What’s Causing My Lower Back and Hip Pain?

Sometimes, your lower back might hurt at the same time as your hips. It could be on one side or both. Different things like arthritis, doing too much, or injuries affecting the nerves in your back and hips can cause this pain.

Usually, it happens because of overuse or getting hurt, but it could also be a sign of some other health issue. You might feel the pain on the left, right, or both sides of your body.

Even though dealing with these symptoms can be tough, most people can handle the root causes well and, in some cases, fully recover.

In this article, we’ll talk about how lower back and hip pain feels, what causes it, self-care tips, medical treatments, and more.

Symptoms of Lower Back and Hip Pain

If your lower back or hip hurts, it could be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute pain might go away on its own in a few days or weeks, while chronic pain lasts for 12 weeks or more. Chronic pain often stems from an underlying issue or injury.

Here are some signs you might notice along with lower back and hip pain:

  1. Pain on one side of your body
  2. Groin pain on the affected side
  3. Stiffness and reduced range of motion
  4. Tenderness in the affected area
  5. Difficulty walking
  6. Sleep problems (back pain can keep you awake or wake you up, and poor sleep can worsen back and hip pain)
  7. Muscle pain and weakness
  8. Shooting pain down your leg
  9. Increased pain when bending or sitting
  10. Numbness or weakness in your leg or foot
  11. Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  12. Unexplained weight loss

Lower Back Pain vs. Hip Pain

Hip pain and lower back pain can sometimes be confused because they’re close neighbors in our body. The hip joint hangs out near the lower part of the spine, so an issue with the hip can make your back hurt, and vice versa. But don’t worry, you can still figure out which is which.

If your hip is the troublemaker, you might feel pain in your groin. It could be an on-and-off discomfort that gets worse over time. Standing or doing stuff like walking might bring on the pain, and you might even start walking with a bit of a limp.

Now, when it’s your back causing the fuss, the pain usually sticks around in the back and buttocks. But here’s the trick – it can also mess with your hip joints. So, if you’re feeling pain shooting down your leg, especially when sitting or bending, that could be your back acting up. But guess what? Standing and walking might actually make it feel better.

So, if you’re playing detective with your pain, just remember: groin trouble and limping, that’s probably your hip. Shooting pain down the leg, especially when sitting, that’s likely your back.

Learn more about lower back pain

Causes of Lower Back and Hip Pain

It’s easy to strain your lower back and hips since they do a lot of work, like lifting, twisting, and moving your legs and trunk. Many people experience pain in these areas due to overuse and minor injuries.

Even though these pains are common, it’s important not to ignore them. Taking a break and getting early treatment can really help you feel better.

The causes of these pains are pretty similar for both men and women. Here are some of the most common reasons for lower back and hip pain.

1. Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains often lead to pain in the back and hips. A sprain happens when a ligament is torn or stretched, while a strain occurs when a tendon or muscle is torn or stretched.

If you have a sprain or strain, you might feel discomfort that gets worse when you’re active but improves when you rest.

Common causes of sprains and strains in this area include:

  • Sports injuries
  • Falls or trauma
  • Twisting the body in an awkward way
  • Lifting something heavy

Not warming up properly before playing sports or doing physical activities can also contribute to muscle strain.

When the ligaments, tendons, or muscles in the hip or lower back are damaged, it can result in:

  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Reduced range of motion

2. Herniated Disks

A herniated disk happens when one of the cushions between your spine bones slips out of place. This can squeeze a nearby nerve, causing a tingling or burning pain in your lower back, hips, and legs.

Older adults are more likely to get herniated disks because their spines naturally wear down over time, and the disks become less flexible.

Some common causes of a herniated disk are:

  • Lifting things the wrong way or twisting while lifting
  • Falling or getting injured
  • Being overweight
  • Doing the same movements that strain your back over and over
  • Sitting and driving for a long time
  • Smoking

Signs that you might have a herniated disk include:

  • Sharp, shooting pain (sciatica) from your buttocks down one leg
  • Numbness in your leg or foot
  • Weakness in your leg or foot

In serious cases, people might lose control of their bowels and bladder. If this happens, it’s important to go to the hospital or call 911 right away.

