Hip Pain – Is it my hip, back, pelvis, or thigh?

Piriformis Stretch
Hamstring Stretch

When you think about pain in your “hip”, it seems people often call any pain that is off to the side in a general area “hip pain”.  Ultimately, the actual hip joint itself is not often the source of the pain.  Pain that is NOT directly on the side could be coming from your pelvis, butt, back, or leg.  We can address these concerns in another post.  Pain that IS directly on the side is typically hip bursitis.  Hip bursitis is the most common source of pain in the hip.  Overuse from running or being on your feet for a while, recent change in activity level, muscle tightness, direct pressure on the hip, or muscle imbalance are often the root cause. 

A little background on what the bursa is…A bursa is basically a fluid-filled sac that helps reduce friction between a bone and a muscle/tendon.  Our muscles and tendons need to glide easily over major joints in the hip, knee, shoulder, elbow.  Think of cooking oil in a sandwich bag that you rub between your fingers.  When this sac gets inflamed or irritated, it can cause a lot of pain. 
IT Band Stretch

Some early tips for addressing bursitis (that pain that is directly on the side of your upper thigh) are:

  • Ice
  • Rest
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Avoid running, hills, stairs, and direct pressure on that hip (i.e. sleeping/lying down on that side).

These are good ways to minimize irritation. Sometimes that is enough to get rid of the pain.  Often, more needs to be done, though.  To help free up restricted surrounding soft tissues, see the video clip below.  I made it for knee pain, but ultimately it is designed to free up the IT band which can address hip pathology too – focus on the area closer to your hip in this case, instead of lower toward your knee.  Other helpful treatment options are stretching…hamstring, piriformis, IT Band, and the quadriceps muscles.  These can all improve mobility.  The most important part of the piriformis stretch is to pull your knee to the opposite shoulder.  You feel feel this in your buttock area.  Remember to hold all stretches 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.