I saw my primary care physician for hip pain that just won't go away. Despite a huge amount of time testing me every which way, there's no known cause for the problem. Should I insist on X-rays or an MRI?
There are many, many possible causes of hip pain. An accurate diagnosis is needed to direct treatment. But this can be elusive and take a long time to make. The physician's examination takes into account the possible etiology or cause of the problem. Was there some trauma? The mechanism of acute hip pain caused by injury is often a twisting motion. Overuse, repetitive motion, and diseases or degenerative conditions are other potential causes of hip pain. Pain patterns associated with hip problems start with a deep aching and stiffness in the hip. True hip pain is experienced in the front of the body down into the groin area. Hip pain along the pelvic rim, down the side of the leg, or down the back of the leg is usually a sign that the cause of the pain is extraarticular (outside the hip joint). This could be coming from pinching of the soft tissues, nerve entrapment, or other extraarticular lesions. Loss of motion and/or function can help point to the specific soft tissue structures affected. It sounds like your physician has been very thorough. Evaluation of hip pain may require imaging studies such as X-rays or MRIs. But unnecessary X-rays and other imaging studies should be avoided. Results are viewed cautiously as many changes in and around the hip may be observed but may not be the cause of the painful symptoms. The most obvious pathologies that must be treated include tumors, fractures, hematoma from bleeding after a fall, and infections. Often in the face of an unknown cause of joint pain, a short course of physical therapy can be a diagnostic aid for the physician and helpful to the patient. As experts in human movement dysfunction, the therapist can evaluate and treat the soft tissues and postural issues that could be the underlying cause of the problem.