Pain in the low back region and upper legs can be caused by a few different joints. Depending on the symptoms, the pain could be from spine arthritis or hip arthritis. It’s important to accurately diagnosis the source of pain as the treatments can be different.
Back pain typically starts in the low back or buttock and then can radiate down the leg. One of the crucial first steps is understanding the location of the buttock. The buttock is comprised of gluteus muscles which can be soft or hard. This is the part of our body that touches the chair when we sit.
Back pain commonly is in the middle of the back but can extend to the sides. It does not always radiate, but low back arthritis can pinch a nerve and cause shooting pain down the leg (sciatica). This pain can stop in the hamstring, but often this type of pain radiates down the back of the leg past the knee to the calf or the foot. It can also be associated with weakness or numbness in the leg. Back pain causes stiffness of the back and is often better with laying down either flat on the back or even on our side. However, back pain can also improve with standing or walking. It tends to be worse with sitting or bending.
If we suspect the symptoms are from the low back, this is usually treated with some rest but a fairly quick return to normal activity if possible. If the pain continues, we try some physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. Persistent pain may be evaluated with an MRI of the low back (lumbar spine) and depending on the findings, injections may be needed. Intractable pain can be treated with back surgery.
Hip pain starts on the outside of the leg. This is a different area than the buttock. The hip is where the thigh bone (femur) attaches to the pelvis. It is a hard bony joint. We lay on our hips when we lay on our sides in bed.
Hip pain can feel like pain in the lateral back or upper leg. It tends not to be above the belt. It can radiate to the hamstring, but hip pain almost never extends past the knee. Hip pain also commonly radiates into the groin, whereas pain from the back almost never radiates into the groin. Pain is worse with pressure on the joint. It should not cause any weakness or numbness as this type of arthritis is not compressing a nerve. Motion of the hip is often limited especially when moving from sitting to standing. The pain can be worse laying on the side of the affected hip and by standing or walking. The pain is usually relieved by rest.
Evaluation of hip pain can be achieved with X-rays of the hip, although an MRI may be needed. Anti-inflammatory medication can help as well as injections. Intractable pain may require surgery.
Are you experiencing back pain? At Rocky Mountain Brain & Spine Institute, we can help you identify the cause of your pain and provide treatment options that work for you. Contact us today to get started on a path towards relief.