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How long should your hip hurt after a fall?

Falls are a common cause of hip injury, especially in older adults. If you’ve recently taken a tumble and are now experiencing hip pain, you may be wondering how long you can expect the discomfort to last. Generally speaking, mild to moderate hip pain after a fall should improve within a few weeks. However, severe pain that persists longer than 4-6 weeks may indicate a more serious injury that requires medical attention.

In this article, we’ll discuss what determines how long hip pain lasts after a fall, warning signs not to ignore, and when to see a doctor. We’ll also provide tips to help speed your recovery.

What Determines the Duration of Post-Fall Hip Pain?

Several factors influence how long you can expect to experience hip pain after falling:

Severity of the Initial Injury

The more serious the injury, the longer recovery will take. Microtears or strains to muscles, ligaments and tendons will heal faster than large tears or complete ruptures. Fractures or broken bones take the longest to mend. Dislocated hips also lead to prolonged pain and disability.

Your Age

Due to slower healing times, older adults tend to have more persistent hip discomfort after a fall. The bones become more brittle and injury-prone with advanced age. Age-related wear and tear also contribute to joint stiffness and arthritis, prolonging discomfort.

Location of the Injury

The hip is a complex ball-and-socket joint with many surrounding muscles, connective tissues and nerves. Injuries can occur to any of these structures. The specific location of damage influences symptoms and recovery. For example, a strained inner thigh muscle will typically heal faster than a torn labrum cartilage in the hip socket.

Pre-existing Conditions

If you already had hip arthritis, previous injuries or muscle weakness, it’s likely to take longer to bounce back after a fall. The weakened area is vulnerable to more severe injury. Other health problems like obesity, diabetes or poor circulation also hamper healing.

Your Treatment Approach

The right treatment can help minimize pain and speed recovery after a fall. For example, crutches take pressure off an injured hip while it mends. Anti-inflammatory medication and ice reduces swelling and discomfort. Physical therapy exercises strengthen muscles around the joint for added support. Proper treatment makes a big impact on how quickly you’ll recover.

How Long Does Hip Pain Usually Last After a Fall?

Let’s take a look at the typical recovery timeline for mild, moderate and severe hip injuries:

Mild Injuries

With mild muscle, ligament or tendon strains, the worst hip pain usually dissipates within 2 to 4 weeks after the fall. You may notice lingering stiffness, achiness or discomfort with activity that continues improving over 6 to 8 weeks.

Moderate Injuries

Moderate sprains or tears to soft tissues around the hip take around 4 to 8 weeks to heal. Pain and stiffness will gradually get better during this timeframe. Swelling may persist for 3 to 4 weeks. You can expect to return to normal function within 8 to 12 weeks.

Severe Injuries

Severely torn hip muscles or ruptured tendons take 3 months or longer to completely heal. Dislocated hips and hip fractures require a minimum of 3 to 6 months recovery. Pain, stiffness and weakness continue gradually improving over 6 to 12 months. Some level of permanent impairment is likely.

Warning Signs Not to Ignore After a Hip Injury

While temporary soreness is normal after a fall, some symptoms warrant immediate medical evaluation:

Inability to Bear Weight

If you can’t put any weight on your leg without severe pain, it could signal a fracture, dislocation or severe muscle/tendon tear. These injuries often require a period of avoiding weight bearing. Seek prompt medical care.

Joint Deformity

If your hip looks visibly deformed or twisted, it’s likely dislocated and needs to be properly repositioned. Dislocations must be treated quickly to avoid permanent damage. Go to an emergency department.

Extreme Swelling

Moderate swelling and bruising is expected after a fall. But extensive swelling, or swelling that keeps increasing over time, could indicate a more significant injury. Severe swelling limits mobility and delays healing.

Numbness or Tingling

Hip injuries can occasionally pinch nerves, causing numbness, tingling or weakness down the leg. This suggests urgent treatment is needed before permanent nerve damage occurs. Seek evaluation within 24 hours.

Uncontrolled Pain

While some discomfort is normal, injuries causing severe, constant pain may benefit from surgical repair and aren’t likely to improve with time alone. Seek help if over-the-counter medication and ice fails to provide any relief.

When to See a Doctor

You should make an appointment with your healthcare provider if:

– Moderate to severe hip pain persists beyond 2 weeks after the fall

– You notice increasing pain or inability to bear weight as time passes

– Pain continues disrupting sleep or daily activities after 2-3 weeks

– Swelling, bruising or stiffness persists over 3 weeks

– You develop sudden numbness/tingling in the injured leg

– Home treatment with ice, rest and OTC medication fails to relieve discomfort

Tips to Help You Recover Faster After a Hip Injury

While each hip injury is unique, the following methods may help speed your overall recovery:

Rest and Avoid Weight Bearing

For severe injuries like fractures and dislocations, crutches, a walker or wheelchair will be necessary to avoid putting weight on the leg while it heals. Even with mild to moderate sprains and strains, limit standing or walking to reduce strain on injured tissues.

Ice Therapy

Using ice packs or cold compresses helps decrease inflammation, pain and muscular spasms after a hip injury. Ice for 15-20 minutes each hour initially after the fall, then reduce frequency as discomfort improves. Don’t apply ice directly on the skin.


Wearing a hip brace or elastic bandage provides gentle compression to help control swelling. Wrap snugly but not so tight it constricts circulation or pins nerves. Remove any compression devices at night.


Keep your injured hip elevated above the level of your heart as much as possible the first few days after a fall. This allows gravity to drain excess fluid and prevents increased swelling.

Range of Motion Exercises

Start gentle hip stretches and mobility exercises within the first week to prevent stiffness. Your doctor or physical therapist can provide the appropriate movements for your specific injury. Avoid forcing painful motions.

Anti-inflammatory Medication

Over-the-counter NSAID medication like ibuprofen helps relieve discomfort and control inflammation. Use as directed by your physician and for no longer than 10 days to avoid side effects.

Physical Therapy

Once initial healing has begun, physical therapy can strengthen the hip muscles and restore normal joint mobility. Following a tailored therapy program helps ensure you regain full function.

When to Expect Full Recovery

The time it takes your hip injury to fully heal depends on factors like your age and the injury’s severity. Here’s a general timeline:

Injury Type Time Until Pain Resolves Time Until Full Recovery
Mild sprain/strain 2 to 4 weeks 6 to 8 weeks
Moderate sprain/strain 4 to 8 weeks 8 to 12 weeks
Severe sprain/strain 8 to 12 weeks 3 to 6 months
Hip dislocation 8 to 12 weeks 3 to 6 months
Hip fracture 12 to 16 weeks 6 to 12 months

While recovering, don’t push yourself to return to activities before your hip is ready, as this can reinjure the area. Let pain be your guide – if an activity consistently causes significant hip discomfort, avoid it for the time being. With proper rest and rehabilitation, you can eventually regain full strength and mobility.

The Bottom Line

Mild to moderate hip pain that results from a fall should start improving within 2 to 4 weeks, but may linger for up to 3 months depending on the severity of injury and your individual healing ability. Severe injuries like fractures and dislocations can take over 6 months to fully resolve.

Seek prompt medical attention if you are unable to bear weight, have extreme swelling, numbness in the leg or uncontrolled pain after 48 hours. Getting the right treatment can significantly shorten your recovery time. With patience and proper care, the majority of hip injuries do eventually heal.