In this article, we look at how to identify a pinched nerve, what home remedies can help, and exercises for this condition.
What is a pinched nerve?
A pinched nerve in the hip may cause sharp pain in the thigh, hip, or groin.
Nerves transmit pain signals. This means that when something goes wrong with a nerve, the symptoms can be very uncomfortable.
A common problem is when a nerve becomes pressed or pinched by nearby tendons, ligaments, or bone.
When a pinched nerve occurs, the nerve signals become aggravated, emphasized, or interrupted by pressure, irritation, or rubbing. This is known medically as radiculopathy.
In the hip, a pinched nerve can cause a:
- sharp, searing, or burning pain in the hip, thigh, or groin
- dull, achy pain in the hips and buttocks
- tingling, "pins and needles" feeling, or numbness in the hip or down the leg
- weakness or loss of movement in the affected hip and leg
Usually, the pain or numbness will worsen when a person moves. The nerve gets further irritated and aggravated by the structure that is pinching it.
A pinched nerve can be caused by a minor incident, such as sleeping in an improper position, or a major event, such as an accident.
Some of the more common causes of a pinched nerve in the hip include:
- repetitive stress on the hips, back, and nearby joints, such as walking, standing, or sitting in a particular position for long periods
- falls, car accidents, or sports injuries, which can throw the muscles and joints out of alignment
- sleeping in a position that puts stress on the hips and back
- hip flexors that are too tight, which may be caused by exercising without stretching before and after the activity
Minor pinched nerves can usually be treated at home.
Useful home remedies for a pinched nerve in the hip include:
- Rest. Avoiding any activities that make the pain worse can reduce irritation and stress on the nerve, allowing it to heal.
- Anti-inflammatories. These can reduce swelling, which may take pressure off of the nerve. Common brands include ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Heat pads and cold pads. Alternate between the two, or use the one that brings the most relief.
- Gentle stretches. This can relieve pressure on muscles or tendons that may be too tight.
Certain stretches can be very beneficial for a person with a pinched nerve in their hip. Stretching the following muscle areas may be helpful:
The piriformis stretch may help with a pinched nerve in the hip.
The piriformis is a muscle in the buttock area. When it is too tight, it can aggravate a pinched nerve and worsen hip pain.
This muscle gets tight when a person spends too long sitting down. It can also become overly tense if a person fails to stretch before and after strenuous exercise, such as running.
A person can use these three exercises to stretch the piriformis:
- Lie down on a flat surface.
- Clasp the knee of the affected leg with both hands.
- Slowly pull the knee upwards towards the head.
- A person can deepen the stretch by holding the ankle and pulling the foot gently towards the opposite hip.
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat 3 times with both legs.
- Lie down on a flat surface, such as a carpeted floor.
- Place feet flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees about 45 degrees.
- Put arms straight out to the side, flat on the floor.
- Draw in the tummy and squeeze the buttocks.
- Slowly push up through the heels and lift the buttocks and lower back off the floor, leaving the head and shoulders on the floor. Over time, the back will be completely off the floor, and the knees, hips, and shoulders will form a straight line.
- Hold this pose for 10–30 seconds and slowly lower the back and buttocks down.
- Rest for 15 seconds and repeat.
- Lie on the floor, face up.
- Bend the knees, placing the feet flat on the floor.
- Gently draw the belly button in toward the spine, tightening the abdominal muscles. Breathe slowly and gently while holding the belly in.
- Without moving the belly or spine, slowly extend one leg out straight until it is flat on the floor.
- Hold the leg straight for up to 15 seconds and slowly slide it back up to a bent position.
- Repeat with the other leg.
The glutes or gluteal muscles are muscles in the buttock area. They are closely connected to many causes of hip pain. Any tension in these muscles can also aggravate lower back pain.
Use the following exercises to stretch the glutes:
Sit and twist
- Sit on the floor with legs straight out in front.
- Bend the right knee and cross the right foot over the left knee.
- Move the right heel up close to the left buttock, keeping the right foot flat on the floor. Reach the right arm behind the back and allow the fingers to touch the floor behind the back.
- Put the left hand on top of the right knee. Slowly and gently pull the right knee towards the left until feeling a stretch in the buttock and hip area.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Slowly release and repeat on the other side.
Lying down crossover
- Lie flat on the floor, face up, with legs out straight.
- Lift the left leg and hip, crossing it over the right. Keep shoulders and back flat on the floor.
- Keep stretching until a stretch is felt in the glute and hips.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds and slowly release. Repeat on the other side.
Full body stretches
Because all of the body's muscles work together, having good flexibility in all muscle groups can help avoid a pinched nerve and muscle-related pain.
Try these relaxing and invigorating moves to stretch the various muscles in the body:
Classic bend and stretch
- Stand up straight with feet hip-width apart. Knees should be slightly bent, not locked.
- Breathe out and slowly bend forward at the hips. Gently lower the head toward the floor and focus on keeping the upper body relaxed.
- Grab the back of the lower legs with hands.
- Hold for 30 seconds while breathing deeply, and slowly rise to standing again.
The Sphinx yoga pose can help to stretch the lower back.
This yoga pose helps stretch the lower back and strengthens the abdominals, both of which are related to the hips.
- Lie face down on the floor with legs straight. Tuck elbows in under the shoulders and put forearms flat on the floor.
- Lift the chest off the floor and press hips and thighs downward into the floor. Keep lifting the chest until a stretch is felt in the lower back. Focus on relaxing the shoulders and stretching the spine.
- Go only far enough to feel a stretch, and stop if it is painful.
As with any stretches, some are better for certain body types and fitness levels. The best way to adopt a full stretching program is with the help of a certified personal trainer, sports medicine physician, or physical therapist.
When to see a doctor
Anyone who experiences a hip pain that lasts more than a few days and does not get better with rest and over-the-counter pain medicines should consult a doctor.
Severely pinched nerves can lead to scarring in the affected area or permanent nerve damage if not treated. Also, other medical causes for the pain should be ruled out.
In more severe cases, a doctor may recommend specific treatments for a pinched nerve. They include:
- physical therapy
- steroid injections given directly at the site of the pinched nerve
- oral steroid medicines
A pinched nerve in the hip is rarely serious, but the painful symptoms can interfere with daily life.
Home remedies and exercises can usually solve the issue, but it is best to see a doctor if symptoms persist beyond a few days.