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What causes hip pain radiating down leg to knee
December 03, 2022

One of the most common and debilitating symptoms of this is hip pain radiating down leg to knee and seems to come out of nowhere. It often starts in the lower back or hip and then radiates down the leg to the foot.

Hip and leg pain is often associated with lower back pain. This is also sometimes called sciatic pain or sciatica. The area where people most often experience hip and leg pain follows a path that goes through the back of the hip or buttock, to the side of the hip and down the side of the leg. Sometimes this pain can radiate down the side of the lower leg and foot. Another common area to experience hip and leg pain is the back of the thigh, which radiates through the calf.

People also often have numbness or tingling in the leg, a feeling that a certain part of the leg is “sleeping”, or a tingling sensation. These symptoms may have the same origin as the pain. 

Does Hip Pain Cause Knee Pain?

Hip pain can sometimes be the cause of knee pain, but both are often part of a cluster of symptoms most commonly associated with spinal pathology. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish whether the lower back, hip or leg pain started first. If you have low back or hip pain and it goes untreated, hip pain can certainly contribute to leg pain. Even an old back injury that healed years ago can worsen and cause hip and leg pain.

Let’s have a look at the symptoms;

Symptoms of hip pain radiating down leg to knee can vary depending on the cause of the pain. The type of symptoms can help determine the condition that is causing your discomfort.

  • Pain in the lower back or down the legs that is focused on one side can be a symptom of sacroiliac [SAK-roh-IL-ee-ak] joint dysfunction.
  • Pain in the inner hip or groin may be a sign that you have a problem with your hip joint.
  • Pain occurring on the outer side of the hip and upper thigh or outer buttock may be from stretched muscles, ligaments or tendons in the hip area.
  • Shooting pains that radiate to the legs can be a sign of a strain in the lower back or a hernia.
  • sharp stabbing pain in knee comes and goes, and in the buttocks and lower back may be related to sciatica or other nerve problems.
  • A burning or tingling sensation in the legs, especially in the lower legs and feet, may indicate neuropathy or nerve damage.

Pain That Originates in the Front of the Hip

Hip pain that occurs in the front of the hip and groin is usually caused by conditions that affect the hip joint. A few examples are discussed below.

  • Osteoarthritis of the hip

Wear and tear of the hip joint, called osteoarthritis of the hip joint, commonly causes deep, aching pain in the hip and groin area. The pain may spread to the front of the thigh and knee, sometimes including the areas below the knee. The pain is usually worse in the morning, after prolonged sitting or rest, and/or physical activity. There may be a locking, sticking, or grinding sound with hip movements.

  • Hip labral tear

When the labrum, or ring of cartilage around the hip socket (acetabulum), tears, the symptoms can vary. Most often, labral tears cause pain in the groin. Pain may also occur along the side of the hip or buttocks.

Initially, pain from a labrum tear may be felt during or after exercise and other vigorous activities. Over time, the pain may be felt even with less strenuous activities such as sitting.

  • Impingement of the hip

Osteoarthritis of the hip and/or labral tears can result from abnormal contact between the bones of the hip joint, leading to impingement of the hip. Hip impingement pain can radiate down from the front and side of the hip to the front of the thigh and knee. Sitting, driving, squatting, or performing hip movements and rotations usually worsen this pain.

  • Iliopsoas bursitis

Inflammation of the iliopsoas bursa (a small, thin, fluid-filled sac in the front of the hip) can cause hip pain. This pain is usually felt in the groin when actively bending the knee toward the chest.

This condition can also cause snapping hip syndrome, where the hip snaps, clicks or pops when you move. This snap is usually felt and/or heard when the hip moves from a flexed to a straight position, such as when rising from a chair.

Pain That Originates from the Side of the Hip

Certain conditions can cause hip pain to come from the side of the hip and travel down the thigh. A few examples are discussed below.

  • External snap-on side

When a muscle or tendon slides over the bony spur (greater trochanter) at the top of the thigh bone (femur), it makes a clicking, snapping, or snapping sound. This condition causes pain that increases with direct pressure on the side of the hip. The pain may also travel down the side of the thigh.

  • Bursitis of the hip (greater trochanteric bursitis)

Inflammation of the greater trochanteric bursa located on the side of the hip joint can cause hip pain. The pain usually increases after direct pressure on the side of the hip and may travel down the side of the thigh.

Both of these conditions belong to a spectrum of hip disorders called greater trochanteric pain syndrome. This syndrome also involves a tear of the gluteus minimus muscle and/or the medial muscle located on the side and back of the hip, which can cause pain in these areas.

Nerve Pain from the Hip to Leg

Sometimes hip pain can radiate from the nerves from the back of the hip down to the front, back, or side of the legs. This type of pain can be caused by irritation of certain lumbar and/or sacral nerve roots, also called sciatica. Musculoskeletal conditions such as sacroiliac joint dysfunction or piriformis syndrome can also cause sciatica-like pain.

 

Severe hip pain that starts suddenly or does not go away with self-care needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Additionally, associated symptoms such as swelling, leg numbness and/or weakness, nausea and/or fever may indicate a serious underlying condition and require immediate medical attention.

How to Stop Hip Pain That Travels Down the Leg?

In order to stop hip pain radiating down leg to knee, it is important to address the risk factors mentioned above. Losing excess weight will reduce the amount of stress placed on spinal structures such as joints, discs, nerves, and muscles during daily activities

  • Swimming is an excellent form of exercise that does not put a lot of impact on the spine, hips and knees.
  • Starting a smoking cessation program can help with hip and leg pain because quitting smoking will restore the natural supply of nutrients to the back discs. Nicotine reduces blood flow and with reduced blood flow the discs can wear out more quickly. This means that they lose their ability to absorb shock when walking, running and exercising. Over time, this can pinch the lower back nerves and cause sciatic pain.

Taking an honest look at how much you move throughout the day and making any adjustments is also very helpful in stopping gluteal pain.

Exercise and physical therapy

Many jobs these days require sitting in an office chair for 8 hours or more.

Sitting for long periods of time puts asymmetric pressure on the structures of the lower back, which can cause pain. And a sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle weakness.

Both of these things can worsen or cause sciatic pain. Setting a timer on your desk to get up and stretch every 30 minutes can help.

  • Or, if you have a standing desk, using the standing function throughout the day can break up long periods of sitting and reduce or prevent hip and leg pain.
  • Finally, if you don’t currently exercise, it can be beneficial to start, as increasing your overall activity can help with gluteal hip pain, as well as depression and anxiety, which also contribute to spinal pathology. Choose a form of exercise that you enjoy or find a workout partner to hold you accountable.
  • Consistency is most important, not the difficulty or intensity of the exercise. Try some light stretching or core exercise on a half-day basis. It is important to consult with your primary care physician, orthopedist, neurologist, or physical therapist to determine the best course of action to relieve sciatic pain.

These health care providers can help identify your risk factors and create a plan to address them.