Lower Back and Hip Pain: 3 Possible Causes

Written by Leon Mao
Physiotherapist, University of Melbourne
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on June 20, 2022

Woman holding her lower back in pain

What is lower back and hip pain?

Lower back pain affects a large proportion of the adult population at some point in their lives. Back pain can range from a mild ache to a more severe, debilitating pain. Sometimes back pain refers to the hips, and less often, hip pain can refer to the lower back because of their anatomical proximity.[1]

What are the symptoms of lower back and hip pain?

The symptoms of lower back and hip pain depend on what structure has been damaged.[2] Common symptoms include loss of mobility, muscle tightness, weakness, sharp lower back pain, numbness, tingling down the legs, groin pain, thigh pain, stiffness, and trouble walking.

Causes of lower back and hip pain

There are many reasons lower back and hip pain can develop. Some pain is temporary, while other pain may be long-standing or chronic. Common causes of lower back and hip pain include muscle strains, arthritis, herniated discs, ankylosing spondylitis, or sacroiliac disorders.[3]

1. Muscle Strains

Muscle strains are a common cause of both lower back and hip pain and can occur in either structure. Muscle strains occur when the fibres in a muscle begin to tear from being overstretched or overused.

Muscle strains generally worsen with activity and improve with rest.

Common causes of muscle strains include:

  • A fall or trauma

  • Sports injuries

  • Playing a sport without warming up properly beforehand

  • Lifting a heavy object

  • Moving in an awkward way.

The symptoms of a muscle strain depend on which muscle is affected, but may include:

  • A burning sensation

  • Difficulty moving

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Tenderness over the affected area

The treatment for a muscle strain in the lower back or hip usually includes resting from aggravating activities such as running or lifting weights.

You may apply ice to the area, holding it in place for 10 minutes at a time. You may also use over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce the pain and swelling in the area.

If your muscle strain is severe, you may consider visiting a physiotherapist who will treat the muscle tightness and pain. They will also recommend various stretching and strengthening exercises to ensure a full recovery.

2. Arthritis

A common cause of lower back and hip pain, arthritis is a degenerative condition that usually affects people over the age of 50. It is often the result of years of wear and tear in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.

The symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Stiffness of the hips and lower back

  • Pain in the groin area

  • Clicking or grinding sounds with movement

  • Swelling in the joints.

Arthritis cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed and improved. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories are often effective at reducing pain. Sometimes applying heat to the affected joints can also improve the range of motion and reduce the stiffness. Your doctor may recommend that you visit a physiotherapist who will mobilise the joints and prescribe stretching and strengthening exercises.4

In severe cases of arthritis, surgery may be required. Common surgical procedures include joint replacements and arthroscopies.

3. Herniated Discs

Discs are rounds of cartilage that act as shock-absorbers in the spine. When discs become herniated, they bulge out into the spaces where the spinal nerves exit the spine. A herniated disc in the lower back often causes radiating pain, tingling, and numbness that may radiate down into the leg.

With age, people become more prone to disc herniations because of the natural wear and tear that occurs over time. Additionally, the discs of older adults tend to be more rigid and unable to withstand too much force.

The causes of herniated discs include:

  • Degenerative disc disease. This occurs with wear and tear of the disc, resulting in calcification, bone spurs, and disc herniation.

  • Traumatic injuries of the lower back. Examples of a traumatic injury include falls or a sports injury that places a force on the upper back.

  • Improper lifting, or twisting while lifting a weight.

  • Being overweight.

The symptoms of a herniated disc include:

  • A sharp shooting pain that radiates down the leg on the affected side

  • Severe pain and immobility in the lower back

  • Numbness that radiates down the buttocks into the foot

  • Weakness in the leg or foot

  • Severe disc herniations can result in loss of bladder or bowel control. This is a medical emergency.

The treatment of a herniated disc depends on the severity. In cases where the symptoms are mild, rest from aggravating activities and the use of pain relievers and anti-inflammatories should suffice.

You may also visit your physiotherapist who will gently mobilise the joints, relieve the muscle spasm, and prescribe stretches and strengthening exercises.

In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to reduce the pressure of the disc on the surrounding nerves.

4. Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine, causing pain, inflammation, and loss of mobility. There is no known cause of ankylosing spondylitis, although research suggests that genetic factors could be a precipitating factor. It occurs more commonly in men than women and usually begins in early adulthood.

Common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include:

  • A loss of mobility of the lower back

  • A hunched-forward posture

  • Pain in the lower back

As with arthritis, there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis. People can manage the condition with a range of home treatments, including icing the affected areas and taking medications such as pain-relievers and anti-inflammatories.

Consider seeing a physiotherapist who will mobilise the joints, improve the flexibility and prescribe strengthening exercises. Regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, pilates, or yoga is also crucial in improving the condition.

5. Sacroiliac Disorders

The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) connects the lower back to your pelvis. The SIJ typically has little movement and its primary function is to provide shock absorption between the upper and lower body.

The symptoms of SIJ disorders include:

  • Dull, aching pain in the lower back that ranges from mild to severe. Pain is usually felt on one side, but it can affect both sides.

  • Pain that refers to the buttocks, hips, and sometimes down the legs.

  • Stiffness and reduced mobility of the lower back.

The treatment for SIJ disorders focuses on reducing pain and restoring the movement in the joint. Your doctor may recommend icing the area and taking pain medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories NSAIDS). In more severe cases, you may be referred to a physiotherapist who will mobilise the joint and prescribe stretches and strengthening exercises.


Back and hip pain are common ailments that affect a large proportion of the population. Some pain is mild and can be treated with various home remedies, while other pain may require medical intervention.

Visit your doctor or physiotherapist if you experience severe or irregular symptoms. They will recommend the best course of treatment to improve your condition.

Written by Leon Mao
Physiotherapist, University of Melbourne
Published on June 20, 2022
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on June 20, 2022
Medical reviewers
Last medically reviewed on June 20, 2022
BookPhysio.com has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
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    Harris-Hayes M, Sahrmann SA & Van Dillen LR. Relationship between the hip and low back pain in athletes who participate in rotation-related sports. J Sport Rehabil 2009 [cited 2022 June 15]; 18(1):60-75.

  • 2.

    Ahuja V, Thapa D, Patial S, Chander A, & Ahuja A. Chronic hip pain in adults: Current knowledge and future prospective. J Ansth & Clin Pharm 2020 [cited 2022 May 10]; 36(4): 450-457.

  • 3.

    Foster NE, Anema JR, Cherkin D, Chou R, Cohen SP & Gross DP. Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions. Lancet 2009 [cited 2022 June 15]; 391(10137): 2368-2383.

  • 4.

    Bennell KL, Egerton T & Martin J. Effect of Physical Therapy on Pain and Function in Patients With Hip Osteoarthritis. JAMA 2014 [cited 2022 June 15]; 311(19): 1987-1997.

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