Conditions > Hip Pain

Natural Hip Pain Relief

Quick Summary

  • The biggest challenge to treating hip pain is figuring out which structures are causes of your hip pain.

  • Hip pain is most often as a result of muscle pain, bursitis, tendonitis, or osteoarthritis.

  • The most effective natural treatments of hip pain can include gentle stretching and exercise, osteopathic manipulation treatments, acupuncture, and regenerative injections.


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Hip pain causes

To identify what causes your hip pain, you must identify where your hip pain is coming from. Remember that the hip is a complex joint with many structures. And so the biggest challenge to treating hip pain is figuring out which structures are causes of your hip pain.

Most likely, your hip pain will come from a combination of the following:
 

  • Hip flexor pain

  • Bursitis

  • Tendonitis

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Lower back pain

  • Muscle pain & trigger points

 

Your physician can identify your specific cause of hip pain by performing simple maneuvers that stress the tendons, joints, and ligaments, noting which maneuver results in pain. Let’s look at common hip pain causes in more detail.

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Hip flexor pain

Hip flexor pain often most often occurs when you sit frequently and for extended periods of time. So if you experience hip flexor pain after sitting, you are most likely experiencing muscle pain.

This is because when you sit, the muscles in your hip actually shorten and weaken over time. When these shortened muscles are then extended when you stand up or run, they aren’t able to stretch and extend properly.

This is especially noticeable when you exercise. During your CrossFit workout, or during that long and overdue run, your hip flexors and extensors are too tight to fully extend. When you try to force those muscles to stretch, you can start to cause muscle pain. Often times, this pain is felt on the front of the thigh where your leg joins your trunk.

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Bursitis of the hip

Pain on the outside of the hip can also be caused by a condition known as bursitis.

 

Your hip has many muscles that connect your hipbone to your pelvis. Some of these muscles and tendons run over your bone. Wherever this happens, your body has small, gel-like cushions called bursa that counter any friction between the muscle and bone.

 

When these bursa become inflamed or irritated, you experience a painful condition known as bursitis. As your bursa sac becomes inflamed, it becomes very sensitive. Anytime you engage muscles that run close to the bursa, you irritate that fluid-filled bursa sac. The result is hip pain felt on the outside of the hip.

 

This pain can be especially noticeable at night when you lay on your side. If you have bursitis, you may begin to experience pain and discomfort after a few minutes of laying on your side.

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Tendonitis of the hip

Tendons are tissues that attach your hip muscles to your hipbone. When your muscles are tight or overused, as a result of sitting for extended periods of time, you can cause inflammation in the tendons. This condition is known as tendonitis. Tendonitis of the hip can take a long time to resolve.

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Osteoarthritis in the hip

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, can also be responsible for your hip pain. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage between two bones begins to wear unevenly and start to wear away.

When the cartilage between your thigh bone and your hipbone begins to wear out, osteoarthritis and bone spurs in the hip can lead to impingement of movement and pain. You can learn more about osteoarthritis here.

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Lower back and hip pain

It’s important to remember that although you may experience pain in your hip, the problem may actually reside in the low back. Some hip flexors, for example, originate in the low back and run down to the hip.

 

When diagnosing your hip pain, it's important your physician looks above as well as below the hip joint. Your hip can also be affected by structural or muscular problems in the knee and foot. To treat these cases of hip pain, you must treat the structure responsible for the problem. You can read more about lower back pain here.

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Muscle pain

Muscle pain can result from instability in the hip joint. An unstable hip joint forces muscles that support the joint to tighten in order to compensate for any excess motion in the unstable joint.

 

Although it is normal for your bones to move a little bit more than they should as you age, if you can catch instabilities in the hip joint early, you can strengthen any damaged ligaments with treatments like regenerative medicine. Regenerative injections of prolotherapy, platelet rich plasma (PRP), or stem cells can strengthen and tighten ligaments and provide stability to the hip.

 

When the muscles surrounding your hip joint remain tightened for extended periods of time with little recovery time, you may also develop trigger points. Depending on what’s causing the instability in the joint, these trigger points can manifest in your hip or pelvis area, your buttock, or yiyr lower back.

 

Once stability of the hip joint is restored, your muscles can relax and soften, and you can regain pain-free range of motion in the hip.

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Hip pain after running or walking

If you experience hip pain after running or when walking, this is most likely as a  result of tight hip muscles. Specifically, the iliopsoas muscle, the rectus femoris, and the piriformis muscle.

 

If you sit for extended periods of time, the muscles in your hip are not able to stretch and extend fully. In fact, these muscles can shorten. When you stand up and begin to run or walk, any extension of these shortened muscles can be painful. Tension in the iliopsoas muscle, the rectus femoris, and the piriformis must be reduced for the pain to dissipate.

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Hip pain relief

Before we go over natural ways to relieve hip pain, it’s important to say that the best advice I can offer you is to see your physician about your hip pain. This is especially true if it’s ongoing and recurring.

 

Because the hip is such a complex joint, it is very difficult to self diagnose any hip pain, and even more difficult to self treat any problems. The most successful treatments for your hip pain will be a combination of the following:

 

  • Stretching

  • Osteopathic manipulation treatments (OMT)

  • Acupuncture treatments

  • Prolotherapy, PRP, stem cell therapy


 

Stretches for hip pain

Targeted stretches can soften tight muscles and help restore mobility to a restricted hip joint.

 

If you sit for extended periods of time, the piriformis muscle, the IT band, the psoas, among many other muscles, can become tight and shortened. Regularly stretching these muscles can help prevent daily or recurring hip pain. Once normal range of motion is restored, inflammation of the joint lessens dramatically or completely dissipates.

 

Some common stretches for hip pain include the hip flexor stretch, the piriformis stretch, and the butterfly stretch.


Osteopathic Manipulation Treatments (OMT)

Osteopathic manipulation treatments for hip pain can help naturally restore mobility to the joint, soften tight muscles, and for cases of arthritis, slow the advancement or progression of osteoarthritis.

 

This is because as soon as tissues surrounding the hip joint can move freely, your hip joint is able to function normally, giving your body a chance to heal that region.


Acupuncture for hip pain

Acupuncture can help increase blood flow to the hip, helping to loosen tight muscles. Acupuncture can also increase the body’s natural painkillers, resulting in a natural remedy to hip pain.


Prolotherapy for hip pain

Prolotherapy, PRP, or stem cell therapy can help force healing of damaged ligaments in the hip and pelvis area. This forced healing occurs when a damaged ligament is injected with an irritant that triggers your body’s healing response. If you are considering surgery for your hip pain, prolotherapy and PRP injections can offer a non-invasive alternative that I believe should be explored with your physician.


References

On hip tendonitis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4223288/

On hip bursitis: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/think-that-hip-pain-is-bursitis-think-again

Hip pain caused by musculoskeletal instabilities: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5106442/

On osteopathic manipulation treatments: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22411967

Written by: Dr. Dan Williams, DO
Last edited: November 12, 2018

 

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