3. Tight Hip Flexors

Hip flexors are muscles that go from your hips to your knees. They help you move your legs and hips. If these muscles get stiff and tight, which can happen if you sit for a long time, you might feel pain in your back and hips.

Hip flexor strains, which are like little injuries in these muscles, can also give you sharp pain in your back and hips.

Here are signs that your hip flexor muscles might be tight:

  1. Your upper leg feels tender.
  2. You get muscle spasms in your hips or thighs.
  3. Your hips and thighs feel sore.

Some people might feel weak when they try to kick their leg or lift their knee toward their chest.

4. Arthritis

Osteoarthritis in the back can lead to the breakdown of protective and cushioning cartilage in the spine. As a result, the spinal bones can rub together, exerting greater pressure on the nerves that extend to the lower back and hips.

Arthritis in the back and hips causes joint stiffness and pain, and it can also result in weakness in the legs and hips, which may interfere with daily activities.

5. Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac (SI) joints link the lower spine to the pelvis. If these joints move too much or too little, it can cause pain in the back and hips.

Symptoms of SI joint dysfunction include aching lower back and difficulty finding a comfortable position. The pain usually gets worse with activities like running or climbing stairs.

Similar symptoms can be caused by a herniated disk or arthritis.

6. Paget’s Disease

Paget’s Disease of Bone is a rare condition that impacts about 1% of people in the United States. It makes the bones remodel in an unusual way, causing them to soften. This can affect various areas like the pelvis, lower back, hips, and arms. People with Paget’s disease are more likely to experience bone pain and fractures.

Here are some common symptoms of Paget’s disease:

  • Hip pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Legs that appear bowed (knees wider apart than usual)
  • Headaches
  • Tingling and numbness down the legs

7. Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that mostly targets the spine, leading to ongoing swelling in the spinal joints. When someone has ankylosing spondylitis, they often notice pain in their lower back and hips as one of the first signs. Common symptoms involve muscle pain and stiffness, especially in the morning.

Additional signs may include:

  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • General discomfort, known as malaise

What Makes Lower Back and Hip Pain Worse?

To feel better when your lower back and hips hurt, it’s important to know what can make the pain worse. Here are some things to watch out for:

  1. If you don’t move around much, the muscles in your lower back and hips can get weak and less flexible.

  2. Having too much body weight can put extra stress on your lower back and hips, leading to pain.

  3. Be careful when lifting heavy objects. Doing it wrong can strain your back and hips.

  4. Using your lower back and hips too much with repetitive movements can cause pain and swelling.

  5. Slouching or sitting in a weird way can strain your muscles and ligaments, making the pain worse.

  6. Spending too much time sitting can put too much pressure on your lower back and hips.

  7. Stress and tension can make your muscles tight and increase pain.

Self-Care for Lower Back and Hip Pain

If your back and hip hurt, don’t worry too much. Most people get better in a few weeks or months. You can do things at home to help yourself feel better.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Rest your back and hip.

  2. Put something warm or cold on the sore area.

  3. You can try Tylenol or Advil/Motrin.

  4. Try not to sit or lie down too much. Keep moving to make your muscles strong and flexible.

  5. Don’t do things that make your back and hip hurt more, especially lifting heavy stuff.

  6. Eat good food and keep a healthy weight to help your bones.

  7. Put on shoes with low heels.

  8. Sleep on your side to take pressure off your back.

  9. If you smoke, try to quit. It helps your blood flow, especially to your lower back.

Lower Back and Hip Stretches to Relieve Pain

Stretching regularly can help ease lower back and hip pain, making you feel less stiff and tight. But the right stretches depend on what’s causing your pain. For instance, if you have a herniated disc or sciatica, forward-bending stretches might not be the best choice. It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist to get personalized advice.

Here are some stretches that might help with certain types of lower back and hip pain:

  1. Knee-to-chest stretch: Lie on your back, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee up to your chest, gently holding it with your hands. Hold for at least 20 seconds, then switch sides.

