Introduction Identifying the source of pain is paramount for determining appropriate treatment and ensuring successful outcome in terms of management and relief of pain. The difficulty is that each surgeon has his or her own way of seeing the problem, and there is no consensus for the evaluation of these patients. The study hypothesis was that it is possible to find the cause of the pain in most cases. Patients and methods All patients consulting for unexplained painful hip arthroplasty were included and followed a decision tree to assess the cause of the pain. The primary endpoint was the final diagnosis. Secondary endpoints were subgroup comparison between main causes and assessment of risk factors. Results Two hundred one hips of 194 patients were included as unexplained painful hip arthroplasty 6 months postoperatively. Final diagnoses comprised periarticular pain in 53 cases (26.4%): 40 cases of trochanteric bursitis, 5 of iliopsoas tendinitis, 5 of abductor deficiency, 1 of ischial tuberosity tendinitis, and 2 of heterotopic ossification; projected pain in 49 (24.4%): 45 cases of back pain with or without neuropathy, 3 of knee osteoarthritis, and 1 of metabolic neuropathy; wear in 40 (19.9%), in the polyethylene liner; loosening in 20 (10.0%): loosening of the femoral component in 8 and that of the cup in 12; material problems in 17 (8.5%): trunnionosis in 13 and metallosis in metal-on-metal implants in 4; no diagnosis in 7 hips (3.5%); infection in 6 (3.0%), all chronic; instability without real dislocation in 3 (1.5%); misplacement in 3 (1.5%), all for leg-length discrepancy; fracture in 2 (1.0%): 1 of greater trochanter and 1 of ilio-ischiopubic ramus; complex regional pain syndrome in 1 (0.5%). Discussion To our knowledge, this is the first study on the causes of painful hip arthroplasty in clinical practice, whether leading to revision or not. A systematic approach, including physical examination, radiographic assessment and laboratory studies, is needed to find the cause of the pain. It is important to understand the pain so that it can be treated appropriately. Revision surgery can sometimes help—but the worst thing is to make the patient worse. Level of Evidence level 4, retrospective study.