Hip Pain and Chiropractic

Hip pain is a general term for pain felt in and around the hip joint. Hip pain can be felt in the joint itself or in the soft tissue that surrounds it. Hip pain can be felt in the hip, groin, thigh, lower back or even in the knee. Chiropractors regularly assess and treat hips as part of the lumbopelvic complex. In other words, the hips play an important role in how the lumbar spine functions.

We use our hips for almost everything we do – standing, walking and even sitting. They are our largest joint and can really stop us in our tracks when they hurt. Hips comprise a ball and socket joint, located where the femur (thigh-bone) meets the pelvic bone. The joint itself is actually in the mid-line of your upper thigh. The joint is covered with connective tissue and powered by large muscles, like your Gluteals, Hamstrings and Quadriceps. When hips are healthy they allow us to walk, squat and twist without pain.

Symptoms of hip pain.

Hip pain can be mild or quite severe. Pain can occur suddenly or slowly over a period of time. Common symptoms of the hip include:

  • Pain in the hip joint
  • Limping or difficulty walking
  • Difficulty moving between sitting and standing
  • Stiffness
  • Pain when weight-bearing
  • Referred pain in the back, thigh or knee
  • Pain when side sleeping

Common causes of hip pain

There are many causes of hip pain. It is important to have your hips thoroughly assessed by your chiropractor to find the underlying cause of your hip pain. Causes of hip pain include:


There are several types of arthritis that can affect the hip joint. Osteoarthritis is degeneration and mild inflammation of the joint cartilage. Osteoarthritis causes narrowing of the joint space and bony changes like spurs. Another common type of arthritis is Rheumatoid arthritis, this is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in the joints, decreasing the joint range of motion.

Hip fractures

More commonly found in older people and often those that have suffered a fall or some type of physical trauma, hip fractures can cause significant pain. Bones become less dense as we age, leaving us more susceptible to fractures. Osteoporosis and osteopenia are diseases associated with the loss of bone tissue density and more commonly affect the older population.

Referred pain

Sometimes pain the feels like it is in the hip can actually be coming from somewhere else. Back pain commonly refers to the hip as lumbar issues regularly cause tightening in the gluteal muscles resulting in pain around the hip joint. Some lumbar nerves also have a referral pattern that involves the hip area.


Bursas are liquid-filled sacs that reduce friction between tendons and boney surfaces. There are a couple of bursas around the hip joint that can become inflamed from overuse or friction. Bursitis is often experienced in the outer side of the hip, but can also be felt near the sit bones.


Hip tendons can become painful and inflamed. Tendonitis is most commonly experienced by athletes and sportspeople. But can also be a result of bad posture and muscle imbalances.

Paediatric hip pain causes


Whilst easy to detect in older children and adolescents, injuries can be much harder to detect in infants, toddlers or preschoolers. It is in their nature to fall many times per day and injuries may go unnoticed until they limp or refuse to walk any distance.


Often occurs in children between the ages of 4 and 8 years old. It is more common in boys who are active. These children will have a painless limp that is followed by a decrease in the range of motion of the hip joint. It occurs due to a disruption of blood flow to the hip joint and can cause osteonecrosis of the femoral head.

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis usually affects boys between the age of 10 and 16, typically those who are overweight. It occurs when the neck of the femur slips along the growth plate away from the femoral head. Symptoms include knee, thigh, or hip pain, stiffness, limping and if it gets worse the child may cease walking.

Transient synovitis

This is an inflammation of the joint and a common cause of hip pain in preschoolers and younger-school aged children. Transient synovitis often follows a viral infection and results in a refusal to walk or a limp

Septic arthritis

This is a less common cause of hip pain but a more serious one. Septic arthritis is an infection of the hip joint with comes on suddenly and results in a refusal to walk, often accompanied by a fever.

How to treat hip pain

The first step is to identify the cause of your hip pain. Any relevant tests and x-rays will be completed first to establish why the pain has started. From there, your chiropractor will determine the best treatment based on your age, the cause and best evidence-based practice. Treatment will be specific to your condition, pain and mobility but may include

  • massage
  • stretching
  • low-level light laser
  • strengthening exercises
  • supportive taping
  • dry needling
  • adjustments or mobilisations
Wondering about your own hip condition?

Piriformis syndromeTry this simple test.

First, sit and put your right ankle on your left knee so you create a 4 shape with your leg. Let your knee drop out. How far does it go? You should be able to get your knee down to almost level with the chair. Try the other side? Are you even? Does it hurt?

How can Hands On Health Care Clinic help?

Your chiropractor can do a thorough assessment of your hips, spine, knees and ankles. All joints that can be responsible for hip pain. We can help! Book in with one of our team today.

Written by Georgina Smith B.Sc.Chiro, M.Chiro, Dip.Paed.Chiro


April 28, 2021
Georgina Smith