5 Ways to Fix Hip Pain That Have Nothing to Do with Your Hip

Bothered by hip pain? Before you point to the hip as the culprit, you and your healthcare provider will need to hone in carefully on the exact location of the problem. You could be experiencing any combination of pain from the lower back, buttock, pelvis, groin or even thigh. The distinction is important because the location can provide clues about the real cause of your pain. Regardless of which area actually feels pain, any of these hip-related structures may be less blameworthy than you thought.

Confused? You’re not alone. It’s not uncommon or unreasonable to believe that there’s something wrong exactly where you feel pain. But, while that seems like a logical conclusion, very often people experience referred pain. Referred pain is a symptom that originates in one place, but is felt in another. This can happen because of the many different structures in the body that share a common nerve supply and common embryological origins (body development from the embryo stage).

The most confusing referred pain conditions appear in the thigh, groin or hamstring areas, but originate from irritated structures of the spine—even though they are significantly far away from where the pain is felt. The source could be the nerves that exit through the spine, the joint capsules and where they attach on the bones, or the muscles that connect the bones of the spine to each other.

Importantly, when you experience hip pain, you need to stop rolling out, stretching out and pushing on the pain where it’s hurting. Instead, to actually resolve your “hip” pain, you need to relieve the stress at the source. This desire to poke and prod in the area of pain can actually cause a new problem to develop by creating added inflammation. When spinal nerves (the “wiring” that controls your muscles) or your nervous system at large (the “control panel”) are stressed or irritated, and likely inflamed, they can send messages to muscles that in turn make them tight and achy. You’ll never fix the root problem if you don’t fix the reason the wiring that controls these painful structures is upset in the first place.

Instead of harassing the structures of the poor hip, start with these five pain-relieving measures:

1. Stop the stress. Even when you don’t know where exactly the pain is coming from, help your body by restoring its neutral spinal positioning. Achieve this by lying down with the right supports in place under the neck, lower back and knees (illustrated here). If your hip pain is coming from spinal structures, this will decrease the stress on the source of your pain. This is what I call a “passive release technique” and it’s a powerful way to allow the body to recalibrate mechanically. It will reduce the neuromuscular static in the messaging between brain and body.

2. Apply an ice pack. Your first line of defense for new or fresh pain is ice. While you’re lying down in the passive release position (see #1), you might as well deploy this other anti-inflammatory method. Remember to try ice on the lower back even if it’s your hip that’s hurting. If cooling the area gives you some relief, this verifies that there’s nothing to panic about—even if the relief is only temporary, it shows that there’s a way to get rid of the pain eventually.

3. Gentle movement. If you’re not totally immobilized by the pain, go ahead and explore motion. Engaging the muscles is an important part of pushing the irritating, pain-causing chemicals associated with tissue stress out of the area. Without motion, we allow them to accumulate and further irritate the area as they build up. If it feels okay to stand, gentle walking can actually be the best remedy. Depending on the severity of the pain, swimming or pool-walking is a great tool if you can’t tolerate the weight of your body well enough for walking. It’s important to move in a safe way by incorporating the concept of neutral spine (#1). The more gingerly you can move about in your effort to maintain that neutral spine as much as possible, the more quickly you’ll recover.

4. Reduce your stress. Breathe! Incorporate mindful breathing to help calm your mind and body. Abdominal tension related to your stress habits can cause referred pain in the hip, back and pelvis. Biochemical stress (from irritants in the environment or poor diet) needs your attention, too. When dealing with muscle spasms and general muscle tension that feel out of control, often it’s found that magnesium levels in the body are low. Leafy greens like chard are rich in magnesium or you can seek out supplements to give your system the boost it might need.

5. See your health professional. If your pain is stubborn or not responding to any of these basic measures, definitely check in with a health professional who can help get to the root of your “hip” pain.

Ya-Ling J. Liou is a chiropractic physician who, after more than 20 years of clinical experience, continues to expand and share her intuitive body care techniques. Her new book, Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain (Return to Health Press, 2015), takes into account the whole person, and aims not only to address the mechanical balance of the body, but also the chemical and emotional aspects that so often influence this balance. Dr. Liou lives, works and writes in Seattle. Learn more at www.stopeverydaypain.com.

82 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hillabout a year ago

thanks

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Beverly C.
Beverly Cabout a year ago

Thank You For The Good Suggestions.

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Jean K.
Jean Kabout a year ago

Um, it's HOME in folks, not hone in.

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Nina S.
Nina Sabout a year ago

tyfs

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Tanya W.
Tanya Wabout a year ago

Good to know

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Tanya W.
Tanya Wabout a year ago

Cheers

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Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

TYFS

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Jane R.
Jane Rabout a year ago

Makes sense to me.

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Hent catalina - maria
Hent catalina - mariaabout a year ago

Thanks

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