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Hip Pain: Causes, Symptoms, & Solutions

Hip pain is one of the most common symptoms we see as chiropractors.   The hips carry a lot of weight and are very mobile joints, a combination that often leads to joint dysfunction and muscle imbalances.  These two problems can commonly cause pain and other symptoms.  However, not all symptoms that feel like they are coming from the hip, actually stem from hip-related issues.  Being able to identify where your pain is coming from is an important step in understanding the underlying cause and ultimately correcting the problem.

Pain that comes from the hip joint itself is most commonly felt in the groin and front upper thigh.  This pain pattern is often due to degeneration in the ball-and-socket joint of the hip.  Degeneration is the wear and tear that happens to the soft tissue on the inside of the joint itself, such as the cartilage.  This soft tissue is there to provide smooth motion in the hip joint and keep the bones from grinding on each other.  After that soft tissue has worn down, either from age, an old injury, or a genetic malformation, the hip bones become stressed and also begin to change.  These changes can lead to pain.  This type of hip pain can be managed by improving the joint function through chiropractic adjustments and mobility exercises.  While the soft tissue loss and bony changes that have already occurred may not be reversible, it is possible to slow down the degeneration process and improve pain and function.

Pain on the outermost side of the hip is likely coming from a muscle imbalance in the core and pelvis, which results in excess strain on the IT band.  The IT band is a thick, fibrous tissue that runs from the outer hip area to the outside of the knee, which is why outer hip pain is sometimes accompanied by outer knee pain.  The most common cause of IT band problems is weakness in the glute muscles, which often results from sitting too much.  The glute muscles keep the hip rotated outward when walking, running, or squatting.  When these muscles get weak and the hip is allowed to rotated inward, the IT band often takes the punishment.  To correct this issue, the IT band can be treated itself with stretching, foam rolling, or one of many soft tissue release techniques.  However, if the glute weakness is not addressed through proper strengthening exercises, it is likely that this painful issue will continue.

Symptoms on the backside of the hip are usually from one of two causes.  If the pain is dull and achy in the area of one of the “dimples” in the low back it is likely due to sacroiliac joint dysfunction.  This is the joint between the tailbone (sacrum) and pelvis (ilium).  This issue can lead to faulty motion patterns and local inflammation, either of which can cause pain in that area.  The good news is that this dysfunction is generally not long lasting and can be treated conservatively with chiropractic adjustments.  If the pain is located a little lower, more in the glute region, it is likely from tightness and irritation to the piriformis muscle.  This is a small muscle that spans from the tailbone to the outside of the hip.  Stretching and foam rolling the piriformis muscle can be painful but can also provide relief from this pain pattern. 

If you have any type of hip pain, ask how we can help!

Yours in Health, Dr. Alex

Project Wellness Company, Madison WI