Hip pain isn't just physical. Let's dive into the emotions that are causing your hip pain, too. Plus, learn how to heal those emotions to make your hips feel better.
If you have hip pain, you’re probably referring to the area on the outside of the hip, or the buttocks.
If I ask you to point to your hip, chances are you’ll put your hands on your “hips,” or point to the outside of your upper thigh. These areas surround the hip, but the hip joint itself is actually deep in the groin area where the leg meets the pelvis.
It’s also very common for hip pain and back pain to go together. This is simply because of the anatomy and relationship between the spine, pelvis, and hips.
Whether your hip pain is in the hip itself, or in the surrounding muscles, we’ll cover some physical causes and ways you can treat it yourself.
Remember, all of your physical pains have underlying emotional, spiritual, and mental (thoughts and beliefs) associated with them. If you only treat the physical problem, you’re just treating the surface of the issue.
We’ll also talk about some possible underlying emotional issues and thought patterns that could be contributing to that hip pain, and how you can treat that yourself, too.
Common diagnoses for hip pain
When you're hips are troubling you, it affects most of your daily movements. Literally, it can be a pain in the butt! We'll briefly go over some physical issues, diagnoses, and simple things you can do at home to help. Remember, stop anything that makes you feel worse. Also, follow the guidance of your healthcare provider if you're seeing one, or get medical advice when needed.
Physical problems due to hip pain
The hip joint is a pretty big, major joint in the body. Because of this, if you have hip pain, you’ll likely have trouble with most movements. This is true whether the pain in is the hip joint itself or the muscles surrounding the hip.
Trouble with any of these movements can be caused by problems with your hip:
- Going up or down stairs
- Lying on the side
- Crossing one leg over the other at the knee
- Sitting cross-legged on the floor
- Squatting (Although if you’re like most American’s, you can’t squat well anyway. 🙂 )
Possible diagnoses for your hip pain
When the hip joint itself is the problem, there are relatively few diagnoses. The most common is arthritis. Other possibilities include a tear in the acetabulum (labral tear), which is a softer piece of tissue that surrounds the hip to hold it in place. You can also have impingement (called FAI).
With arthritis, it’s common to have stiffness, especially after being in one position for awhile. Standing up after sitting might be difficult, and you likely feel stiff when you get up in the morning. There’s also a loss of motion in the hip joint, especially with rotation.
Possible diagnoses for pain around your hip
Most likely, you’re having issues with the muscles and tendons around the hip joint. If you have sciatica, you know what I mean here. Pain in the buttock or on the outside of the hip at the upper thigh are often reported as “hip” pain. However, even though the cause isn’t the hip joint itself, you’ll be limited in the same way you would if it were the joint. Sitting and walking can be painful, laying on the side will hurt, and bending forward might be hard, too.
When the pain is in the buttock or side of the upper thigh, you could be dealing with sciatica, which actually originates in the low back. Sometimes it’s also referred to as piriformis syndrome. The nerve that causes the pain you feel with sciatica runs through this piriformis muscle, which is why it’s given that name. You might also have tendonitis or bursitis, which means that the tissue on the outside of the hip is inflamed.
Possible diagnoses that can give you hip pain include:
- Piriformis syndrome
Simple ways to treat your hip pain
Regardless of the specific diagnosis you might have, there are a few basic principles that will help everyone with hip pain. However, if you’re seeing a medical professional, please follow their advice. And, if anything you try here increases your pain or symptoms, then stop.
Principle #1: Sit less in a regular chair
No, you do NOT need to go out and get a standing desk. However, one of the biggest culprits for both hip and low back pain is that we sit too much. Sitting too much is a problem because it leads to tight muscles and stiff tissues.
Back when I was employed, my office had motion activated lights. One day, I sat and worked at my desk for so long that the lights went off on me. Ha! I laughed. That was a great indicator that I needed to move. So I did….not just to turn the lights on, either! I got up and walked around the building for a few minutes.
If you work a lot at a desk, you might try different configurations. Yes, you can get a standing desk (one that lets you alternate between sitting and standing would be best). Or, get a high chair that you can perch on. You can also get a kneeling chair (like this one or this one).
Principle #2: Sit on the floor more
This is really another way to say, stretch those hips! It’s easy to get more flexibility in your hips and low back if you start sitting on the floor. When you’re reading, watching TV, or playing a game with your family, sit on the floor instead of at a table. Practice sitting in different positions.
I love this photo! Notice how dad is sitting. And see how his daughter is squatting effortlessly? Both positions are great for not only your hips, but for your low back, too (and the entire spine).
Principle #3: Walk more
Usually, people with hip pain don’t walk or exercise enough. Instead of focusing on starting an exercise program, just start to walk more. Walking moves the joints through a nice range of motion (think flexibility) and lubricates the joints, which means they’ll be healthier.
Principle #4: Make changes that make you feel better (Hint: the issue isn't what you're doing or not doing, it's why.)
Look, here’s the thing…..you’ve heard these suggestions before. Am I right? Someone else has told you, or you’ve read it somewhere. You know all of the reasons why you “should” stretch, and walk, and sit less. You’ve heard the list of things that are good for your body.
And yet...you’re reading this right now because you haven’t actually done any of those things. Right? You’re still looking for an answer. You haven’t found something that has worked for you.
It’s not that these things don’t work. If you’re able to commit to regularly moving differently, doing some stretching and strengthening, or getting some exercise, the vast majority of your physical pains will decrease or go away entirely. Not just in your hips, but for your entire body.
