What Causes Hip Pain?

Written by Dr. Steve Chaney on . Posted in Muscle Therapy and Health

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT


what causes hip painWhat causes hip pain?  The hip is a complicated joint and has a potential for many causes of hip pain.

There is an incredible range of motion from the synchronicity of many muscles, all inserting at different points around the hip and pelvis.

Some of the muscles pull your thigh bone in a series of different directions, while other muscles keep your pelvis in alignment.

2 Primary Muscles that can be the Cause of Hip Pain

The iliopsoas and the quadriceps are the two primary muscles that cause hip pain.  These muscles rotate the pelvis forward and down, causing all of the muscles that insert into the pelvis to torque and spasm.  Ouch!

As the iliopsoas muscle contracts it pulls down on the front side of your lumbar vertebrae causing you to bend over or it pulls up on your thigh bone causing your leg to lift in order to take a step or sit down.

When the muscle contains muscle fiber knots it pulls the thigh and torso toward each other, and when attempting to stand this forces a separation, pulling on the lumbar vertebrae and also on the inside of the hip.

The quadriceps originate on the tip of the anterior pelvis and then insert into the shinbone, just below the knee joint.  When the quads are tight they pull hard on the front of your pelvis causing tension in the front of your hip and your knee.

Another Muscle that Causes Hip Pain

The tensor fascia lata,, a muscle on the outside of your hip, can also cause hip pain.  This muscle merges into the iliotibial band (ITB) that inserts into the knee.

When the tensor fascia lata is in spasm (contains muscle knots) it not only causes hip pain, but it can also cause the outside of your knee to ache and to feel like it could pop out of joint.

To complicate the problem, while the iliopsoas and quadriceps pull the hip down in the front, tight hamstrings pull the pelvis down in the back.  This causes pain in the top back of the leg and at the groin. Plus, as the muscles pull on both sides of the pelvis, this can cause pain that radiates all around the hip.

How to Relieve Hip Pain Naturally

The bottom line is in order to relieve hip pain naturally, you need to first locate the source of the pain.

The best way to find the source what causes hip pain is to pinpoint exactly where you feel the pain and then figure out which muscle inserts at that joint.  This is the muscle causing your hip pain!

Treating Hip Pain

Once you know which muscle is causing the pain, treating hip pain is easy!

  1. Locate the most painful point in the length of the muscle.  This normally is the muscle spasm that is causing the pain where the tendon attaches to the bone.  When looking at hip pain, the spasm could be above the hip, below the joint or even directly on the joint.
  2. Maintain deep pressure on the point for 60 seconds.  Holding pressure directly on the knot (spasm) in the muscle flushes out toxins and stretches the muscle fibers.  When the knot is released toxins are removed which causes a void in the muscle fiber.  The body fills this void with nourishing blood and nutrients.
  3. Stretch.  Stretches are most effective after the muscle knots have released their strain on the tendon and bone.

While it is useful to have a therapist release your muscles, it is more beneficial to do regular, even daily, treatments (muscle release techniques) on the muscles that are repetitively used and strained. Maintaining healthy muscle tone rewards you with greater strength and flexibility and eliminates pain; keeping you in the race!  The process above explains how to relieve hip pain naturally has proven to be extremely effective.

An Example Of Natural Hip Pain Treatment

how to relieve hip pain naturallyToday I’d like to share with you how to do one of the Julstro self-treatments that we teach on the Julstro Trigger Point Yoga instruction kit. For example, let me explain how to treat the tensor fascia lata muscle which is located on the outside of your hip, between your hip bone and the top of your thigh bone:

Using a tennis ball (hollow in the center so it is a bit less intense) or a Perfect Ball (solid in the center so it gets in deeper) place the ball right where the side-seam of your pants is located – between the two bones. If you are in a lot of pain, start by leaning into a wall. If you want to go deeper into the muscle, lie on the floor on top of the ball. You may need to move an inch or so to find the “epicenter” of the spasm, but you’ll know immediately when you locate it. Always make sure you keep your pressure to a “hurts so good” level, you’re in control so don’t over-do.

Once you find the spasm, which is also called a “trigger point,” just stay still on it for 30-60 seconds. Lift your weight off the ball for a few breaths and then press into the ball again. This second time you’ll find that it won’t be as painful as the first time because you have already pressed out some of the H+ ions that are causing the spasm (and the pain).

Keep repeating this for a few minutes and then slightly move your body so you can find other trigger points that are around your hips. You’ll probably find points that are a little bit toward the front of your hip, so make sure you rotate your body so you’re facing more toward the wall or the floor, and then rotate your body so you’re back is more toward the wall or the floor.

This one simple technique has saved several of my clients from thinking they needed hip surgery! It will help you move easier and with less discomfort – and often it will totally eliminate the pain from your hip completely.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


About The Author

julie donnellyJulie Donnelly is a Deep Muscle Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience specializing in the treatment of chronic joint pain and sports injuries. She has worked extensively with elite athletes and patients who have been unsuccessful at finding relief through the more conventional therapies.

