CALL US TODAY (716) 221-0040

Lateral Hip Pain: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Lateral Hip Pain: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention


Lateral hip pain, manifesting primarily along the outer side of the hip joint, is a condition that can impede one’s quality of life by restricting daily activities and overall physical activity. Often, this discomfort is associated with a range of conditions such as trochanteric pain syndrome, gluteal tendinopathy, or hip osteoarthritis. These ailments affect the soft tissues around the hip, including the gluteal muscles, iliotibial bands, and bursae—the fluid-filled sacs that decrease friction between moving structures.

Understanding the root cause of outer hip pain is crucial, whether it stems from mechanical issues such as iliotibial band syndrome or discrepancies in leg length. Seek expertise from healthcare professionals, who may employ clinical tests designed to identify specific conditions with a high degree of diagnostic accuracy. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may further delineate the underlying issues.

Effective treatment approaches often integrate corticosteroid injections, customized exercise programs, and physical therapy. These interventions aim to alleviate pain while improving strength and mobility.

Anatomy of the Hip

The hip is a pivotal region in the human body, which consists of the hip joint and surrounding structures. At the core, the hip joint is a ball-and-socket synovial joint formed by the articulation of the femur (thigh bone) and the acetabulum of the pelvis (hip bone). Here’s a succinct overview of the anatomy:

  • Ball-and-Socket Joint:
    • Thigh Bone (Femur): The rounded head fits snugly into the hip socket.
    • Hip Bone (Acetabulum): A deep cup-shaped socket that houses the femoral head.
  • Soft Tissues & Supporting Muscles:
    • Gluteal Muscles: Important for movement and stabilization of the hip.
    • Iliotibial Bands: Thick bands of fascia extending from the hip to the shin that aid in stabilization.
    • Gluteal Tendons: Attach muscles to bone and help facilitate movement.
  • Other Elements:
    • Bursae: Small fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between bones and soft tissues.
    • Ligaments & Capsules: Strong bands of connective tissue that support the joint and control its range of motion.
  • Internal Structures:
    • Blood Vessels: Provide circulation to the hip area.
    • Nerves: Control hip muscles and provide sensation.

The synergy of these elements allows for functions like walking, running, and maintaining balance. Understanding the hip’s anatomy is crucial for diagnosing and treating hip-related ailments effectively.

What is Lateral Hip Pain?

What is Lateral Hip Pain?

Lateral hip pain is discomfort on the outer side of the hip and hip muscles, often associated with conditions such as trochanteric pain syndrome or gluteal tendinopathy. This pain can hinder daily activities and physical activity due to the involvement of the gluteal muscles and tendons which are crucial for hip motion and stability.

To offer relief, treatments may involve corticosteroid injections to address inflammation. Exercise programs developed by a physical therapist improve strength and flexibility, ultimately enhancing activity levels. For accurate diagnosis, a differential diagnosis is essential, which may involve clinical tests and advanced imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Managing lateral hip pain effectively can restore an individual’s ability to perform daily activities without discomfort.

Causes of Lateral Hip Pain

Lateral hip pain can be attributed to a variety of factors, each presenting a different degree of discomfort and requiring its approach to treatment. The following is a list of some of the most common lateral hip pain causes.

Trauma-Induced Causes: Accidents, Sports injuries

Trauma to the hip area is a common source of lateral hip pain. This can occur as a result of a direct blow or fall, leading to acute pain and discomfort. Sports injuries, particularly in activities that require sudden movements or impacts, can result in strains and sprains to the soft tissues around the hip joint.

Medical Conditions: Bursitis, Tendinitis, Arthritis

Medical conditions often underlie lateral hip pain. Inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs known as bursae, a condition called bursitis, can cause significant discomfort. Specifically, trochanteric pain syndrome involves the bursa at the hip bone’s prominence. Tendinitis, where the gluteal tendons become inflamed due to overuse or strain, is another culprit. Arthritis, especially hip osteoarthritis, leads to a deterioration of the joint surfaces, resulting in pain during hip movements.

