SSM Health Medical Minute: Hip and Back Pain

ST. LOUIS - Often people go to the doctor for lower back or hip pain, but the source of the pain is not always as it appears.

Dr. Richard Covert, Medical Director of the Comprehensive Back Pain Program at SSM  Health DePaul hospital, says patients can easily mistake the cause of their pain, "About 85 percent of patients that come in with some sort of back or hip problem it's really not coming from a disc or a pinched nerve, it's coming from what we call nonspecific back pain, so you really have to look at the patient and look at their structure and how they walk and the length of their muscles."

The shooting pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness that result from interference of this nerve can have a crippling effect on your life, especially when it is causing hip pain.

When you see a doctor to diagnose the cause of your hip pain he or she will generally begin with a review of your medical history and a discussion of symptoms. To determine if pain in the hips is sciatica-related a doctor will ask if it is accompanied by other symptoms like weakness in the legs, numbness in the toes and burning pain that travels along the length of the sciatic nerve. A doctor or other medical professional can also use the following diagnostic measures:

  • A full physical examination, including specific movement tests to isolate symptoms
  • Selective nerve root blocks that can numb a specific nerve to see if a symptom, like hip pain, is still present
  • Diagnostic imagery like an X-ray, MRI or CT scan can determine if there is sciatic nerve compression in the spine.

Upon diagnosing the cause of symptoms, you and your doctor can then work together to come up with a treatment plan, which usually begins with a course of conservative, nonsurgical treatment.

Dr. Covert says pain in the hip could be coming from nerves that are higher up in the back or from lower leg muscles. A specialist will ask a lot of questions, "More often than not you’ll get a physical therapist involved. You might do some conservative things with medicines and then you might modify their activities on a day to day basis. Our goal is to really give the patient some tools, so you don’t have to keep coming back to us that’s a win."

To download a free back pain guide, click here.

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs every Wednesday evening at 7 pm on KPLR News 11 and 9 pm on KTVI Fox 2 News.