The nerves from your spine that goes to your hips extend to your thighs and legs. Because of this, damage to any of these nerves resulting in hip pain may also lead to leg pain.
Hip pain that radiates on the legs may also be accompanied by numbness, joint stiffness, and muscle weakness.
What Causes Hip Pain That Radiates Down the Leg?
There are several reasons why your hip may be painful. The location and the type of pain at the hip could help determine its possible cause.
- Tendinitis: This results when the tendons that connect your thigh muscles to the hip bone become inflamed because of overuse. Pain is usually felt at the front and side of the hip down to the thigh.
- Osteoarthritis: A condition in which the cartilage at the hip joint, which acts as a shock absorber, becomes damaged causing inflammation. This results in deep, aching pain in the groin area that travels to the front of the thigh and knee.
- Bursitis: Refers to the inflammation of a bursa, a sac filled with fluid that acts as a cushion to decrease the friction between tissues. There are two main types of bursitis:
- Hip bursitis or Trochanteric bursitis: Pain gets worse with pressure and may travel to the side of the thigh.
- Iliopsoas bursitis: Pain is usually felt in the groin area and is accompanied by a snapping or popping sensation when moving from a bent to a straight position such as when you are standing from a chair.
- Sciatica: Characterized by pain and numbness on the hip and one leg that is usually affected by your body’s position. It may get worse when sitting, lying down, or while coughing, and is relieved with walking. The pain is due to the compression of the nerve near the spine and can be caused by the following:
- Lumbar herniated disc: Occurs when the disc, which is located between two vertebrae (bones that form the spine) and acts as shock absorbers, bulges and compresses the nerve.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis: Occurs when the spinal canal, which houses the spinal cord, becomes narrowed. It happens over a long period and is common among older individuals.
- Degenerative disc disease: This results in a low-grade, continuous, but tolerable back pain that radiates to the buttocks, groin, and thigh. It is the result of the wear and tear of the spinal disc.
- Spondylolisthesis: A condition wherein a vertebrae slips out of its position causing muscle spasm, back stiffness, and numbness and weakness in one foot.
Can Hip Arthritis Cause Pain That Radiates Down the Leg?
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is caused by the wear and tear of a joint’s cartilage, a tissue that covers the surface of the bones and allows them to glide smoothly.
When the cartilage gets damaged, the joint becomes inflamed, and this can result in pain, stiffness, and “locking” of the joint.
Arthritic pain is greater in the morning or after resting and during physically demanding tasks. It could be felt in the groin or thigh area and can spread through to the buttocks or knee.
What Can You Do for Hip Pain That Radiates Down Your Leg?
Hip pain that spreads on the leg can have a variety of causes. Some conditions that cause hip and leg pain may only require simple treatment and home remedies. However, serious conditions would need to be checked by a doctor for you to get the best possible treatment.
If you are unable to talk to your doctor in the meantime, the best thing you could do for your hip and leg is to rest. Continuing the activities that increase the pain might only aggravate the condition.
You may also take over-the-counter pain medications and put ice on the painful areas to help reduce the pain.
What Does It Mean When Your Hip Hurts When You Lay Down?
Pain in the hip and leg when you are lying down or sitting can be due to poor posture, tendonitis, bursitis, or arthritis.
Poor sleeping posture places extra pressure on the hip joints and the spine; this compresses the nerves, resulting in pain and stiffness when we try to move out of the position as we wake up.
Tendonitis, bursitis, and arthritis are conditions that involve inflammation. Inflammation causes pain and discomfort even at rest because the swelling can irritate the nerves.
What Can You Do for Hip Pain When You Lay Down?
When you lay down or sit, be aware of your posture. Try to lie on your back and avoid lying on your stomach because this position could strain the spine and the hips. If you are used to sleeping on the side, place a pillow in between your legs to fix the alignment of your hips and knees.
For tendinitis, bursitis, and arthritis, pain medications could help lessen the inflammation and pain. You could also place ice wrapped in a towel directly on the inflamed area while your leg is elevated. You may do this for 20 minutes every 1 to 2 hours.
What Causes Outer Leg Pain From Hip to Ankle?
If your pain originates at your back and spreads to the buttocks, the side of the leg, and down to your ankle and foot, you may be experiencing sciatica. Sciatica is described as numbness, tingling, or sharp, shooting pain that usually occurs in one leg.
Sciatica involves irritation of the sciatic nerve which is the nerve that goes to your hips, buttocks, and thighs. When it reaches below the knee, it then branches into several nerves that go to your ankles and feet.
Some individuals with sciatica experience weakness in the leg and foot, stabbing pain, and pins and needles sensation. The pain can worsen after prolonged sitting or standing or after a forceful movement from coughing or sneezing.
What Can You Do for Outer Leg Pain From Hip to Ankle?
Many conditions can cause outer leg pain that radiates to the ankle. It is important to determine the reason for the pain so you can get the appropriate treatment that you need.
Some home remedies that you can do include:
- Rest and avoid putting pressure on your spine and hips. You may use a cushion to support your hips and back.
- Applying ice packs during the first 3 days to reduce the pain and the swelling. After 3 days, use hot packs to increase the blood flow to the area and encourage healing.
- Take over-the-counter pain medications to relieve the pain.
- Do gentle stretching exercises to relieve the tension in your muscles. You may seek advice from a physical therapist to guide you with the proper exercises.
When Should I See a Doctor for Hip and Leg Pain?
If your pain does not get better after taking pain medications or resting after a few days, you should see your doctor as soon as you are able.
You should go the emergency care if you experience the following:
- Lack of sensation.
- Muscle weakness that makes you unable to move your leg and foot
- Extreme swelling with redness on the affected leg.
- Numbness in your pelvis that makes it difficult to urinate or defecate.
Dr Aarti is an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery) from Baroda Medical College (The Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda). Dr. Aarti has also completed her Masters of Medical Science and Technology from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.