Overuse and Repetitive Motion

Repeated activities or maintaining certain positions for prolonged periods can lead to overuse injuries. Occupations or hobbies that involve repetitive motion can cause lateral hip pain through ongoing stress on the gluteal muscles and tendons.

Structural Irregularities: Hip dysplasia, Spine disorders

Structural abnormalities such as hip dysplasia—where the hip socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of the thigh bone—can lead to pain. Spinal disorders and leg length discrepancy can also contribute by altering gait and putting uneven pressure on the hip joints.

Other Factors: Age-related changes, Weight, and lifestyle factors

As people age, changes in soft tissues’ elasticity and joint integrity can lead to hip pain. Obesity puts additional stress on the joint, exacerbating pain symptoms. Lifestyle factors indicating lower physical activity levels or inadequate exercise programs can further weaken the hip and surrounding soft tissue, making them more susceptible to pain.

Identifying the exact cause of lateral hip pain often requires a multi-faceted approach, including a thorough clinical assessment and possibly imaging tests. Early intervention is crucial to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Common symptoms of lateral hip pain

Experiencing discomfort along the side of your hip? Here’s a quick breakdown of the typical symptoms associated with lateral hip pain:

  • Muscle Weakness: You might find the muscles around your hip feel weaker.
  • Outside Hip Pain: A sharp or aching pain on the outer part of your hip is common.
  • Pain When Lying Down: Lying on the affected side could cause discomfort.
  • Pain During Activities: Activities, particularly those involving the hip joint, may induce pain.
  • Radiating Pain: Pain that spreads from the hip towards the thigh or buttocks.
  • Tenderness to Touch: The area may be sensitive when pressed.
  • Stiffness: You might notice restricted movement and stiffness in the hip area.
  • Difficulty with Movements: Movements like standing from a seated position may be challenging.
  • Limping: A change in walking pattern or limping could indicate lateral hip pain.
  • Swelling/Bruising: In some cases, there might be visible signs like swelling or bruising around the hip.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, a physical therapist can assess your condition and recommend appropriate activity levels or exercise programs to alleviate pain. Remember, early diagnosis and treatment can help restore your daily activities to normal.

Treatment for lateral hip pain

Treatment for lateral hip pain

When it comes to lateral hip pain treatment, there are several options available that can help alleviate discomfort and improve mobility. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip, and improve overall function. Here are some effective treatment approaches for lateral hip pain:

Physical Therapy: A core treatment for lateral hip pain, physical therapy aims to strengthen the gluteal muscles and stabilize the hip joint. A physical therapist might also use manual therapy techniques to mobilize soft tissues.

Rest and Activity Modification: Reducing or altering activities that exacerbate the pain is crucial in allowing the hip to heal.

Ice and Heat Therapy: Applying ice can reduce inflammation, while heat may alleviate muscle stiffness.

Pain Relief Medications: Over-the-counter or prescribed medications can be used to manage pain levels. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be recommended.

Stretching Exercises: Targeted stretching can improve flexibility of the iliotibial bands and fascia lata, reducing tension in the area.

Lifestyle Modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight and modifying daily activities can prevent further stress on the hip.

Adhering to a specialized treatment plan, which may encompass physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments, can significantly alleviate lateral hip pain and enhance quality of life.

Prevention Strategies

Prevention for lateral hip pain includes lateral hip pain exercises, proper posture, and weight management.

Exercise and Strength Training: Building up the strength of gluteal muscles is essential. Engage in an exercise program that includes activities aimed at hip joint stability.

Proper Posture and Ergonomics: Adopting ergonomic solutions at work and maintaining proper posture can limit unnecessary hip stress.

Weight Management: Excess weight can increase strain on the hip bone and surrounding soft tissues. Keeping weight under control is a preventative measure.

Tips for Athletes and Active Individuals:

  • Gradually increase physical activity to avoid overuse injuries.
  • Pay attention to both the intensity and the type of activities to prevent exacerbating hip pain.
  • Ensure an effective warm-up and cool-down during exercise.

Taking proactive measures in these areas can help individuals stave off lateral hip pain, enhance their activity levels, and maintain hip health over time.

