By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club editor

This article is based on the author’s personal experience. Please consult your doctor about any undiagnosed hip pain.

As we get older we can often experience hip pain. This could be an extension of low back pain, pain in the hip joint itself, possibly due to arthritis or general wear and tear, or it could be sciatic pain. Many aspects of modern life, such as how sedentary we can be, can exacerbate pain in the hip joint, especially when that is actually pain related to pressure on our sciatic nerve.

If there is pressure on the sciatic nerve, the nerve roots of which run from your lumbar spine and lower back to your toes, that can cause leg pain that can travel from the buttock all the way down the leg. A slipped disk or bone spur can cause a pinched nerve resulting in sciatica pain.

The degree of sciatic-related pain and its location will depend on how and where the specific nerve has been compressed or irritated. Compression of the sciatic nerve can cause pain that shoots all the way down the leg or it may be concentrated around the hip joint in the buttock area.

sciatic pain in hip joint
The Sciatic Nerve

Arthritis in your lower back or a spinal tumor can also cause pain in the hip. If the pain is specifically in the hip joint, that will likely worsen when you do activity, such as walking, running, squatting etc. That’s one way of identifying that it’s hip joint pain rather than sciatica.

So there are many potential causes and treatment options for hip pain and sciatica. You should always consult a doctor or physiotherapist to get an accurate diagnosis of any pain in or around your hip joint. You will likely need a physical examination, especially if there is severe pain and to also check out your spinal cord. You’ll need reassurance that there are no underlying conditions and your medical history will likely also play a part. 

Sciatica has become a catch-all term for sciatica-like pain in the hip region, whether that results from a condition or injury that impacts the sciatic nerve, or for other reasons related to the sciatic nerve and associated nerves. If the pain is likely to be muscular in origin, we explore here several treatment options that can help. Even with a specific medical issue that requires intervention, such as a spinal injection, for example, treatment options for hip pain will usually include physical therapy and getting more mobile in a safe and relatively pain-free way.

I’ve suffered from what I called sciatica for many years. I even had an MRI scan on my spine to check that I didn’t have a disk out of place that might be causing the pain. Nothing was found and as I’ve discovered more, I’ve decided it’s more likely to be what is known as piriformis syndrome where tightness in my piriformis muscle causes irritation of the sciatic nerve.

The pirifomis is a flat muscle under the gluteus maximus in the buttock. If it’s tight, then the sciatic nerve is also under pressure.  I’ve made changes to how I live and move to try to manage this on an on-going basis and I share what has worked for me here.

Sciatica symptoms and signs

You may experience the following:

  • You may feel shooting pain from your buttock down your leg
  • You may experience a dull ache in your buttock or muscle spasm
  • There may be numbness or a lack of sensation in your leg
  • There may be a tingling sensation in your lower limbs 
  • You may experience lower back pain

Potential causes

As well as specific medical conditions, like a slipped disk (herniated disc), there are many contributory factors to sciatic pain in the hip joint. These include:

  • The wear and tear that comes with age and levels of activity or recovery
  • An injury to your lower back or lumbar spine
  • Being overweight
  • Not having good posture when standing, walking or running etc
  • Not lifting things in the optimal way
  • Spending too long sitting down or inactive
  • Not stretching out your muscles sufficiently especially after exercise
  • Smoking
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Poor core strength – which can lead to bad posture and back problems etc.

Treatment options

Here are an assortment of treatment options that I have found helpful for my sciatic-like pain. Anti-inflammatory medications can be a useful first port of call for immediate pain relief. My sciatic nerve pain hasn’t gone away completely but it can be managed, and I now know what will cause it to flare up – mainly sitting too long or not stretching enough after exercise! It’s a case of trying these options out and seeing what works for you and then keeping it up. It’s not a case of one and done. If you’re prone to sciatic-like pain, it’s likely that you’ll have to manage it on an on-going basis.

Massage  

A regular massage can be brilliant for easing sciatic pain. I find that my IT band (the muscle that runs down the side of your leg) gets very tight from running and my bum can hurt from sitting too long. Both can be eased by a good massage. You can spot massage with a pickle ball for example – just locate it where there is tightness in your buttock and sit on the ball there.

I always travel with a ball and even sitting on it, so it’s under the back of the thigh, on a plane or on a train, can ease some of the tension. The amount of time I can spend sitting in one position without getting some buttock pain gets less and less, the older I get. A massage gun is also great for self-massage. As is a foam roller for loosening out the IT band.

Acupuncture

Like massage, acupuncture can be great for releasing muscle tension. And the precision of the needles makes it very effective for releasing specific painful areas. You can then maintain a more pain free body with all the other tips discussed here.

