Acupuncture for Hip Pain

The hip is where our leg connects to our pelvis, and is a ball and socket joint which in health moves freely in all directions, giving our leg a lot of flexibility. The weight of the upper body is transmitted through the hips when we are standing, walking or running, so along with the flexibility the hip joint also needs substantial strength.

From the point of view of conventional medicine, hip pain can arise from a number of different conditions such as:

  • Arthritis

  • Bursitis

  • Tendonitis, especially in the iliotibial band

  • Muscle strains such as groin or hamstring strains

  • Osteoporosis


Conventional treatment depends on the cause of the pain and can include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and, in the case of arthritis, hip replacement surgery.

Hip Pain and TCM

Pain and restriction in movement in Chinese Medicine arises when our Qi is not free flowing; for some reason it is stuck or stagnant. In the case of hip pain, the obstruction is in one or more of the meridians which flow around and through the hip, so treatment will involve freeing up the flow of Qi through the hip area, and this will usually involve acupuncture treatment on the hip and quite possibly further down the meridians on the leg or foot; massage and cupping therapy may also help, as may a topical herbal application.

However, it is also important to understand why the Qi is getting stuck in the hip, and from the perspective of Chinese Medicine there are several possible causes of this, including the following:.

i) Sometimes the Qi is blocked at the hip due to what Chinese Medicine calls a ‘pathogenic factor’ obstructing the flow; this is a form of external Qi which blocks the body’s own Qi. For example, if you are someone who feels the cold easily, and have been exposed to a cold environment, then a Cold pathogen may have entered the channels at the hip and, as it were, ‘frozen’ the Qi there. In this case as well as moving the Qi with acupuncture, we will want to warm the area, perhaps using moxibustion and warming topical applications. We will also, of course, advise you to keep yourself warm! Other common pathogenic factors are Damp and Heat; in the former case the hip may feel heavy and perhaps be a little swollen; in the latter it may be warm and slightly red.

ii) Hip pain may also point to underlying systemic disharmony. Our careful questioning at the initial consultation will give us a clear idea of any such disharmony, and in this case local treatment of the hip will be supplemented by treatment to rebalance your Qi overall, using acupuncture and perhaps herbal therapy.

Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Hip Pain?

A recent (2006) very large scale trial in Germany has found that acupuncture is of significant benefit in controlling pain caused by osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. 1

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1 Witt C. et al (2006) Acupuncture in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip: A randomized, controlled trial with an additional nonrandomized arm. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 54; 11: 3485 –3493).


The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.

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