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Lower Back and Hip Pain: What’s the Difference?

When you have lower back and hip pain it can be difficult to determine the actual cause or location of the pain. Is it a spine problem? Is it a hip problem? Let’s take a look at some of the different conditions that can cause pain in this area and some methods doctors use to diagnose the cause.

Causes of Lower Back and Hip Pain

First off, here are some of the reasons someone can have lower back and/or hip pain.

Conditions that Can Cause Hip or Lower Back Pain

These conditions can affect either the lower spine or the hip:

  • osteoarthritis – degeneration of the soft tissue in the joint space, this can occur in either the spine or the hip
  • bone fracture – the hip bone or a vertebrae of the spine could be fractured

Conditions that Can Cause Lower Back Pain

Some conditions that are specific to the spine and can cause lower back pain are:

  • herniated disc – when the inner fluid of the intervertebral discs pushes outside the outer surface of the disc
  • spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal which can put pressure on the spinal cord
  • sacroiliac joint dysfunction

Conditions that Can Cause Hip Pain

Some hip conditions that can cause pain are:

  • arthritis in the hip
  • bursitis of the hip
  • osteonecrosis of the hip – when blood flow to the hip is restricted
  • labral tear – a tear to the cartilage around the hip

Symptoms of Lower Back and Hip Pain

Lower Back and Hip Pain Diagnosis

Lower back and/or hip pain may present in different areas of the body including the front of the hip and groin, the back of the hip and buttocks, down the side of the hip and leg, in the center lower back, or down one or more legs. Sometimes the location or type of pain a person experiences can help their doctor diagnose their lower back or hip condition. However, some types of pain can be caused by either part of the body, making a diagnoses more difficult.

Symptoms of Hip or Lower Back Pain

There are some symptoms that are common to both conditions of the lower spine and the hip. These include:

  • pain in the general lower back and hip area
  • pain that radiates down one or more legs

Symptoms of a Lower Back Problem

When the pain originates in the lower spine, an individual will often indicate they have:

  • pain in the center of the back or buttocks

Symptoms of a Hip Condition

Typical symptoms when the issue is related to a hip problem are:

  • pain in the groin area
  • difficulty putting on shoes
  • pain getting in/out of a car, or going up/down stairs

Diagnosing Lower Back and Hip Pain

Differentiating between a lower back condition and a hip condition can be difficult. Your doctor may use several different techniques to pinpoint the source of your pain.

Your doctor will probably ask details about your pain, when it occurs, where you feel it, and how often. In addition, (s)he may observe your walk or evaluate your legs’ range of motion. Finally, to help clarify the cause (or rule out some conditions) your doctor may recommend some imaging tests such as x-rays or MRI to help confirm the cause of your pain.

Determining the root cause of lower back or hip pain can be tricky. If you’re having pain in this area you should consider visiting a doctor to help you figure out what’s going on and develop a treatment plan for your pain. If you’re in the Saratoga, Glens Falls or Plattsburgh area the doctors at Saratoga Spine are available to help you out. Give us a call today.



*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery