Can Your Neck Cause Hip Pain?

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can your neck cause hip pain

“How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” —Sherlock Holmes

You would think it would be quite easy to find the source of someone’s pain. After all, can’t you just look at an MRI and conclude that whatever is abnormal is the causing pain? While many physicians do it that way, regrettably, research studies have concluded that this is a surefire way to misdiagnose a patient. Case in point is, “Can your neck cause hip pain?”  Surprisingly, Yes…

Your Doctor as Sherlock Holmes

When looking for the source of pain, most of my medical colleagues only look as far as the “bright shiny object.” We all do this to some extent, focus on what seems to be the most obvious answer even when the truth turns out to be quite different.

In truth, finding the cause of someone’s pain can sometimes be hard. Why? Study after study continues to show that MRIs are notoriously bad at predicting which patients have pain based on an abnormal finding. This is true for just about every joint—MRIs that show severe problems often belong to patients with minimal pain, and images that look pretty normal often belong to patients in severe pain. I guess the only saving grace is that there are a few detective findings in MRIs that can be associated more frequently with pain. In addition, a good doctor knows how to piece together physical-exam findings, imaging, and history like a detective puts together clues.

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My Neck and My Hip Pain

As you may recall, I diagnosed myself with cervical stenosis two years ago after a bad episode with nerve pain. While I’ve always been a good pain detective who knows intellectually that the neck can cause far-flung areas to hurt, there’s nothing like experiencing it firsthand.

The outside of my hips began occasionally hurting about a year ago. The pain comes and goes and really isn’t dependent on activity. At first I thought this could be hip arthritis or tendinitis in my iliotibial band. However, while some of these areas were mildly point tender, I was unable to really convince myself that either diagnosis made sense. In addition my hip X-rays were normal for my age. At one point I chalked it up to a new medication I was taking, so I stopped that, but eventually the hip pain returned.

One night my hips began hurting. I then noticed that when I changed my neck position by adjusting the pillow, the pain went away. I have since replicated this hundreds of times, so this is reproducible. How does this work?

Cervical Stenosis and Hip Pain

Cervical stenosis is when the hole for the spinal cord in the neck bones becomes too small due to wear-and-tear arthritis. The discs, facets, or joints called “uncovertebral” can place pressure on the cord. Since the job of the spinal cord is to carry signals to and from the body to the brain,  placing pressure on the cord can result in a disruption of those signals.

It’s sometimes hard for patients to understand how pressure in the neck can make someone believe that a distant area is hurting (like the hips); however, a light-bulb-wiring analogy may help. If you mess with the wires that go to a light bulb at any point from the switch to the bulb, the bulb will go out. From the perspective of the bulb, all it knows is that it’s not working. It’s ignorant to whether the issue is at the connection with the bulb, halfway there, or right after the switch. In the same way, pressure on the nerves at any point from the hip to the brain will be perceived by the brain as being in the hip.

The Upshot? Can your neck cause hip pain? Yes. I now know this intuitively, which is a bit different from knowing it academically. My issue is managed well by using platelet lysate epidurals to keep the nerves and spinal cord in tip-top shape and avoiding certain positions I know cause my bone spurs to bump into my spinal cord. In the meantime, I lead a normal and very active life without surgery!

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Category: Hip, Neck/Cervical, Spine

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17 thoughts on “Can Your Neck Cause Hip Pain?

  1. Amy Kidman

    Are you working on any clinical trials in which you need volunteers for regenexx ?

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      We are currently recruiting for a Rotator Cuff procedure RCT and an ACL procedure RCT: If you are interested and meet the criteria for the study, please follow the instructions on the page. Or, if you know anyone who might be, please share the link!

  2. Deb Andio

    I would love to volunteer for any trials I was diag with Avn in knee, due to medial meniscus tear and no one wants to repair the tear. I also was just diag with factor v Leiden heterozygous St 53 I’m to young to feel this old.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      We are still recruiting for a Rotator Cuff Procedure RCT and an ACL Procedure RCT,, but we have not done an AVN RCT. Given the v Leiden heterozygous issue, it is understandable that a surgical meniscus tear has not been suggested, but considering the problems surgical meniscus repairs tend to cause, that is a good thing. The more pressing issue, however, is the AVN, which can be treated with an injection of your own stem cells:

  3. abdul kabeer khan

    willing for cartilage of knee repairs/treatment.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Here is some information on Regenexx knee Procedures: Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

  4. Tim

    Hi, 2 month ago I asked to recrute me in a RC procedure, but still no respond,
    I’m 74 in good physical shape. A gradually shoulder pain started 15 years ago after an intencive work out.
    The steroid didn’t help. I have 3 MRI
    (2012-13-15). 10-12 mm tears on both sides. When I’m in rest the 90% pain goes away. I need consultation.
    Thank you

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      In any RCT the inclusion and exclusion Criteria is very narrow, so it could be that you did not meet the criteria for the study, but I will forward your contact info to that dept. Steroid shots will make it worse rather than better so important to avoid those. On that page there is a Regenexx Candidate form which you can fill out to speak to one of our doctors and have them look at those 3 MRI’s.

  5. Kristin

    Hi, I also have spinal stenosis and bone spurs and have been wondering about odd, random hip pain that seems to come and go on occasion. I would never have thought the hip pain was related! Can you tell me which positions you avoid to reduce your pain? I may look into the treatments you are receiving as I do not want surgery.

  6. Thomas

    I have narrowing in my neck and sure as it gives me hip pain I had stem cell treatment for lower back and am very happy with that but my neck and hips are hurting affecting my walking
    My specialist wants to operate but I am not keen. He says this can lead to me loosing use of arms legs ect

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      We’d need to examine you to see what’s going on in your case. Please call 866 684 9919

  7. Rufonious

    Hello, Began with pain in lower back and neck. Now additionally in right hip, but can shoot across to the left. Noticeable tremor developing in right hand and tingling sensation in right leg
    Would a support belt be useful, as I wish to avoid surgery and tablets if at all possible.
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Regenexx Team Post author


      We’d need to examine you to determine what’s going on in your case to advise. The Doctors at Algocells, our UK Regenexx provider, can do that. Please see:

  8. Claire Mahon

    Hi ,
    I am 49 years old , and got diagnosed with cervical stenosis last year . These last few months I’ve had hip pain when trying to sleep.
    Do you recommend a type of pillow to help your neck position while sleeping to help with this ? Thanks

  9. Shannon Schlager

    I have 2 herniated discs in my cervical neck area. 3 is bulging 4 to 5 and 5 to 6 are herniated on nerve into spine. the pain in my right shoulder and down right arm can be excruciating, its been 3 months. Now the outside of my right hip hurts too. Orthopedic surgeon wants to do surgery to put discs back in place and clean things up. I have have 2 spinal epidurals and they may have helped a tiny bit and I am doing PT but the pain never ends……

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