What Does Hip Pain That Radiates Down the Leg Mean?


The hip joint is one of the largest joints in the body – and it can be a source of discomfort and pain. Its complex ball and socket construction allows for motion, provides stability, and enables the body to bear weight. The hip is essential for many activities including standing, walking, running, jumping, and sitting.

Hip pain involves any discomfort felt in or around the hip joint. Hip pain is common in adults and may occur in the front, side, and back of the hip. The pain may also radiate down the leg. The location of pain helps to provide insight into its cause.

What Causes Hip Pain That Radiates Down the Leg?

Front of the Hip

Pain that originates in the front of the hip can be caused by conditions that affect the hip joint such as:

  • Osteoarthritis from wear and tear
  • Labral tear is an injury to the soft tissue that covers the socket of the hip

These conditions can result in instability, or an abnormal hip joint movement called hip impingement. Hip impingement pain may radiate from the front and side of the hip to the front of the thigh and knee. Activities such as squatting, sitting, or rotating the hip can worsen the pain.

Side of the Hip

Pain that originates from the side of the hip and radiates down to the thigh may result from a spectrum of hip disorders called the greater trochanter pain syndrome (GTPS).

The greater trochanter is located at the top of the thighbone, or femur, and makes up the widest part of the hip. The cause of pain in this area is often due to an injury to the soft tissues that lie over the upper part of the thigh bone.

Other causes of GTPS include:

  • Overuse or stress on the hip
  • Being overweight
  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Inactivity, which leads to reduced muscle strength and flexibility

Back of the Hip

Pain that radiates from the back of the hip down to the side of the leg may be caused by irritation of the lower back nerve roots. This condition is known as sciatica.

The sciatic nerve branches from the lower back, through the hips and buttocks, and down each leg. Typically, sciatica only affects one side of the body but in certain conditions can affect both.

Sciatic nerve pain begins in the back and can radiate towards the hip and down the leg. It is often associated with numbness, tingling, and weakness. The pain can be described as sharp, shooting, or jolts of pain.

Sciatica can be caused by several different conditions including:

  • A herniated or slipped disk
  • An abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal or spinal stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis or bone spurs caused by aging spines
  • Injury to the lower back
  • Piriformis syndrome: a condition in which muscle deep in the buttock tightens, or spasms, causing numbness and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot

If you are suffering from hip pain that radiates down the leg, your doctor can help you figure out the real cause and determine the best treatment options for you.

Don’t suffer from radiating hip pain any longer – schedule an appointment today!


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