She has been widely published, both on – and off – line, in magazines, newsletters, and newspapers around the country. She is also often chosen to speak at national conventions, medical schools, and health facilities nationwide.


Check It Out!

If you would like easy to follow instructions on how to relieve joint pain and muscle tightness from head to toe, click  Full Point Yoga Full Body Kit to check out Julie Donnelly’s Trigger Point Yoga instruction kit today. Whenever, I have pain and stiffness I use her techniques. They work!


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Latest Article

High Protein Diets and Weight Loss

Posted October 16, 2018 by Dr. Steve Chaney

Do High Protein Diets Reduce Fat And Preserve Muscle?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Healthy Diet food group, proteins, include meat (chicken or turkAre high protein diets your secret to healthy weight loss? There are lots of diets out there – high fat, low fat, Paleolithic, blood type, exotic juices, magic pills and potions. But recently, high protein diets are getting a lot of press. The word is that they preserve muscle mass and preferentially decrease fat mass.

If high protein diets actually did that, it would be huge because:

  • It’s the fat – not the pounds – that causes most of the health problems.
  • Muscle burns more calories than fat, so preserving muscle mass helps keep your metabolic rate high without dangerous herbs or stimulants – and keeping your metabolic rate high helps prevent both the plateau and yo-yo (weight regain) characteristic of so many diets.
  • When you lose fat and retain muscle you are reshaping your body – and that’s why most people are dieting to begin with.

So let’s look more carefully at the recent study that has been generating all the headlines (Pasiakos et al, The FASEB Journal, 27: 3837-3847, 2013).

The Study Design:

This was a randomized control study with 39 young (21), healthy and fit men and women who were only borderline overweight (BMI = 25). These volunteers were put on a 21 day weight loss program in which calories were reduced by 30% and exercise was increased by 10%. They were divided into 3 groups:

  • One group was assigned a diet containing the RDA for protein (about 14% of calories in this study design).
  • The second group’s diet contained 2X the RDA for protein (28% of calories)
  • The third group’s diet contained 3X the RDA for protein (42% of calories)

In the RDA protein group carbohydrate was 56% of calories, and fat was 30% of calories. In the other two groups the carbohydrate and fat content of the diets was decreased proportionally.

Feet_On_ScaleWhat Did The Study Show?

  • Weight loss (7 pounds in 21 days) was the same on all 3 diets.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused almost 2X more fat loss (5 pounds versus 2.8 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • The high protein (28% and 42%) diets caused 2X less muscle loss (2.1 pounds versus 4.2 pounds) than the diet supplying the RDA amount of protein.
  • In case you didn’t notice, there was no difference in overall results between the 28% (2X the RDA) and 42% (3X the RDA) diets.

Pros And Cons Of The Study:

  • The con is fairly obvious. The participants in this study were all young, healthy and were not seriously overweight. If this were the only study of this type one might seriously question whether the results were applicable to middle aged, overweight coach potatoes. However, there have been several other studies with older, more overweight volunteers that have come to the same conclusion – namely that high protein diets preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss.
  • The value of this study is that it defines for the first time the upper limit for how much protein is required to preserve muscle mass in a weight loss regimen. 28% of calories is sufficient, and there appear to be no benefit from increasing protein further. I would add the caveat that there are studies suggesting that protein requirements for preserving muscle mass may be greater in adults 50 and older.

The Bottom Line:

1)    Forget the high fat diets, low fat diets, pills and potions. High protein diets (~2X the RDA or 28% of calories) do appear to be the safest, most effective way to preserve muscle mass and enhance fat loss in a weight loss regimen.

2)     That’s not a lot of protein, by the way. The average American consumes almost 2X the RDA for protein on a daily basis. However, it is significantly more protein than the average American consumes when they are trying to lose weight. Salads and carrot sticks are great diet foods, but they don’t contain much protein.

3)     Higher protein intake does not appear to offer any additional benefit – at least in young adults.

4)     Not all high protein diets are created equal. What some people call high protein diets are laden with saturated fats or devoid of carbohydrate. The diet in this study, which is what I recommend, had 43% healthy carbohydrates and 30% healthy fats.

5)    These diets were designed to give 7 pounds of weight loss in 21 days – which is what the experts recommend. There are diets out there promising faster weight loss but they severely restrict calories and/or rely heavily on stimulants, they do not preserve muscle mass, and they often are not safe. In addition they are usually temporary.  I do not recommend them.

6)    This level of protein intake is safe for almost everyone. The major exception would be people with kidney disease, who should always check with their doctor before increasing protein intake. The only other caveat is that protein metabolism creates a lot of nitrogenous waste, so you should drink plenty of water to flush that waste out of your system. But, water is always a good idea.

7)     The high protein diets minimized, but did not completely prevent, muscle loss. Other studies suggest that adding the amino acid leucine to a high protein diet can give 100% retention of muscle mass in a weight loss regimen – but that’s another story for another day.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.