Your hip joints are where the upper leg bones connect to the body. You can have pain in one or both hips when you’re sitting. This is because the hip joint bends and supports most of your body weight when you’re sitting.
Where in the hip you feel pain can tell you a lot about why you have hip pain when sitting. Your hip pain might feel like a sharp, stabbing pain or a dull ache. The hip joint might also seem to pop a bit or feel stiff when you’re sitting.
You might have hip pain when sitting at your desk or the dinner table, while driving, or when you’re sitting on your sofa as you watch TV. Sitting for long periods while traveling or watching a movie can also lead to hip pain.
Your hip pain can mean different things depending on where the pain is in your hip.
Hip pain on the outer part of your hip, upper thigh, or outer buttock while you’re sitting is usually caused by the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the hip.
Sometimes pain in your lower back might be transferred to your hip when you’re sitting. This is called referred pain.
There are many things that may be contributing to or causing your hip pain. Read on to discover what these causes mean and what you can do about it.
Poor posture or sitting slouched over is a common cause of hip pain when you’re sitting. Sitting with poor posture or without the right back and hip support can put more pressure on your hips. This strain can lead to hip pain when sitting.
Crossing your legs
Crossing your legs or leaning over to one side while you’re sitting can also put more pressure on one or both hips. Even poor sleep posture, like lying on your side for too long, can put too much pressure on your hip and cause pain when you’re sitting.
Sitting on an uneven surface
If your seat cushion, car seat, or sofa is too soft, it might make you sit unevenly. This means that your body might tilt to one side.
Sitting on an uneven or too soft surface can put more weight and pressure on one of your hips leading to pain. This commonly happens when you sit in bed to work or watch something on your laptop. It can also happen if you sit on a pillow on the floor or on a soft, sandy beach.
Arthritis is another common cause of hip pain when walking, standing, and sitting. Different kinds of arthritis can cause the protective cartilage covering of the hip joint to wear out. This leads to pain when sitting because you have to bend your hip joints when you sit.
Arthritis can lead to painful rubbing and swelling in the hip joint when you’re sitting. Types of arthritis in the hip joint include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This will usually cause pain and inflammation (swelling) in both hip joints.
- Osteoarthritis. This is wear-and-tear arthritis that can happen in one or both hips.
- Ankylosing spondylitis. This kind of arthritis normally happens in the spine, but can also cause hip pain when you’re sitting.
- Psoriatic arthritis. This is similar to rheumatoid arthritis, it causes swelling and pain in the hip joint, especially when you’re sitting down for a long time.
Bursitis is a kind of inflammation (swelling) in the bursa, the small fluid-filled sacs that act like shock absorbers in the hip joints. When they get damaged or swollen, the hip joints can become a bit stiff and tender. Bursitis can trigger pain on the outer and back hips when sitting.
Sitting for too long, especially if you have poor posture, can stretch out the tendons in the hips. This can lead to tendinitis, or inflammation in the hip tendons. Tendinitis can cause hip pain when sitting, walking, and lying down.
A pinched or damaged nerve in your lower back can lead to hip pain when sitting. The sciatic nerve in your back runs through the buttocks, hips, and legs. Sciatica is when this nerve gets pinched or damaged. It can cause sharp pain in the muscles around the buttocks and hips when you sit or lie down.
Loose or damaged hip joint
Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) happens when the long leg bone (the femur) doesn’t fit right in the hip joint. This might happen when the cartilage between these bones wears away or is damaged.
FAI can lead to a sharp or dull hip pain when sitting. You might also feel your hip joints “pop” or stiffen a bit when you sit down or get up.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. It happens when the immune system is out of balance and attacks the body’s joints. Lupus can lead to hip joint swelling or damage. If you have lupus you might feel hip pain when sitting or lying down.
Your doctor can usually find out the cause of your hip pain with a few tests and scans. You might also need to see a bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon), an immune specialist (immunologist), or a physiotherapist.
To find the right diagnosis your doctor will give you a checkup that might include:
- Medical history. This report helps your doctor find out if you have joint pain or swelling anywhere else in your body or any chronic health issues.
- Physical checkup. This exam can help determine if your hip joint is swollen or damaged.
- Blood test. This lab test checks for infection and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
- X-ray. This imaging test can help identify fractures or damage to the bones in the hip joint, groin, and lower back.
- MRI scan. This imaging test helps check for injury or damage to the hip muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
- Patrick test. This is a type of physical exam that assesses movement in the hip joint.
- Gait test. This test examines how your hips and legs move when you walk.
Treatment for hip pain when sitting depends on the cause. Sometimes correcting your posture or changing your chair can help solve the hip pain. You may not need treatment at all.
In some cases a chiropractor and physical therapist can help you realign your hips. Hip and back adjustments can help keep the hip joints balanced.
Physiotherapy exercises help to strengthen the lower back and hip muscles. Improving the core muscles in your back and abdomen also release pressure from incorrect sitting and walking.
Treatment for hip pain when sitting includes:
- over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen)
- prescription pain medication
- muscles relaxing medication
- pain relief creams or gels
- heat therapy
- cold compress
- massage therapy
- weight loss
- anti-inflammatory steroid medications
- steroid injections for arthritis
- nerve block injection
- physical therapy
- chiropractic adjustments
- knee brace
- back brace or support
There are several things you can do at home to help relieve your hip pain.
Sitting tips for hip pain:
- Make sure your office chair, car seat, and other places you sit often are good for your posture.
- Add back or seat support to improve your posture when you’re sitting. Use a firm cushion or foam base.
- Check where your feet land when you’re sitting. They should be flat on the floor.
- Use a footstool to rest your feet on when you’re sitting.
- Avoid sitting on a very soft surface like a bed or sofa for too long.
- Avoid using very hard surfaces like a wooden chair, stool, or bench. A firm but cushioned surface molds to your body somewhat and helps to support your hips when sitting.
All of these things help to balance the pressure to get rid of hip pain when sitting.
Other home remedies for hip pain when sitting:
- Wear loose clothing. Tight jeans, pants, or belts can lead to hip pain when sitting.
- Avoid high heels or uncomfortable shoes even when sitting. They can cause your hips to tilt unevenly.
- Stretch at your desk.
- Do hip and pelvis stretching exercises like sitting on an exercise ball.
- Adjust your seat height.
- Adjust your seat support and tilt.
- Use a seat with back (lumbar) support.
- Sit in ergonomic chairs, which help posture.
- Apply heat or ice to sore areas.
- Try massage therapy with pain relief ointments or essential oils for muscle pain.
- Do home exercises for hip pain.
How long you have hip pain depends on the cause. You might have hip pain when sitting just once or twice, or it may be chronic.
In most cases, hip pain when sitting can be solved by improving your posture or changing where you’re sitting. If you have chronic conditions like arthritis, treatment can help improve your hip pain. You might still get hip pain occasionally with arthritis joint pain flare-ups.
Hip pain when sitting is common for older adults, but it can happen at any age — probably because we spend so much time sitting!
Hip pain when sitting is usually linked to your posture and what you’re sitting on. Hip pain can also be caused by chronic health conditions like arthritis and lupus.
Any kind of hip pain when sitting can normally be managed or treated. In some cases, you might need long-term care like medications and physical therapy.