What Causes Hip Pain Radiating Down the Leg

Hip pain that radiates down the leg can be a sign of a serious problem that should not be ignored. There are multiple reasons that this could be occurring.  It is important when discussing the fixes that you understand exactly what is causing the problem and you address the cause of the problem and not just treat the pain or the symptoms.

When I say radiating pain this can refer to the pain running all the way down to the foot or pain or numbness or tingling running to the knee or the back of the thigh or the front of the thigh. Pain that radiates down the leg can travel to any number of places in the leg. Therefore, when talking about hip pain running down the leg it can stop at any number of spots. But regardless of where it stops the causes can be the same.

It is also important to understand that there could be more than one cause to hip pain radiating down your leg. And to have success you need to identify and treat all the causes. Most often it is not just a few exercises that will fix it because the complex nature of the cause. You will need to identify the reason for the pain and fix the everyday activities you are doing that are causing the pain running down the leg.

It is also important to note that you should never ignore numbness or tingling going down the leg or into the arm.  It can lead to weakness and sometimes that weakness can be irreversible. You can have foot drop where you cannot lift your foot up and it drags along the ground or if you ignore pain running down your arm you may not be able to hold things like a coffee cup. Therefore, it is important that you seek professional help when you have pain running down the leg or the arm.

What can cause pain radiating down the leg?

  1. Herniated or bulging disc

It is very common in the body to have pain that is coming from one spot, but you feel it elsewhere.  This is common especially when you are discussing pain that is radiating.  Therefore, a disc in the back can be causing pain that is going down the leg and into the hip or the foot.

80% of Americans have a herniated or bulging discs so you do not want to automatically blame the hip pain that is running down the leg on a herniated disc. It may be a part of the problem; it may be the whole problem, or it may have nothing to do with the why you are having pain running down your leg. As the nerve is coming out of the back, it could be getting irritated or inflamed and therefore causing pain going all the way down the leg.

If you do have a disc that is herniated or bulging it is important to look at your posture.  How are you sitting at the makeshift work from home desk?  How are you sitting at night with your phone or laptop, curled up in a ‘C’ position? These postures can lead to or aggravate a herniated or bulging disc. Sitting in those postures may not hurt while you are doing it, but it is causing damage over time and the more and more you sit in those postures, the more damage you can cause. And if you have radiating pain going down the leg this can be the direct cause and something that you will need to correct if you want to eliminate the pain running down your leg.

2.  Piriformis syndrome

This is a pain that is directly in your butt.  This can get worse when sitting for too long and if you get up and walk the pain can feel better.  If the pain is higher up near your lower back, then that is not piriformis syndrome. The pain with piriformis syndrome is located right in the butt and it can cause pain to travel down into the leg and all the way down into the foot.

The piriformis is a muscle, and it can get tight if you sit for too long or if you sit in an improper posture. If you get up every 15 minutes, even just to stand up, you can help alleviate some of the radiating pain, but you must make a conscious effort to stand up and move around every 15 minutes to help prevent the muscle from getting tight.

3.  SI Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint (SI joint) can be associate with pain that is radiating down the leg. This pain could be the pain that your feel more towards your lower back. Now this is also a pain where you can point to it with one finger, but this pain is not in the butt, this is a pain that is in the very low part of the back. However, this pain can cause radiating symptoms down into the hip and knee also. The radiating symptoms you feel can also be due to tight muscles that are causing muscle compensation. This compensation with the muscles can irritate the nerve that can cause pain going down the leg.

What can you do?

While there are going to be some listed exercises below it is important to determine exactly where the pain is coming from and what you need to fix it.  Most often it will take a combination of hands-on physical therapy, some education about what postures you need to correct that are exacerbating the pain and some specific exercises to focus on your exact problem areas.

  • First exercise:  Stand with your hands resting on your lower back area. Lean back and look at the ceiling. Lean back as far as you can but stop if you feel pain. Do not continue if you feel pain. You want to hold it for just a few seconds and then stand back upright. Repeat this 30 times.  But again, stop if at anytime you feel pain.
  • Second exercise:  Figure 4 stretch. Sit in a chair, cross the right ankle over the left knee. Sit up straight and hinging at the hips (do not bend forward at your low back) lean as far forward as you can until you feel a stretch. It is important that as you lean forward your back stay completely straight. You can feel this stretch in the hamstring or in the glutes.
  • Third exercise:  Seated hamstring stretch. Sit in a chair extend one leg in front of you with the heel on the floor.  Keep the leg perfectly straight.  Sit up nice and tall and again hinging from the hips lean as far forward as you can until you feel a stretch. If you feel pain, you want to stop.  And you always want to make sure that you are not bending from your back and that it stays perfectly straight.

If you have back pain or hip pain that is radiating down the leg and live in Bucks or Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania and want a FREE consultation with a Doctor of Physical Therapy, click here and enter your information or call our offices at 215-997-9898

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