Home > Blog > That Hip Pain Could Actually Be a Sciatica Problem
A sedentary lifestyle or carrying a heavy load when you are not in good physical shape can result in severe hip pain. Many underlying conditions can cause hip pain, and sciatica is one of the most common causes, as it is triggered by many other issues. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back to your legs, becomes irritated or compressed. If you want to find out if sciatica is the cause of your hip pain, consult experienced and board-certified therapists and physicians at the Physical Therapists NYC to learn more about diagnostic methods and treatment options. The top therapists focus on relieving the pain, stiffness, and restriction of movement you are experiencing and come up with the best approaches to alleviate your pain and prevent discomfort in the future.
The hips are incredibly active joints, and you may suffer from occasional aches and pains, particularly when you bump into things or as you grow old. However, searing pain in the hips may not have anything to do with the hip at all but a pinched nerve in the lower back. If this pain does not go away after rest or taking pain-relieving medication, it could actually be a sciatica problem that needs medical attention.
Is Hip Pain a Sign of a Sciatica Problem?
Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from the lower back through the hips, and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of the body.
Knowing the causes behind hip pain or determining the symptoms can help you understand if your hip pain may be a result of some problem with your lower back.
What Is Sciatica Pain?
Sciatica is a term used to describe radiating pain that travels along the path of the sciatic nerve, running from your lower spine through the buttock and down the back of the leg. It flares when the sciatic nerve is irritated or pinched by a range of problems in the lower back.
The sciatic nerve is responsible for bending the knee, bringing the thighs together, and flexing and extending the ankles and toes. It also provides sensation to the back of the thigh, the entire lower leg, the ankle, and the sole of the foot. The medical terms used for sciatica include lumbar radicular pain and lumbar radiculopathy.
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or pinched. Pain can radiate along the sciatic nerve, causing other debilitating symptoms that run down your lower extremities, typically on one side.
How Sciatica Pain Develops
Sciatica is not a condition. Rather, it is a symptom of a problem connected to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest in the body and begins in the lower spine, where five nerve roots come together to form the sciatic nerve, which splits and travels down either side of your buttocks, hips, and legs.
A herniated disc, bone spur on the spine, or narrowing of the spine, also known as spinal stenosis, are the primary causes of sciatica. It can result in inflammation, pain, and sometimes numbness in the affected leg. Although the pain associated with sciatica can be severe, most cases resolve with non-operative treatments in a few weeks.
Symptoms of Sciatica Pain Include:
- Searing pain in the lower back that can come and go with certain movements;
- Pain that radiates down one side of the buttocks, hips, and legs;
- Dull pain in back, hips, and buttocks;
- Numbness or tingling anywhere along the nerve;
- Weakness in the leg.
The characteristics of your pain can vary depending on the nerve root that is compressed or pinched.
If you are not sure what is causing your hip pain, consulting a specialist may be necessary to know about the underlying medical condition.
In most cases, sciatic pain stems from a herniated or bulging disc, but it can also develop because of the following reasons:
- Spinal stenosis;
- Bone growths.
Regardless of the causes, the result can leave you with moderate to severe pain that you feel in your back, buttocks, hips, and legs. If you feel recurring pain in your hip and have not suffered any problems with the joint before, it could be something in your lower back that needs to be evaluated.
Indirect Results of Nerve Compression
Nerve compression or a pinched nerve can also result in hip pain. A compressed nerve in the back that affects one side of the lower body can lead to pain in the hip, particularly the side you tend to favor. It has been observed that the pain often alters the way you move, and it can place stress on your already hard-working hips.
In some cases, if the hip pain is more of a dull ache and you are also experiencing some of the more classic signs of sciatica, there is a possibility that the two are related.
Other Conditions That Can Cause Hip Pain
Many underlying conditions can also cause sciatica or hip pain. It is essential to consult a healthcare professional for a clinical diagnosis. In rare instances, sciatica-like pain may result from medical conditions that need immediate treatment. They include:
- A spinal tumor – 2 general types of spinal tumors can cause pain, primary tumors, and secondary tumors.
- Spinal infection – Also known as vertebral osteomyelitis, a spinal infection refers to a problem of the vertebral body in the spine. It is a rare cause of back pain, especially in young, healthy adults in which the veins in the lower spine drain the pelvis, which allows the bacteria to enter the spine.
- Cauda equina syndrome – It is a serious complication of sciatica that involves radiating hip pain, accompanied by loss of bowel or bladder function. CES is a medical emergency, and it can lead to permanent neurological and physical damage if left untreated.
The vast majority of causes of sciatica symptoms are not serious, but it is best to see a doctor for any signs that do not go away after conservative treatment or recur frequently.
Sciatica Pain or Piriformis Syndrome
If you struggle with chronic pain in the buttocks or hips, it may be something other than sciatica. Your hip pain may be resulting from piriformis syndrome. This condition is marked by hip and buttock pain on one side of the body with low back pain that radiates down one or both legs.
Piriformis is often mistaken for sciatica as both conditions interfere with sciatic nerve function. The only difference between the two is that sciatica results from spinal dysfunction such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, while piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle, located deep in the buttocks, compresses the sciatic nerve.
With a clear understanding of the structure and function of the sciatic nerve and its relationship to the piriformis muscle, your sciatica physical therapy specialists and physician can distinguish between the two conditions and help you find relief with the best treatment methods.
When to Seek Medical Care?
You should seek medical attention in case of the following:
- Your hip pain does not improve even after several days or seems to be worsening;
- You are younger than 20 years of age or old than 55 years and suffering from this kind of pain for the first time;
- You are suffering from cancer or have a history of cancer;
- You have recently lost a lot of weight recently or experiencing explained chills and fever with back pain;
- You are HIV positive or use IV drugs;
- You have trouble bending forward after more than a week or two of suffering from hip pain;
- You feel weakness in your body or limbs, and this condition continues to worsen over time.
You must seek emergency medical help if you experience the following along with sciatica pain:
- The pain is becoming unbearable even after first aid help;
- The pain is resulting from some violent injury, such as a fall from stairs or ladder or an automobile accident;
- The pain is in the back of the chest;
- You are unable to move or feel your legs or feet;
- You are losing control of your bowel or bladder or feel numbness in your genitals;
- You develop a high temperature.
The healthcare professionals can make an accurate diagnosis based on your medical history, a physical examination, and a description of your symptoms. In some cases, blood tests, CT scans, or MRI may be required to determine the exact causes of the pain.
Treating Sciatica Pain and Reliving Hip Pain
Several treatments can help resolve your sciatica and hip pain and prevent the problem from occurring again. In most cases, doctors administer a corticosteroid injection into the nerve root to soothe the pain signals and reduce the inflammation and help you seek relief. Stretching and physical therapy also play a significant role in keeping the pressure off the nerve roots.
Whether the pain in your hip is resulting from a problem in the sciatic nerve or something else, proper diagnosis and carefully planned treatment can bring an end to your discomfort. Contact your healthcare provider if lifestyle change, modification in activities, and pain-relieving medications fail to work and you continue to experience intense, sharp, or recurring pain in the hips.
The highly trained and experienced therapists and physicians at Physical Therapists NYC understand the many conditions that can lead to radiating pain in the hip and what may be causing it. Sciatica is one of the biggest culprits in this regard, as it develops when certain nerve roots in the lower back are irritated or compressed and result in intense pain. The award-winning therapists examine you thoroughly, investigate your symptoms and determine if your hip pain is actually a sciatica problem. They come up with comprehensive recovery plans to ensure the best outcomes and help you get back to feeling normal and stronger in the shortest possible time.