.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Inflammatory causes of hip lumps may be treated with medications that target and decrease inflammation, including immune system suppressing drugs.
  • Cancer treatment: If your hip lump and associated symptoms are due to malignant cancer, your physician will discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.

At-home treatments for a painful hip lump

Supportive measures such as resting and leg elevation combined with icing and compression bandages may also help alleviate swelling and discomfort. If your hip lump lessens or goes away with these supportive measures, your condition is most likely not life-threatening.

FAQs about painful hip lump

Will the lump in my hip go away on its own?

Depending on the cause, there is a possibility that the lump and the accompanying pain will go away on its own. If the hip lump is a cyst or caused by trauma or repetitive injury, the likelihood that it will go away on its own is high. However, if the hip lump is a benign or malignant tumor, it will not resolve on its own and will require follow-up.

Will the lump spread from one hip to the other?

If the lump is red or multiple lumps appear on one hip, this is most likely an inflammatory etiology like panniculitis. These bumps may spread and affect the other leg in the first few weeks; however, they can be easily treated and often resolve on their own. Other causes of hip lumps, on the other hand, usually do not spread from one hip to the other.

Is the lump chronic or temporary?

A hip lump may be temporary or chronic depending on the cause. A chronic hip lump is more associated with benign or malignant growths whereas temporary lumps are more associated with traumatic or inflammatory causes.

How will the lump affect my daily activities?

A hip lump can be very painful and uncomfortable but those related to trauma or repetitive activity should not affect your day-to-day in the long term. After a traumatic event, bed rest and limited activity on the affected hip will help with recovery, but after full recovery, knee or leg function should not be significantly affected. A hip lump associated with a benign or malignant growth may cause fatigue or unexplained weight loss, which may affect your energy to complete tasks. See your physician promptly if you feel like your symptoms are significantly affecting your life.

What can I do to prevent the development of hip lumps?

It is very difficult to prevent the development of hip lumps. The only situations in which the development of hip lumps may be prevented are those related to a repetitive injury. It may help to limit activities that require a lot of jumping or running and participate in cross-training activities that limit stress on the joints.

Questions your doctor may ask about painful hip lump

  • What color is the bump?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Is there fluid coming out of the bump?
  • Have you received an organ transplantation before?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Painful hip lump statistics

People who have experienced painful hip lump have also experienced:

  • 15% Hip Pain
  • 15% Lower Back Pain
  • 10% Hip Bump

People who have experienced painful hip lump were most often matched with:

  • 66% Skin Abscess
  • 16% Pimple
  • 16% Boil (Furuncle)

People who have experienced painful hip lump had symptoms persist for:

  • 38% Over a month
  • 26% Less than a week
  • 16% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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References

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  5. The management of greater trochanteric pain syndrome: A systematic literature review. J Orthop. 2016;13(1):15-28. Published 2016 Jan 22. doi:10.1016/j.jor.2015.12.006. NCBI Link