Feeling pain in your hips or shoulders?

Hip and shoulder pain often appears slowly and with no apparent cause. You might find yourself not reaching to pick up items, sleeping in only one position, or avoiding low seating. You might even say to yourself “welcome to old age!” and your MD might say that too. But before your joint wears away to the point of needing surgery or replacement, there are therapies that could restore pain-free, fluid motion.

The trick to this restoration is to treat your entire body as a system. Hips and shoulders take on the duty of balancing other restrictions in the body (such as problems with your back, neck, head, pelvis, abdominal, chest, knees and feet). A hip or shoulder that becomes chronically painful is a signal that at least 3 major planes of physical motion have become restricted. Therapy that only targets the hip or shoulder does not address the underlying cause of restriction, which is why many therapies for hip or shoulder pain are unsuccessful in the long term. Success occurs when a doctor can address the restrictions that cause the shoulders and hips to overwork.

What causes hip or shoulder pain?

Acute trauma – A recent direct injury to the affected area can cause pain.

Prior injuries – Walking or moving differently to accommodate an older injury will cause restrictions in the hips or shoulders which can appear up to 20 years later.

Head trauma, chronic sinus pressure, TMJ – Pressures in your head are kept constant by your body; yet to accomplish this in an ever changing pressure environment we have several mechanisms to alleviate a build up of pressure. The musculoskeltal system is one of these mechanisms. The neck, low back, shoulders and hips all accommodate to relieve pressures in the head.

Pelvic Instability – When the pelvis is not stable and pivoting correctly it puts undue demand on the muscles of the back and legs which can cause restriction in the hip.

Hip or shoulder restriction – The left shoulder moves with the right hip and vice versa. If there is restriction in one, there will ultimately be accommodation and restriction in the other.

Chronic stress – Acute stress can cause headaches or pain in the neck, low and mid back; left unresolved the hips and shoulders will eventually get involved to counterbalance these tensions.

Professional treatment for hip or shoulder pain

Chiropractors work to restore proper biomechanics throughout the body. Some specialists also work directly with extremities (hips, shoulders, arms, and legs). Some specialists may work with the cranial bones and membranes around the brain to reduce pressures in the head and sinuses which can also help relax the shoulders and hips.

Massage therapists and Rolfers are effective in relaxing tight muscles and fascia that cause pain. If pain started after a direct injury, they are more successful with hip and shoulder pain. When pain happens for no apparent reason and massage relief only lasts a few days, co-care with a chiropractor is recommended.

Pilates, Exercise and Yoga Therapists are effective in increasing your flexibility and core strength which can increase your range of motion and reduce your pain.

MDs may prescribe pain killers and rule out possible pathology. They may suggest rest, avoidance of painful activity, or surgery.

Self-Care Tips

You may be able to minimize your hip or shoulder pain by trying some of these home remedies (usually hip and shoulder pain requires therapy of some kind, if these tips make your pain worse you should see a doctor right away):

Severe acute trauma:

  • If you injured your hip by landing on your side, you should get an immediate medical evaluation to make sure the blood supply to the hip joint is not disturbed. If pain is severe you should also be evaluated by a doctor.

Mild to moderate acute trauma:

  • If you decide not to see a doctor, use the PRICE method. Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate, to reduce pain and inflammation

Chronic or slow onset pain:

  • Work out with higher reps and lower weights to get motion and blood into the area. If working out makes it worse, discontinue and see a doctor.
  • Try heat to relax the muscles and increase flexibility.
  • Take up yoga.

Online resources

National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health

Mayo Clinic:

E Medicine Health: