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Phys Ther. 2009 Mar;89(3):248-56. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20070366. Epub 2009 Jan 23.

Patient screening by a physical therapist for nonmusculoskeletal hip pain.

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Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services, Richard L Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 1481 W 10th St, PMRS-117, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.



Mechanical hip pain and disease-based hip pain can have similar signs and symptoms, thereby presenting a differential diagnostic challenge for clinicians. Hip pain is a common complaint addressed by physical therapists; therefore, it would be advantageous for them to be knowledgeable about differential diagnosis for hip pain, so that they can screen for possible serious conditions outside the realm of physical therapist practice and make the appropriate referral.


A 77-year-old man was referred for physical therapy by his primary care physician (PCP) with diagnoses of lumbar spine and left hip osteoarthritis and possible trochanteric bursitis. After the examination, the physical therapist determined that the patient should return to his PCP for further testing. Findings leading to this conclusion were pain severity out of proportion to the reported injury, the presence of night pain, a positive "sign of the buttock," and empty end feels of all hip joint motions, which represented a noncapsular pattern of joint restriction.


The patient was diagnosed later with primary lung adenocarcinoma with widespread metastases. A computerized tomography scan of the left hip revealed a metastatic lesion at the left proximal femur.


Physical therapists' ability to adequately screen for conditions requiring examination by a physician can lead to a more timely diagnosis of serious medical conditions. Investigators have found published descriptions of end feels, capsular versus noncapsular patterns of restriction, and the sign of the buttock to be beneficial screening tools for use in people with hip, pelvis, or lumbar spine pain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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