Hip pain is extremely common, especially as we get older. But with so many potential causes, it’s important to know what the location of hip pain means. Being able to pinpoint and describe the location of hip pain can be instrumental in finding the correct diagnosis.
Today we will be breaking down the location of hip pain to discuss what potential issues you could be dealing with. This is not intended as an official diagnosis, but as a jumping-off point to have a discussion with your doctor.
After we list the different types of hip issues based on the location of hip pain, we will discuss how to treat your pain once and for all with a mix of medical and at-home solutions.
What the location of hip pain means
There are so many causes of hip joint pain, so it can be difficult to narrow down and diagnose your specific issue. That’s where it’s helpful to understand the exact location of hip pain.
When you visit your doctor for your appointment, a good portion of your visit will be discussing where the hip hurts and how that pain feels. The location of hip pain will help the doctor to understand what is ailing you.
In general, we can divide hip issues into three different locations: front-of-hip pain, lateral (outer) hip pain, and posterior hip pain (pain in the back of the hip joint).
Each location of hip pain has its own list of potential causes, but the exact location of hip pain, and the type of pain you feel, will help your doctor to properly diagnose and treat your issue.
So, let’s take a look at those three main locations of hip pain and what they could mean for your joint.
The first location of hip pain we will discuss is front-of-hip pain. Here are the most common causes of pain in the front of your hip joint:
If you have sudden hip pain without injury that presents in the front of your hip, or deep within the hip joint, there is a good chance you have osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis, which many people refer to simply as arthritis, is the most common cause of hip pain – especially in older adults.
Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage that pads your hip joint wears down and causes the bones to grind together. This results in inflammation and pain.
Osteoarthritis is more common as we get older because your cartilage breaks down from wear and tear over time. And, unfortunately, it is difficult for our body to replenish our cartilage.
Why is cartilage slow to heal? Because it doesn’t contain an extensive system of blood vessels like your muscles or skin does. Without a vascular system to move healing nutrients and new tissue fibers, the healing process is very slow, indeed.
While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are many treatments that can manage the symptoms which we will discuss later in this article.
Hip flexor pain
Your hip flexors are a group of five muscles that are responsible for hip flexion. When you step forward, kick, or raise your knee toward your chest, you are using your hip flexors.
The two biggest hip flexor muscles are your iliacus and your psoas muscles. If you do something to irritate or injure your hip flexors, the location of hip pain will be in the front of your hip.
If you have injured your hip flexor, you may have trouble doing the actions listed above and may feel mild aching and burning or even sharp cramping.
Femoral neck fractures
Your hip is a ball and socket joint, and that “ball” is called the femoral head. At the base of the head is a slim piece of bone called the femoral neck. If you experience blunt trauma, start a new, strenuous activity, or have weaker bones from age or osteoporosis, this neck can fracture.
The location of hip pain from a femoral neck fracture is in the front of the hip, and it sometimes radiates down to the knee. You may experience more intense pain when you bear weight or rotate your hip joint sideways.
When one of your organs pushes the muscles or tissue that contain them, it is called a hernia. While a hernia happens in your abdomen or groin, the pain can sometimes present in the front of your hip.
A hernia is usually caused by the strain of lifting something heavy. You may feel strong discomfort, aching, and sometimes burning, and you can often see and feel a small bulge.
Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a condition where extra bone (a bone spur) grows in your hip joint. When your hip no longer fits together properly because of the bone spur, your bones can rub painfully together.
You usually feel the pain of FAI in the front of your hip, but it can sometimes present as outer hip pain too. You may feel a dull ache constantly, or a sharp, stabbing pain when squatting, twisting, or turning.
Outer hip pain
Sometimes the location of hip pain is on the outside of your hip. Outer hip pain, also known as lateral pain, can be caused by a few different issues including:
IT band syndrome
The iliotibial (IT) band is a tendon that runs on the outside of your leg from your pelvis to your knee. If the IT band gets too tight, it can rub against your bones and cause swelling and pain. This pain may be sharp or aching, and there may be a snapping sound in your outer knee.
You are at higher risk of IT band syndrome if you have bowed legs, different size legs, or weakness in your hip or ab muscles.
Hip abductor tendon tear
Your hip abductors help you open your hips out to the side. These tendons can get strained and tear, causing pain that gets worse and worse without treatment. It may even be difficult to stand or walk.
The location of hip pain from a hip abductor tendon tear is right around your hip bone on the outside of your hip. Abductors are the muscles that rotate an arm or leg to the side of the body. The abductor tendons in the hip help the hip open out to the side.
