The patients in my San Diego chiropractors clinic often complain of hip pain. When I ask them to point to the pain they almost always point to the area right next to the spine just below their belt line.
Hip Pain Vs. Sacroiliac Joint Pain
From a medical standpoint, the “hip” is the joint where the femur articulates with the acetabulum. While I do see and provide care for those with pain in this joint, it is much less common to see pain in this “hip” joint versus the “hip” joints that most often trouble my patients.
The joint that my patients point to when they complain of hip pain is usually the sacroiliac joint. The sacroiliac joint is formed from the ileum aka, hip bone and the sacrum which is a triangular shaped fusion of the bottom five vertebra in the spine. The spine (and the weight of your upper body) sit directly on top of the sacroiliac joints making the stability of these joints extremely important. When injured, the sacroiliac joint becomes inflamed, which patients typically refer to as hip pain.
There is a network of ligaments and muscles that act to stabilize and move the sacroiliac joints. Since the sacroiliac joints have to support some of the greatest forces that our bodies are subjected to, the muscles that act on these joints are some of the strongest in the body. Because of the sacroiliac joints close approximation to the spine and the hips, the large muscles that act on the sacroiliac joint are also movers of the hip and the lower lumbar spine.
Since the sacroiliac joints are large joints that are supported by big muscles and strong ligaments, they are able to withstand much of the stresses that we ask of them. However, they do break down with the constant postural stresses (sitting), poor lifting habits, falls and other injuries leading to hip pain and stiffness in the lower back.
Because of its size, once the sacroiliac joint is irritated it can be resistant to treatment. Treatment always involves reducing inflammation, mobilizing the joint (restoring normal motion) then stabilizing the joint with stretches and exercises.