  2. Piriformis stretch: Sit on a chair, cross one ankle over the opposite knee, and lean forward at the hip. Gently press down on the elevated knee until you feel a stretch in the buttocks. Hold for at least 20 seconds, and then switch sides.

  3. Cat-camel stretch: Start on hands and knees. Arch your back upward, tuck in the buttocks, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Return to a neutral position, lower your belly, arch your back, and hold again.

  4. Child’s pose: Begin on all fours and then sit back on your heels, extending your arms in front. Lower your forehead to the floor and relax your back. Hold for 20 seconds or longer.

  5. Seated hamstring stretch: Sit up straight with your legs extended. Bend one knee upward, drop the leg to the side, and then bend forward from the hips, reaching towards your toes. Hold and switch sides.

  6. Cobra stretch: Lie face down, place your hands under your shoulders, and push up to lift your head and upper body off the mat. Hold for 30 seconds.

  7. Glute bridge: Lie on your back with knees bent and lift your hips while squeezing your glutes. Hold for 5-30 seconds.

  8. Clamshell: Lie on your side with your knees bent. Raise only your top knee to open your legs like a clamshell. Hold for 5-30 seconds.

Learn more about lower back stretches to reduce pain

Medical Treatment for Lower Back and Hip Pain

If you’re facing lower back and hip pain, there are simple ways to find relief without diving into extensive medical treatments. You can start with over-the-counter pain relievers, like pills or creams, and some self-care tricks.

But, if things persist, your doctor might step in. They could prescribe medicines or suggest physical therapy. There are also alternative therapies that might help. Surgery is usually the last choice for treating this kind of pain.

For more serious pain, your doctor might give you stronger treatments. These could include:

  1. Prescription Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: These are stronger than the ones you can buy over the counter.

  2. Topicals with Prescription Strength: Creams or patches that have more potent ingredients, like lidocaine and ibuprofen.

  3. Muscle Relaxants: If your pain involves muscle spasms, these can help.

  4. Antidepressants: Sometimes used off-label, they can change how your body responds to pain.

  5. Steroid Shots or Pills: Shots in the painful area or oral steroids can reduce pain from inflammation.

  6. Opioids: Strong painkillers that need caution due to their addictive nature. Usually for severe pain.

  7. DMARDs and Biologics: For conditions like inflammatory arthritis affecting the spine, managing pain with specialized drugs.

Physical Therapy

If your back and hip hurt for more than a few weeks and make it hard to do regular stuff, your doctor might suggest trying physical therapy. The goal of physical therapy is to help ease pain and make it easier to move and do things.

A physical therapist will show you exercises to help with your symptoms, use hands-on therapy, and give you advice on moving and doing activities in a way that lowers pain and stops it from getting worse.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Complementary therapies work with regular medicine, while alternative ones are used instead of it. Here are some examples:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Relaxation techniques

Before trying any of these, it’s a good plan to talk to your healthcare provider. They can tell you if it’s safe and if a specific therapy might be right for you.


Surgery is for people with structural issues that regular treatments haven’t fixed. It can also help if nerve compression is causing muscle weakness, messing with daily activities, and making life less enjoyable.

When to See a Doctor

If you have lower back and hip pain, it’s important to see a doctor right away if you notice:

  1. Loss of control over your bowel or bladder.
  2. Difficulty moving one or both legs.
  3. Loss of feeling in one or both legs.
  4. Any visible changes in the shape of your legs or back, like not being able to stand up straight.

For less severe symptoms that don’t get better with rest and basic treatments, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can check your symptoms, figure out what’s going on, and suggest the best ways to treat it.

If you need more guidance, you may make an appointment with our online pain management consultation

Need professional help to relieve chronic pain? Book an online consultation with physical therapist Dr. Olivia Patel.

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Pain Relief Consultation With Dr. Olivia Patel

I'm Dr. Olivia Patel, a physical therapist specializing in helping people with neck, back, and knee pain. Instead of resorting to invasive treatments or surgeries, I use natural and non-invasive remedies to help my clients alleviate their agonizing pain and regain the joy of living a pain-free life. If you're interested in learning about my approach, click the button below to schedule a call with me.