Hip and leg pain can have many different causes. Because the movement of the hip joint, lower back, and leg bones are all connected, pain or inflammation in one area can cause problems in another. This is called referred pain.
Types of damage or injury that could be causing hip and leg pain are:
- Bone fractures.
- Nerve damage. Damage to the nerves can lead to neuropathy [noo-ROP-uh-thee], a tingling sensation radiating into the legs and extremities.
- Muscle injury or inflammation [in-fluh-MAY-shun]. Muscle sprains, tears or strains in the lower back, buttocks, pelvis, and thighs can cause hip and leg pain.
- Joint problems. Arthritis [ahr-THRAY-tis] can lead to pain in the hip, lumbar or lower spine, and the knee, causing pain that can be felt throughout the lower body.
Symptoms of hip and leg pain can differ depending on the cause of the pain. The type of symptoms can help in determining the condition that is causing your discomfort.
- Sharp, shooting pains in the buttocks and lower back may be related to sciatica [sy-AH-tik-uh] or other nerve issues.
- Burning or tingling sensation in the legs, especially in the lower legs and feet, can indicate neuropathy or nerve damage.
- Pain in the lower back or down to the legs that is focused on one side could be a symptom of sacroiliac [SAK-roh-IL-ee-ak] joint dysfunction.
- Pain on the inside of your hip or groin could be an indication that there’s a problem with your hip joint.
- Pain occurring on the outside of the hip and upper thigh or outer buttock may be strained muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the hip area.
- Shooting pains that radiate into your legs can be a sign of lower back strain or a hernia.
If your hip and leg pain does not improve after a few days of rest or seems to be worsening, you should contact your doctor.
You should seek immediate emergency care if you have any of these symptoms:
- Unable to feel sensation
- Can’t move your legs or feet due to weakness
- Numbness in your genitals
Hip and leg pain can arise from a variety of conditions, including:
- Arthritis. Inflammation of the joints that can cause pain and swelling.
- Injuries. Fractures, tears, or dislocations can cause pain in the hip, knee, or back.
- Tendonitis [ten-don-AY-tis] or bursitis [buhr-SAY-tis]. Inflammation of the sacs of fluid in the hip joint or tendons in the hip or leg can cause hip and leg pain.
- Sciatica. Pressure or damage to the sciatic [sy-AH-tik] nerve can be a source of radiating leg or hip pain.
- Bone cancer or leukemia [loo-KEE-mee-ah]. Some forms of cancer like bone cancer can cause pain in the limbs and hips.
- Neuropathy. Damage to the nervous system can cause tingling or burning sensations in the legs, buttocks, and other areas.
- Osteoporosis [OS-tee-oh-puh-ROH-sis]. Bone loss can be a source of pain the legs and hips.
- Sacroiliitis [SAH-krow-il-IY-tis]. Inflammation of the joints where the spine connects to the pelvis can cause hip and leg pain.
- Hernia. Pain in the groin can also radiate into the leg and hip.
- Pregnancy. The hormones during pregnancy cause widening of the pelvis and may result in joint pain felt in the hips, legs, or pelvis.
Hip and leg pain may worsen with activity and prevent a full range of motion. In some cases, long-term pain can cause a limp or difficulty walking.
Your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. A variety of tests may also be used to diagnose the source of your hip and leg pain. These may include:
The tests your doctor recommends will depend on the likely cause of your pain, as well as your age, overall health, the severity of your symptoms, and your preference.
Treatments for leg and hip pain depend on the cause of the pain and any underlying conditions. Your doctor may recommend some combination of the following:
- Ice or heat therapy
- Physical therapy
- Medicines for pain and inflammation
In some cases, surgery may be needed to replace a hip joint that has been damaged by a fracture, dislocation or arthritis. Your doctor can discuss which treatment is the best fit for your symptoms, age, and overall health.
If you have a condition that causes persistent leg and hip pain, you may be able to take some of the following preventative measures to avoid symptoms.
- Use a cane to relieve pressure on the hip
- Do strengthening exercises to improve muscle and build support around painful joints
- Avoid sudden movements or repetitive impact
- Eat a healthy diet to reduce inflammation
- Get plenty of rest and sleep
Talk with your doctor about what you can do to avoid leg and hip pain and improve your mobility.