Hip labral tear
Your hip labrum is the ring of cartilage that lines your hip socket. If that cartilage tears from repetitive motion or a sudden twisting movement, you may feel pain in the outer hip, along with stiffness, limited range of motion, and a locking or catching sensation in your joint.
Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs in your joints that help reduce friction. Sometimes, they become irritated and inflamed. This is called bursitis. Hip bursitis is most often an issue around the bony point of your hip bone (called the greater trochanter).
Pain from hip bursitis radiates from the home bone to the outside of your thigh. It is usually sharp and intense in the beginning but can spread out and become more dull over time. Pain is typically worse when lying on the affected hip or getting up after sitting for long periods.
Gluteal tendinopathy is a tendon disorder in your buttocks where the tendons break down. It is more common in older women.
If you have gluteal tendinopathy, you may feel moderate to severe pain that extends from your outer hip down to your knee and lower leg. You may also feel lower back or groin pain. The pain usually worsens when you climb, lie on your side, stand on one leg, or sit cross-legged.
Posterior hip pain
The last main location of hip pain is posterior hip pain. This is pain behind your hip. You may experience posterior hip pain if you have:
The most common cause of posterior hip pain is a pinched nerve. This is most often due to pressure on (or injury to) the sciatic nerve. This condition is called “sciatica.”
Common causes of sciatica include:
- Slipped or herniated disk
- Piriformis syndrome
- Pelvic injury
You may feel pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in your leg if you are experiencing sciatica. This pain usually occurs on only one side.
Insertional hamstring tendinopathy
If you have recently started running uphill, or increased the intensity of your running, you may be at risk of insertional hamstring tendinopathy. This is irritation of the hamstring tendon where it attaches to your sit bone.
Hamstring tendinopathy comes with a deep pain at the base of your buttocks when running or walking uphill, or after prolonged sitting.
Sacroiliac joint pain
Sometimes, when the back of your hip hurts, it isn’t actually your hip at all. Your sacroiliac (SI) joint is where the base of your spine and your pelvis meet. When you have SI joint pain, it can radiate through the back of your hip and low back.
SI joint pain is usually one-sided but can occur on both sides. It tends to get worse when sitting, standing, climbing stairs, or sleeping. You may also experience some tingling, numbness, or weakness in your leg.
SI joint pain is common after car accidents, pregnancy/childbirth, or hip surgery.
Now that you have a better understanding of what the location of hip pain might mean for you, let’s discuss what you can do about that pain.
How to treat your hip pain
If you want to treat your hip pain, it’s important to describe the location of hip pain, the severity of the pain, and which activities make your pain worse. This will help your doctor to properly diagnose you. Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor can move forward with creating a treatment plan.
If you have a hernia or a structural issue like a torn ligament, you may need surgery. Luckily, the majority of hip issues can be treated or managed through nonsurgical treatments.
Some hip pain treatment options include:
- R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, elevate)
- Topical pain creams
- Physical therapy
- Targeted stretches
- Low-impact exercise
- Lifestyle changes
- And supplements for hip pain
Some treatments, like R.I.C.E. and NSAIDs, are better at addressing pain in the short term but aren’t long-term solutions. Physical therapy and supplements for hip pain are usually the best options for truly improving the health of your hip joint.
One of the very best supplements for hip pain is collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and is the main structural component of your tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Collagen is even present in your muscles, bones, organs, and blood vessels!
When you have a structural breakdown of any of these tissues, taking a collagen supplement can give your body the building blocks it needs to rebuild and strengthen them.
In fact, collagen is one of very few things that can actually help to regrow your cartilage, which is why it’s becoming more and more popular as hip arthritis pain relief. Talk to your doctor to see if a daily collagen supplement could improve your hip pain.
Of course, if you want to include collagen as part of your hip pain treatment, it’s important to understand what kind of collagen to buy.
The best collagen for hip pain
The best collagen for joints is a hydrolyzed collagen supplement with no excess sugars or additives. Hydrolyzed collagen is collagen that has gone through the chemical process of hydrolysis – and has been broken down into smaller, easier-to-digest pieces as a result.
Make sure to read reviews carefully to find a trusted product. Most supplements aren't FDA-regulated, so companies don’t need to back up their claims. That means you need to do your own research into the supplement.
If you want a collagen supplement that is FDA-regulated, look for a medical-grade collagen supplement. This collagen has undergone rigorous testing and is trusted for use in medical facilities across the nation.
Once you understand what the location of hip pain means for you, and are ready to treat it, consider adding a daily medical-grade collagen supplement to your routine to allow your body to heal naturally from the inside out.