But we don’t do those things. We know why all of those things are good for us, but we don’t do them. Why not? That’s really the million dollar question, isn’t it? That’s the question behind all of the things we don’t do that we know we “should” do.
Here’s what it comes down to….first, if you’re following “shoulds,” then you’ve given away your power. You’re letting someone out there tell you what to do. It doesn’t matter if you want to do it, you guilt yourself into feeling that you “should” because some physical therapist told you so.
Solution #1: STOP with all of the “shoulds” in your life. Listen to your inner talk, and to what you say vocally. How often do you say, “I should do this” or “Oh, I shouldn’t do that.”
“Oh, I should sit less because sitting makes my hips hurt.”
“I should start exercising because I know it’s good for me.”
Stop. Just stop. Seriously. Who says you should??
When you stop with “should,” eventually what comes is “want.” It becomes that you want to do whatever it is. You take back the power. The decision is yours, and you own it. It’s not a decision you’re making because some authority figure is telling you to. You’ve made it yours. Claim it!
Solution #2: Deal with the underlying emotional reasons why you’re not doing things that are good for you.
That’s what the second part of this post is all about. Find the underlying (and most often subconscious) reasons why you’re not stretching, or walking, or moving more.
Not sure this is the real issue? Ask yourself these questions, and see how you feel:
- Do I deserve to feel better?
- Am I worth feeling better?
- Do I love myself enough to do something to get rid of this pain?
Be completely honest with yourself. What thoughts or feelings did you notice when you asked those questions?
If you felt heavy, sad, dark, or anything similar, then that’s an answer. That’s your spirit telling you that subconsciously, you don’t believe that you deserve better. You actually think that you deserve the pain and suffering you’re dealing with.
This process makes people uncomfortable. (It’s why most won’t do it….but you just did! High five!!)
And yet, realizing these things is huge! It’s the first step in healing, truly, deeply, healing, your hip pain - or anything else you’re dealing with.
For whatever things are causing you the most stress or hurt in your life right now, ask those same questions. Do I deserve this? Am I worth feeling better? Do I love myself enough to get rid of this, or to change this situation?
And if you’re still reading, congratulations. Seriously! This is not simple to acknowledge within ourselves. We all think we like and love ourselves. But really, deep down, we don’t…..and that’s the first thing to heal.
And on that note, let’s get back to stretches for your hips, shall we? Because now, maybe you’ll find a good reason to do them.
For happy hips, you'll want to stretch your hip flexors, hamstrings, hip rotators (internal and external), and practice squatting. Here is a fantastic hip mobility tutorial by GMB fitness. I adore these guys....everything they teach is about practical, everday movements coupled with learning to move better so you can enjoy being in your body.
In most cultures, squatting is something adults do comfortably. In our culture, it’s something little children do, but then we stick them in chairs and they lose this ability. It’s unfortunate, because squatting is a great position for both the hips and the low back. Squatting also requires a good amount of flexibility in your knees and ankles, so it might take awhile to get comfortable with it.
Emotional issues that cause hip pain
It’s great that you’re doing something physical to address your hip pain. Now it’s time to add in the emotional work, too. Doing both together can be very effective to finally get rid of those pains for good.
When we look at underlying emotional causes of hip pain, it’s helpful to think about what the hips do and how they’re made. The hip joint are big, strong, stable joints of the lower body. The provide support, give us a solid foundation for walking and standing, and help us move forward (think of walking or running). They also help transfer the forces from the ground up to the upper body in all activities.
When the hips are open and flexible, we move with ease and we are allowing things to flow in our lives. When the hips are stiff, we have difficulty moving and we’re more closed off to things.
Opening our hips also exposes us, our most vulnerable parts. Have you ever noticed differences in how men and women tend to sit? Women sit with legs crossed, protecting and covering their genital area. Men are more likely to sit with legs spread, exposing this area. These differences are in part cultural and have to do with physical comfort for men (giving their genitals room). But as an experiment, sit at home with your legs crossed, one over the other, and note what you feel and what comes up for you. Then, sit with your legs apart and open and notice what you feel. Does one way feel uncomfortable, or insecure, or too exposed?
A few questions to ask yourself about your hip pain:
- Do I have difficulty moving forward in some area of my life?
- Do I feel that I can stand by myself, and support myself?
- Do I feel that I have the power to make decisions and move forward?
- Is it safe for me to move toward what I want?
My two go-to resources for emotional causes of physical pain are Karol K. Truman, Feelings Buried Alive Never Die, and Louise Hay’s, You Can Heal Your Life. I can’t recommend these books enough to help you heal yourself and your family.
Let’s see what these two authors suggest as possible causes for your hip pain. Read through the list, and see what resonates with you.
- Fears making major decisions
- Nothing to look forward to
- Lack of emotional and physical self-support
For the hip joint itself:
- Not wanting to accept present experiences
- Non-acceptance of physical experiences
Do any of these things ring true for you? Remember, these underlying emotional causes are most often subconscious. That means that you often won’t logically say that they’re true. Instead, notice what you feel in your body when you read that list. Or, if you’re comfortable using muscle testing, then test yourself.
Where to go from here
For most people, a combination of physical and emotional activities will give the best results with your own healing. Remember that the process of healing can take time. Think of it as a way to learn more about yourself, and to allow grace to work in your life. Be kind to yourself and you uncover things that perhaps you didn't know were there.
If you'd like some help with this process, book a remote session with me and we can tackle it together. With energy work, the process of clearing trapped emotions is quick and painless.