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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick Thompson, PT, DPT, OCS, Dip. Osteopractic

Hip Pain: How To Tell If It's Really Your Low Back

How to determine if your hip pain is coming from your low back at Flow Physical Therapy The Woodlands, TX
Is your hip pain really caused by your low back?

If I had a nickel for every time a patient came to me and told me they had hip pain, but then a thorough Osteopractic Physical Therapy evaluation uncovered that root cause of the hip pain was actually the low back - I'd have 24,589 nickels (approximately).

But why is this such a common occurance? And more importantly, why does this presentation continue to confuse your healthcare team, and thus struggle to provide real pain relief for you?

Despite the many diagnoses the hip can present with - bursitis, labral tears, hip flexor strains, piriformis pain, hip arthritis, IT Band syndrome, tendonitis, and so many more - there are also many conditions involving the lumbar spine that present with the exact same signs.

Take this one example, you are enjoying a long walk with your friends as a part of your daily afternoon de-stressing routine. Over the past few weeks, you've noticed building pain and disomfort on the outside of your right hip and thigh after about 15 minutes of walking. The pain tends to worsen with more standing activities while doing dishes and cooking at home, and only seems to subside when sitting down and relaxing with family. You can't seem to "poke" the hip to make it worse, but you only feel the pain at your hip! So it has to be the hip, right!?

This tends to lead down a long and fruitless path of searching for hip pain relief from interventions targeting the hip, which likely isn't even the pain source. I've even had patients have hip surgey to alleviate the pain - without any help!

Ok, so then where is the pain coming from?

Many conditions in the low back can actually lead to pain on the outside of the hip. This, of course, includes disc bulges and disc herniations; however, this also includes other common issues such as facet joint pain, lumbar joint dysfunction, and even low back muscle injury and weakness.

Also, it is a common misconception that the only structure that actually refers pain into the legs and hips are the low back nerves. Both the joints AND the low back muscles notoriously refer pain to the outside of the hip, and even below the hip and into the thigh.

And remember, imaging studies don't tell the whole story, so the X-rays of your hip that showed signs of degenerative joint disease may not be the actual root cause (this presents very specifically and is often times not the pain source).

But because hip pain and low back pain are such an epidemic in healthcare, many practitioners and clinicians rush through this assessment because its "common." This unfortunately leads many providers to simply misdiagnose the actual cause of your pain and thus prescribe a plan of action that likely won't work.

How do we determine the root cause?

This is such a great question, and the only way to make an accurate clinical diagnosis is with a thorough Osteopractic Physical Therapy evaluation.

We take up to 1 full hour, to not only listen to the specifics of your unique case, but follow up with very specific testing of all suspected structures - including the muscles, nerves, fascia, ligaments, and joints (and more) of the low back, hip, SI, knee, and ankle.

This is the difference of being seen and treated by a specialist Osteopractor versus a rushed generalist provider. You can be certain that, despite a report of hip pain, we have taken the appropriate time to determine if the hip is the culprit or the victim before we prescribe our plan of care - which may include dry needling, spinal manipulation, cupping, scraping, stretching, and exercises.

Osteopractic and Pelvic Health Physical Therapist at Flow Physical Therapy and Wellness in The Woodlands, TX
Dr. Patrick Thompson and Dr. Melissa Thompson

At Flow Physical Therpay and Wellness in The Woodlands, TX, you can always expect the most thorough and in-depth Physical Therapy evaluation you've ever had. This is to uncover the true root cause of your pain, so we can get your results quickly to get you back to (better than) normal!

So, if you have been dealing with hip pain and your current set of exercises or treatment plan doesn't seem to be doing the trick, or if you need a second opinion, click the button below to get the answers you've been lacking.

Dr. Patrick Thompson, PT, DPT, OCS, Dip. Osteopractic

Owner of Flow Physical Therapy and Wellness


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