A person may be able to use chiropractic care to complement other evidence-based treatments, such as medication, surgery, or physical therapy. However, the research on chiropractic care and hip pain is not conclusive, so it is a good idea to consult a doctor before visiting a chiropractor.

Chiropractic manipulation is a type of alternative medicine. During treatment, a chiropractor manipulates the joints or soft tissues to achieve alignment in the body.

Although some people report that chiropractic care has helped their hip pain, the evidence to support this treatment is limited. Much of the research on the topic is in the form of case studies that only involve one individual or studies that appear in journals with an interest in promoting chiropractic care, making them not entirely reliable sources.

People who wish to try chiropractic care for their hip pain should first contact a doctor to discuss the treatment options.

Read more to learn about how chiropractic manipulation can help hip pain, what to expect from a session, and the risks associated with the practice.

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Chiropractors can treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, but they do not treat emergencies, such as broken or fractured hips. If a person has an acute injury, they should contact a doctor.

Most often, chiropractors treat a person in recovery from an injury. For example, a person who receives medical treatment for a broken hip might still have pain or mobility issues afterward. In this case, they may decide to contact a chiropractor.

Chiropractors are not medical doctors, so they do not complete medical training. Instead, they graduate with a doctor of chiropractic degree. In the United States, chiropractors must have attended a Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE) accredited college and hold a license to practice.

Some of the conditions that a chiropractor may treat include:

  • Chronic pain: This pain may result from a specific condition or have no clear cause. Chiropractors may also help people who have somatic symptoms, which means that psychological distress causes them physical pain.
  • Femoroacetabular impingement: This occurs when abnormalities of the thigh bone, hip socket, or both cause abnormal contact during hip motion. It can be painful and affect a person’s range of motion.
  • Hip dysplasia: In a person with hip dysplasia, the hip socket does not fully contain the thigh bone, sometimes causing partial dislocation of the hip. Hip dysplasia is often a congenital condition.
  • Spinal issues: Issues with the spine can cause low back or hip pain, as well as mobility problems.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is a group of joint disorders that can cause pain and movement issues. Chiropractors treat many types of arthritis, especially osteoarthritis.
  • Injury recovery: A person may have a wide range of injuries, such as broken bones or soft tissue injuries, that cause pain. A chiropractor can help treat injuries or support recovery after a person heals.

Early chiropractors believed that most types of pain originate with spinal subluxation, which is a slight misalignment of the spine. However, contemporary chiropractors have moved away from this theory.

A 2016 paper advocates for chiropractors to become general musculoskeletal practitioners who focus on spinal pain. Many modern chiropractors still focus on the spine as a source of pain, and they may look to problems with the spine or back to explain hip pain.

The specific treatment that a chiropractor chooses to use will vary, and it might not depend on the type of injury. Instead, it may depend on the type of pain and its source.

As chiropractic care is a type of alternative medicine, the processes of diagnosis and treatment do not always match those of medical care. The recommended treatment plans can also vary among chiropractors.

However, if a person visits a chiropractor, they can expect the following:

  • manipulative therapies, which involve moving the joints and muscles
  • mobilization of the joints by moving the legs or hips
  • exercise and physical therapy recommendations
  • soft tissue treatments, such as electrical stimulation or massage

A 2021 paper recommends that chiropractors draw upon data from a Danish study. In this study, researchers used a combination of exercise, pain management techniques, and education to help people manage osteoarthritis. They developed an evidence-based curriculum that laid out guidelines for treatment, and the protocol — called Good Life with osteoArthritis — had positive results in Danish and Canadian populations.

Following the results of these studies, chiropractors may use a combination of approaches when treating chronic pain.

During a visit to the chiropractor, a person can expect an initial visit to be similar to an appointment with a medical doctor.

First, the chiropractor will ask about symptoms and health history. They may discuss treatment goals, current medications, and lifestyle factors. In some cases, they may take X-rays or carry out a physical exam.

Some chiropractors work in doctor’s offices or hospitals. Others partner with physical therapists and other alternative medicine professionals.

It can be difficult to find treatment for certain kinds of hip pain, especially chronic hip pain.

Anecdotally, many people report improvements — sometimes even life changing ones — from chiropractic care. For example, a 2015 study supports the idea that people may be satisfied with chiropractic care. The study followed 403 people who saw medical doctors and 316 who saw doctors of chiropractic for hip, spine, and shoulder pain.

People who consulted a chiropractor initially reported greater pain reduction scores than those who saw a medical doctor. At 4 months, however, pain levels were similar between the two groups.

Chiropractic care may help in other ways, though. For instance, it can encourage people to manage controllable risk factors, such as a sedentary lifestyle. Research also shows a link between seeing a chiropractor and having a lower likelihood of filling a prescription for potentially addictive opioids.

Chiropractic care may be less expensive than medical care, and some insurers cover it. However, not all insurance plans provide coverage, so it is important to check with the plan provider before booking an appointment.

People should bear in mind that chiropractic care poses some risks, the most serious of which is the very small risk of a stroke. Several case reports have focused on strokes following chiropractic neck manipulation. People who receive chiropractic care may also be at risk of injuries from forceful manipulation.

Chiropractic care may help some people with hip pain. However, research on chiropractic manipulation has not caught up with the anecdotal evidence from proponents, and there are no recent well-designed studies proving that it can treat or cure hip pain.

This does not mean that chiropractic care does not work. Instead, it means that chiropractic care remains an alternative therapy until more evidence supports it. A person may find that it serves as a beneficial complementary therapy to evidence-based medical treatments. Anyone interested in receiving chiropractic care for hip pain should speak with a doctor first.