My hip is damaged’: a qualitative investigation of people seeking care for persistent hip pain

I R de Oliveira B, Smith AJ, O’Sullivan PPB, et al ‘ – British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020; 54:858-865.


Objectives Clinicians who use the biopsychosocial approach to manage musculoskeletal pain disorders aim to understand how patients make sense of their symptoms. Treatment includes targeting the negative beliefs and coping responses that can lead to progressive pain and disability. We aimed to explore how people seeking care for persistent hip pain and disability make sense of their symptoms.

Methods Cross-sectional qualitative study. People were eligible if they were aged ≥18 years, were consulting an orthopaedic surgeon for persistent hip pain and offered a non-surgical intervention. Data were collected through interviews that explored patients’ beliefs about the identity (diagnosis), causes, consequences, timeline and controllability of their symptoms, their strategies to cope with pain and their experiences in seeking healthcare. Transcribed interview data were analysed thematically using a framework approach.

Results Sixteen people (median age=51, range=33–73 years; median duration hip pain=3 years, range=3 months–20 years) participated. Most participants (10/16) believed their pain was caused by an exercise-related injury. Because of the results of imaging and interactions with healthcare professionals, all participants believed they had damaged hip structures. All described ineffective strategies to manage their pain and multiple failed treatments. For many (7/16), a lack of control over symptoms threatened their physical and mental health.

Conclusions The way participants with persistent hip pain and disability made sense of their symptoms contributed to them avoiding physical activity, and it impaired their sleep, emotional well-being and physical health.