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What are the Causes of Hip Pain?

One of the most common causes of hip pain and the cause that is frequently overlooked, is muscles pulling on the joint and putting pressure on bones and nerves.


While it is estimated that there are 17 muscles that impact the hip, here we are looking at the most common causes of hip pain for athletes.

The Muscular Causes of Hip Pain


Strong quadriceps are a key to all sports and they are also a primary cause of hip pain, groin pain, sciatica, low back pain and tight hamstrings!  However, not all four quadriceps causes hip pain, that distinction is given to only one of the four muscles – specifically the rectus femoris.

The rectus femoris originates on the tip of your hip, on a bone called the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS).  As the rectus femoris goes into a muscle spasm (from the repetitive strain of running or cycling) the shorten fibers pull down on the ASIS causing the pelvis to move down in the front.  This rotation causes a strain on labral cartilage and is one of the important causes of hip pain.

It’s easy to understand this by doing this simple movement.  Make a fist with one hand and press it into the palm of your cupped opposite hand.  Your fist represents the ball of your thigh bone and your palm represents your hip socket.  Imagine a rubber-like coating on your palm and then imagine how it will “spin” as you turn your fist in your palm.  It could easily tear from the pressure. This is what happens when your pelvis is pulled down in the front, but your thigh bone stays stationary.

While you are feeling the pain in your hip, the cause of the hip pain is actually your rectus femoris pulling down on the front of your pelvis!

This same movement causes hip pain because all of the muscles that insert into the greater trochanter are twisting as your pelvis rotates.

I think of it as pulling your hair and your scalp hurts — as the muscles are pulling on the bone, the bone hurts causing hip pain.

As the pelvis pulls down in the front of the body, the posterior pelvis moves up.  This causes the bone to press up into the sciatic nerve, referring pain across the hip and causes the hamstrings to over-stretch.

You feel tight hamstrings and you think you need to stretch them, but that’s the worst thing to do as you could tear the muscle fibers.

It’s important to release muscle spasms in the rectus femoris muscle in order to take the strain off the tip of the pelvis, rotate the pelvis back into its correct posture, and eliminate this cause of hip pain.

Other causes of hip pain can be a bone bruise from a fall, a traumatic injury, or an anatomically short leg straining the hip joint.

But far and above, muscle spasms are the most common cause of hip pain, and they are also the easiest to treat and eliminate.

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