Pain in the Front of the Hip: What’s Causing It?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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When people have pain in the front of the hip, they often assume it’s just the same arthritis Grandma or Grandpa had, but pain in the front of the hip can actually be caused by a number of different issues. In order to fix it, we have to first find out what might be damaged or hurt that’s causing the pain. As you’ll see in the brief video above, to do that we examine the hip, layer by layer. We start on the surface of the hip at the skin layer.

The Skin

 At the skin layer, the L2 spinal nerve is what we are looking at. This nerve branches off the lumbar spine in your back and supplies the front of the hip. If there is a problem in your lumbar spine, this can refer to the hip and cause pain in the front of the hip. Even if you feel no pain in your lumbar spine, this can still be the source of your hip pain.

If the L2 spinal nerve is the culprit, the skin over the front of the hip on the affected side will feel different from the skin the other side. You can test it to see if it feels different by using touch, pinprick, and hot or cold stimulation.

Quadriceps Muscles and the ASIS

The next layer down would be the ASIS, which is the place where the quadriceps and other muscles attach. It sits right at the front of the hip. If it’s the quadriceps muscles that are causing the problem, then the ASIS as well as the quadriceps muscles will be tender.

Iliopsoas and Adductor Muscles

Down a bit deeper, in the next layer, we see the iliacus and psoas muscles, together known as the iliopsoas. These muscles bridge the pelvis/spine and the hip. Below these rest the adductor muscles. At this layer there is also an iliopsoas bursa, which is simply a fluid-filled pouch that serves as a cushion between moving parts to minimize friction, and a whole bunch of ligaments around the hip.

If it’s the iliopsoas or adductor muscle causing pain in the front of the hip, it should be very tender if you put pressure right over the hip joint itself or just around those muscle areas.

Hip Joint or Labrum

At the deepest layer, you have issues in the hip joint itself and the labrum, which is the lip around the hip joint. Pain in the front of the hip could be due to hip arthritis or a tear in the labrum, and symptoms could include decreased range of motion or clicking with pain when you walk. You can also test this layer: lift your leg, as if you were getting out of a car, or sit Indian style. If the hip or labrum is the culprit, these movements will hurt in the joint. Testing the range of motion is also easy. Just look at how much the affected hip is able to move while putting on your socks or shoes, for example, versus the other side.

SI Joint

The sacroiliac (SI) joint can also refer pain to the front of the hip. The SI joint is where the sacrum, or the tailbone, and the back of the hip come together. It’s part of a joint system that makes up what’s called pelvic ring, consisting of one joint in the front and two in the back. These joints allow forces to travel from the leg to the spine. So if the problem is due to the SI joint, in addition to having pain in the front of the hip, you’ll often have pain in the back of the hip as well.

The upshot? The hip is complex, and pain in the front of the hip alone can be caused by irritation or damage to one of a number of different structures. The key to figuring out how to fix it is to first figure out what’s causing the problem. From there we can seek regenerative-medicine solutions to tackle the pain once and for all.

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9 thoughts on “Pain in the Front of the Hip: What’s Causing It?

  1. Pamela Re

    Thank you for this information. I’m a grateful regenexx patient of Dr. Schultz. I received stem cells a little over six months ago in my right hip and left knee. A core decompression with my stem cells for a cyst – avascular necrosis of my right femur head was done at the same time. I’m gradually improving. Thank you.
    Best Regards, Pamela Re

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Pamela,
      Wonderful news!

  2. deb

    My pelvis is turned as my left hip rotates back and this leg being on the inside as the right hip rotates forward and this leg buttocks etc swings around and 2 inches ahead of right leg.
    this problem continues on up the body as torso twists the same way as the car rolled over I spun with it.
    please help if you can.
    I have been doing intramuscular stimulation but I’m still needing other things that can loosen the muscles

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Deb,
      An exam to check for injury is crucial. If you get the ALL-CLEAR, Egoscue would be a good Modality to re-establish good biomechanics.

  3. Judy Cox

    Very interesting. I have an appointment Feb. 1st with Dr.Schultz. I am having pain in the rt. groin area, and I was told it was bone on bone…so I guess it is the hip bones themselves. Looking forward to finding out for sure and then what can be done. Thank you Judy

  4. Soudaminikothinti

    I Mrs. Soudamini have been suffering with severe back pain. I am using Indian Aurvedic medicine. It shows it is little bit better than previous. But I think it is permanent remedy . I live in India . What sort of medicine I use through Regenexx. Com .

    1. Regenexx Team Post author

      Soudaminikothinti,

      We have a Regenexx Location for treatment in India. Please see: http://regenorthosport.in/ The joint supplements on the website would be helpful. We don’t ship Internationally, however they can also be sold on Amazon. Please see: http://www.regenexx.com/regenexx-advanced-stem-cell-support-formula/

  5. Chuck

    I had failed L5-S1 fusion surgery in 2015 that damaged my nerves permanently. I’ve had injections for pain, but that hasn’t helped. I recently had L5-S1-S3 ablation treatment that has been helpful, however, prior to the procedure, I had pain in my front hip and groin and a locking-up of the leg at intermittent times. It’s hard to cross my leg and get into the car without severe pain. A doctor said it was my L-2 and gave me an epidural. This was the first mention of any issues of my L-2 and the epidural did absolutely nothing. I had an MRI the other day because the doctor now suspects a labrel tear, however, he ordered then cancelled an MRI Arthrogram and instead ordered a regular hip MRI. I suspect I will be transferred from the Pain Management to the Orthopedic section (VA) after the results of my MRI. The doctor did say prior to surgery, there would be a recommendation of physical therapy, then injections, then, if needed, surgery. What are your thoughts/suggestions.

    1. Regenexx Team

      Hi Chuck,
      We’d need more information through a Candidacy review, and then to examine you to be able to advise in your case. But the progression should be try all least invasive, and then less invasive treatment, before surgery. These issues are likely treatable without surgery, but it takes someone who is willing to take the time to see what is causing what. Please see: https://regenexx.com/blog/hip-labral-tear-recovery-without-surgery/ and https://regenexx.com/blog/hip-labrum-stem-cell-procedure/ and https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/hip/hip-labrum/ and https://regenexx.com/conditions-treated/spine/

Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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