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Tight or Sore Hips – Causes and Treatment

If you are experiencing tightness in your hips, you are definitely not alone! Tight hips are very common, among runners, athletes, gym goers and desk workers and there are many causes. It is worth considering whether it is tightness or actually an injury to the area. Firstly, let’s have a closer look at the anatomy around the hip as there is a lot going on in this part of the body.

When we are talking about the hip, it actually encompasses the hip joint and the pelvis, along with the muscles that interact with them. The hip joint is very mobile and moves in several different directions, and has large ranges of movement. To be able to be so mobile requires a lot of different muscular attachments to control these movements, therefore any changes to the tone or ‘tightness’ of any of these muscles can significantly affect the movement of the hip joint.

The pelvis is an important area that connects the upper and lower body and a fully functioning pelvis is key to a healthy hip. The pelvis doesn’t have the same range of movement as the hip joint, however its tilts and rotations have a huge influence on the range of motion of the hip. So, there is a lot of focus on the pelvis to unlock what is going on with tight hips.

Symptoms of Hip Pain and Tightness

These are some of the common signs and symptoms you will experience if you have issues with your hips.

Hip Joint Injury

  • Usually there will be a specific incident that triggered the pain.
  • Pain is felt, rather than just tightness.
  • Pain will be felt in the groin or the front of the hip, although sometimes in the side.
  • It can be difficult to locate the pain as it feels deep inside.
  • A loss of movement in the hip.
  • A pinch or sharp pain in certain positions, likely with a constant ache.
  • Trouble sleeping on the sore hip.
  • Pain can increase with activity.

Non-structural Impingement

  • There wasn’t a particular incident which caused the pain.
  • Sharp or pinching pain or tightness.
  • Pain may not be evident if not in an aggravating position.
  • No pain when sleeping on the sore hip.
  • Pain may not get worse once warmed up with activity.

Causes of Painful Tight Hips

There are three areas in which people commonly experience pain or tightness in their hips. If it is more than discomfort and causing some pain, it requires immediate attention from a physiotherapist. If in any doubt, book a physio appointment anyway. The team at Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy have experts who specialise in hip and groin pain and will be able to assess and treat your complaint.

Here is a breakdown of the causes of hip tightness in each of these three common areas, and the symptoms to watch out for.

Front of Hip

Pain at the front of the hip can be caused by:

  • Tight hip flexors.

○      Symptoms include:

■      Tightness at the front of the hip.

■      Sitting can aggravate the pain or tightness.

■      Activity can make it worse, or can help it warm up and the pain will lessen.

■      Common in people with lower back pain or tightness.

  • Hip flexor tendinopathy (an overuse injury).

○      Symptoms include:

■      Pain over the front of the hip.

■      Lifting the leg can increase the pain.

■      Pain progressively increases over time.

■      May warm up with activity and then feel worse afterwards.

■      Develops in people who suddenly increase physical activity, or who already do a lot.

  • An undiagnosed hip joint issue such as a tear or impingement.
  • A non-structural impingement.

Side of Hip

Pain at the side of the hip can be caused by:

  • Tight glutes or tensor fascia latae muscle (in the thigh).

○      Symptoms include:

■      Tightness on the outside of the hip that improves when released.

■      The pain can be located by pressing on it.

■      Activities can usually be continued, despite the tightness.

■      Common in runners and people with lower back pain.

  • Gluteal tendinopathy.

○      Symptoms include:

■      Tenderness on the outside of the hip, that can refer down the side of the leg.

■      Pain can increase at night, especially when lying on that hip.

■      Pain with weight bearing activities, including walking, running and using stairs.

■      Pain increases when sitting or crossing legs for long periods.

■      Most common in middle aged females.

  • An undiagnosed hip joint issue.


Pain in the groin can be caused by:

  • Adductor muscles (inner thigh) tendinopathy.

○      Symptoms include:

■      More likely to be pain, rather than tightness, high in the groin.

■      Lifting the leg can increase the pain.

■      Pain progressively builds over time – doesn’t stem from a particular incident.

■      Can warm up with movement then feel much worse afterwards.

■      Painful to squeeze something between the knees.

■      Develops in people who increase or participate in a lot of physical activity.

  • Tight adductor muscles.

○      Symptoms include:

■      Inner thigh tightness, extending towards the knee.

■      Particularly uncomfortable with off-line movements such as changing direction.

■      Doesn’t prevent activity, though it may be uncomfortable.

■      Common in people who play sports with a lot of change of direction, such as soccer and basketball.

  • Hernia.

○      Symptoms include:

■      A bulge, pain and/or swelling in the groin area.

■      A feeling of heaviness in the groin.

■      Constant discomfort and worsens when bending down.

■      Hurts to sneeze or cough.

■      Urination or bowel movements can be painful.

  • An undiagnosed hip joint issue.
  • A non-structural impingement.

Treatment for Tight Hips

If you are experiencing a hip joint issue, adductor or gluteal tendinopathy or a possible stress fracture, see a sports physiotherapist as soon as possible. They will devise a tailored treatment plan to ease muscle tightness or non-structural impingement. Melbourne Sports Physiotherapy will thoroughly assess your pain and history to ensure they provide the correct treatment. They will provide specific exercises you can do at home to help with pain and tightness in your hips, as well as prevent it in the future. Other than professional treatment for hip pain, they are also specialized in disc physiotherapy, physio for meniscus tear, and post op physiotherapy among many others.

If you suspect you have a hernia or your hip pain is unusual, then see your doctor for a diagnosis. Whatever your level of hip discomfort, don’t delay in seeking professional assistance so you will be pain-free as soon as possible.

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