Yoga  

I’m a huge fan of yoga and I think we should all be doing it. Reverse triangle pose stretches out my entire leg and eases any pain along it. The cross-legged glute stretch – sometimes called reclined pigeon – can also be a great stretch for the glute especially on the affected leg. Pigeon can also be good, but take care not to put too much stress on your knees. Learning yoga and practicing a sequence regularly is the best way to keep us pain free, I believe, as we age.

Mobility drills

I love Tom Morrison’s approach to sciatic pain in the hip and to piriformis syndrome. I don’t completely agree about not stretching out my piriformis muscle, or not using a ball to release tightness, but I like his wider range of motion approach. He’s all about working with your body rather than against it. For the hip to not hurt we need to put it through its complete range of motion, not just what our modern lifestyle may or may not expect of it. Muscle weakness can also impact pain around the hip. 

This video has a brilliant drill for how to expand the range of hip motion we can achieve and I find it very helpful as one of the tools in my toolkit to keep buttock and hip pain at bay. 

Check out this video:

Sit differently

So much of my personal issue with sciatic pain in the hip stems from sitting for long periods and on the wrong surface! On a hard dining chair, I can be in pain in just 5-10 minutes. On a plane I can be really uncomfortable very quickly. So carrying that pickle ball with me to reduce muscle tension on journeys is a must. You can of course use any hard ball, but a pickle one is both hard and light, so great for travelling. I work from home and have a sit stand desk from Ikea. Here’s a good one that will do the trick. Changing your position regularly is so important.

STANDING DESK

I even have a desk treadmill under my desk so I can walk while I work – it’s not the easiest thing to do but if I feel I’ve been too locked in place for too long, I can quickly get some more movement into my day. I also sit on an exercise ball rather than a chair at my desk which I find so much more comfortable. I think it helps my posture too.

Instead of sitting on the sofa at the end of the day, I try to sit on the floor or on a meditation cushion. When we sit on the floor we get uncomfortable more quickly so we fidget. And fidgeting is brilliant for giving us more movement and stopping our hips getting locked in place. It’s also another good time to stretch out stiff muscles.

MEDITATION CUSHION

Wear different shoes

So many of us, especially women, have spent years wearing uncomfortable shoes. Bunions aren’t a necessary part of life. They’re a result of ill-fitting shoes and high heels. Many of the issues we have with our feet, joints and muscles don’t occur or are very different in more traditional cultures where footwear is radically different. Modern shoes can change our gait and posture, impacting every part of our skeleton through a particular mode of movement.

I find it fascinating that if you look at bare feet, you will never see feet that are naturally as narrow at the toes as they are at the heel. The base of the toes is always broader than the heel. And yet there are very few shoes shaped like this. Modern shoes are often the same width at the base of the toes as they are at the ankle, despite what the foot is shaped like. Pointed shoes take this unnatural shape even further. When we wear badly shaped shoes or heels, our body compensates and pain, such as sciatic pain in the hip area, may develop as a result.

I’ve moved almost exclusively to barefoot shoes now. These are what’s called zero drop – the same amount of padding or lack or it at the front and back of the shoe, with a wide toe bed so your toes can splay out as they are supposed to, and a flexible sole to allow the foot to move as it does when bare on the ground. I’m convinced these have improved my posture and my sciatic pain as a result. It turns out we don’t need more padding to protect our feet, we need to let them move naturally as they’re supposed to.

Why not give them a go? Here’s a great person to follow on the socials, Anya’s Reviews, to get the best barefoot shoes available. Mine are mostly Vivo Barefoot as they are the ones most easily available in the UK. They are pricey but I love them. I use Altra shoes for running. These are also zero drop with a wide toe bed, but give me more padding for running on my not far off 60-year-old bones!

Apple cider vinegar

And finally! I don’t know why, but I was told by an excellent massage therapist that this was good for sciatic pain. It’s a regular part of my diet: I have a teaspoon topped up with fizzy water and a slice of lemon as a very refreshing drink. I don’t know if it has specifically helped with my sciatic pain, but it’s good for my health in general and I like it!   It might help you.


I hope you’ve found my treatment options for sciatic pain in your hip joint helpful. It’s important to get medical advice, but if, like me, there’s no medical reason for it, but it’s still painful and annoying, these ideas I’ve shared might make it manageable, if not completely curable. And it might go away completely, you never know. Though it might come back on a particularly long-haul flight!  Good luck and do let me know if you discover anything else that can reduce sciatic pain in your hip joint.

Disclosure: Some of the products mentioned above contain affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. These are all products personally recommended by the author.

Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, iNews, The Sunday Express, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond.

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Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Editorial Staff

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