Living with Chronic Lateral Hip Pain

Dealing with persistent lateral hip pain can directly affect your daily activities and quality of life. It’s often linked to conditions like trochanteric pain syndrome or gluteal tendinopathy. Pain management may include corticosteroid injections, which can provide temporary relief. Consistently working with a physical therapist is crucial, as they guide exercise programs designed to strengthen the hip and its supporting structures.

Practical adjustments like tweaking your physical activity, ensuring good posture, and balancing rest with exercise can help manage symptoms. Using clinical tests, a health professional might recommend imaging, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to ensure accurate differential diagnosis, potentially ruling out conditions such as hip osteoarthritis.

Moreover, consider adjustments to your daily routine, such as:

  • Avoiding activities that require excessive hip internal rotation or pressure.
  • Incorporating stretching of the iliotibial bands and thigh muscles.
  • Addressing any mechanical issues like leg length discrepancy.

Living with chronic lateral hip pain is a balancing act of interventions, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes, aimed to restore and maintain hip function while minimizing discomfort.

Discover Relief for Lateral Hip Pain with Kendall Performance Physical Therapy

Are you experiencing outer hip pain that hinders your daily life? Kendall Performance Physical Therapy can help. Our focus is on providing specialized care for lateral hip pain, including conditions like trochanteric pain syndrome and gluteal tendinopathy, through a systematic review of your patient history and definitive diagnosis.

Our dedicated therapists create tailored exercise programs to target and strengthen the key gluteal muscles, enhancing your physical activity levels without exacerbating pain, and highlighting the effects of exercise on recovery for patients needing physical therapy in Kenmore, NY. We also emphasize the importance of manual therapy, including stretching the fascia lata and gluteal tendons, to alleviate pressure on the soft tissues around the hip joint and address intra-articular pathology.

Utilizing state-of-the-art diagnostic tools with diagnostic accuracy, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we ensure that our treatment plans address the root cause of your pain. This approach often leads to a positive finding, guiding us in managing conditions that may involve subtle leg length discrepancies or the need for a fascia lata intervention. We consider all aspects of your condition to provide comprehensive care.

Join us today and take your first step toward lateral hip pain management at Kendall Performance Physical Therapy.


Living with lateral hip pain can be challenging, but with the right approach, relief, and improved function are attainable. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for effectively managing this condition. Seeking professional guidance and adhering to tailored exercise programs and lifestyle modifications are essential steps in alleviating pain and restoring everyday activities. Whether it’s trochanteric pain syndrome, gluteal tendinopathy, or another underlying  healthcare professional cause, individuals experiencing lateral hip pain can find hope in targeted treatment strategies.

By incorporating preventive measures and engaging in structured physical therapy, it’s possible to enhance hip health, reduce discomfort, and regain overall quality of life. Always consult with a for personalized advice and a customized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.


How long does it take for lateral hip pain to heal?

The healing time for lateral hip pain can vary widely depending on the underlying cause, the severity of the condition, and individual response to treatment. Conditions such as trochanteric pain syndrome or gluteal tendinopathy may require several weeks to months of consistent management. Following a prescribed exercise program and adhering to guidance from a physical therapist can influence recovery time positively.

Is lateral hip pain serious?

Lateral hip pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain impacting daily activities. While some causes of lateral hip pain are not serious and can be managed with conservative treatments, persistent or intense pain should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Conditions like hip osteoarthritis or complex musculoskeletal issues may require more comprehensive intervention.

What is the best position to sleep in with lateral hip pain?

For individuals experiencing lateral hip pain, adopting sleeping positions that reduce pressure on the hip can significantly enhance comfort and alleviate discomfort. Relief is often found by sleeping on the side that does not experience pain, with a pillow placed between the knees to ensure proper hip alignment. Alternatively, lying on one’s back with a pillow under the knees can help minimize hip strain. Additionally, using a supportive mattress that molds to the body’s contours can further alleviate pressure points, promoting a night of more restful and pain-free sleep.

dr kee with his arms crossed and the words dr kee.

Dr. Christopher Kendall PT

Kendall Performance PT

We help athletes and active adults move better, live pain-free, and get stronger to improve the health of our community and provide each client the knowledge to remain healthy and independent the rest of their lives.