Quite often, patients visit our clinic and complain of hip pain. As a practitioner, I immediately think that their pain will be in the front or side of their upper thigh. Instead, they often point to the region of the sacroiliac joint. This week’s blog is rather simple and may be a little basic if you’re a health care practitioner. We’re going to clarify some common landmarks for pain around the hip and sacroiliac joint.
Before we launch into this blog, it’s important to acknowledge that pain can refer and travel. The following information is not an absolute rule, but rather a guideline. In healthcare there are often exceptions to any rule, so please don’t take any of the following information as a definite. Since many people search the internet for information about their condition, it may be helpful for them to know the proper terminology for the pertinent area of pain and dysfunction. (Of course, as we’ve mentioned in previous blogs we caution any of our readers from using the internet as their primary source of health information).
I’m sure most practitioners would agree that when patients complain of “hip pain” they immediately consider the area where the femoral head articulates with the acetabulum on the pelvis. Again, not a definite, but more often than not the pain will be located in the front (as pictured below) or on the side. Common conditions affecting the “front” include arthritis (degenerative or osteoarthritis of the hip), labral tears, femoroacetabular impingement, hip flexor strain or tightness, snapping hip or bursitis and referred pain.
Pointing to the side (as indicated below) can also indicate pain in the hip area. Although pain from the actual hip surface can refer here (as can the lower back and sacroiliac joint) this area is more commonly associated with such conditions as bursitis, snapping hip, tendinopathy of various gluteal muscles and referred pain.
As mentioned previously, many people point to the area of the sacroiliac joint and refer to it as their hip. Similarly, patients comment on getting their “hips” adjusted by a chiropractor when more than likely, the adjustment was performed on the sacroiliac joint.
As you can see in the picture below, the sacroiliac joint is actually quite distinct from the hip joint. Although some of this is semantics, it may help to clarify the anatomy for some of our readers and assist them in communicating with their practitioners. In the clinic, I always have patients point to their area of concern so there’s no misunderstanding. When searching the internet though, we can’t do this!