Iliac crest pain: Causes, home remedies, and exercises

iliac crest painUnfortunately, millions of adults suffer from iliac crest pain every day. The good news is, there are exercises and home remedies that can help ease the symptoms.

The ileum is the largest bone in our pelvis and the iliac crest is situated on the upper hip region, usually where we rest our hands on our hips. It is designed to protect different parts of the pelvic area and is attached to various muscles, fascia, and fibrous tissues.

What is iliac crest?


Iliac crest pain is any inflammation or damage to the ilium or muscle around the hipbone that leads to pain. This pain can be sharp and severe.

Our hipbone is made up of three bones: ilium, ischium, and pubis. As we have established, if you put your hands on your hips, you have found the iliac crest, which is a very important bone. Anatomy experts deem it vital because it divides the pelvis and the abdomen. The iliac is also connected to important muscles, such as the largest muscle in the back (lattissimus dorsi), the gluteus maximus, the muscle in the hip, and the main abdominal muscles.

Our hips are precious because they provide strength, stability and support for our spine and our organs. Damage to any part of the hip can be not only painful, but also physically challenging.

What causes iliac crest pain?

It is difficult to alleviate the discomfort associated with iliac crest, especially if you don’t understand the various causes. The following list covers the majority of iliac crest pain causes.

  • Weak muscles – Strong core muscles help support proper joint movement, but weak muscles in the abdomen and lower back can lead to pain in the hip area. Being overweight can also contribute to the pain.
  • Trauma – Falls or a collision that injures the iliac crest can cause tenderness and pain in the hip area as well as along the lower back.
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction – The sacroiliac joint is in the pelvis and connects the iliac to the lower part of the spine near the tailbone. Damage or inflammation in the sacroiliac joint can lead to pain in the lower back, abdomen, or groin. Some people experience this joint dysfunction due to arthritis, aging, uneven strides, or from jogging.
  • Apophyseal injury – Ilium apophysitis is a repetitive pulling of the muscle from the bone. This causes back pain in young adults and children whose bones and muscles are still growing. The pain associated with apophyseal injury is normally dull and located in the front of the hip.
  • Iliolumbar syndrome – This syndrome causes mild to severe pain in the back and around the pelvis area. The Western Journal of Medicine reports that it can be aggravated by prolonged sitting, standing, or twisting of the pelvis. Regular golf or tennis can lead to iliolumbar syndrome.
  • Piriformis syndrome – Normally caused by muscles becoming too tight and then putting pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can radiate through the hip and buttocks. This syndrome can be the result of wear and tear. Working out in worn shoes, length discrepancies in the legs, and muscle imbalances can cause piriformis.
  • Gluteus medius pain – Any aggravation in the gluteus medius can lead to pain near the iliac crest. This can cause reduced flexibility, reduced range of motion, an increase in pressure, reduced nerve and muscle function, as well as reduced circulation.

There are rare cases where iliac crest pain can be caused by cancer of the bone, but the vast majority of cases are caused by inflammation and damage to the nerves, ligaments, and muscles around the hipbone.

Iliac crest pain symptoms

Iliac crest pain symptoms depend on the exact cause of the condition. Some people experience pain in the lower back. In fact, lower back pain is the most common symptom of iliac crest pain. Since many muscles and nerves are connected to the hip area, pain has the potential to radiate down the leg, through the buttocks area, and into the groin. If you have iliac crest pain, you could have dull aches in your back or buttocks or sharp muscle spasms. Some people also experience discomfort and pain walking if they have inflammation in the joints. Tenderness, swelling, and bone bruises are also common signs of problems with the iliac crest, especially in cases of injury or trauma.

Normal movement can be difficult for some people suffering from iliac crest pain. Bending and twisting movements can make the pain feel even worse.

Home remedies for iliac crest pain

Treatment for iliac crest pain can involve medications such as anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and injections, like corticosteroids. However, there are a number of home remedies for iliac crest pain that can be considered. The following treatments have been known to help reduce inflammation and improve joint movement.

  • R.I.C.E – This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Often used as a first-aid treatment for sprains and muscle injuries, R.I.C.E has been recommended by the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy for treating iliac crest pain. It is important to get rest right after any activity that puts strain on your lower back or hipbone. Ice in the form of a cold compress helps reduce inflammation, as well as pain. It should be applied in a wrapped towel for 15 minutes about three times per day. A compression bandage can be used to reduce swelling, although it can be difficult to wrap the affected area when it comes to iliac crest pain. As for elevation, keeping the injured area above the heart can help take swelling down.
  • Warm compress – Some people find that simply applying a warm compress can reduce chronic back pain caused by inflammation of the muscles and ligaments around the iliac crest. The warm pad increases blood flow to the pain area, helping to speed up the healing process.
  • Gentle stretch – Some gentle stretching of the core and hip muscles can help build strength that can prevent further injuries. Stretching the hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps before physical activity is a good idea. Iliac crest pain stretches should be approached with care though so that you don’t cause further injury.
  • Turmeric – A review of therapeutic properties of turmeric in 2016 revealed that it is a natural remedy for relieving joint swelling and for preventing muscle stiffness. Some people combine turmeric with ginger to make a delicious tea.
  • Essential oils – Essential oils absorb easily into the muscles and joints. Some research shows that lavender, chamomile, and the lesser-known wintergreen make for powerful pain-relieving essential oils. A recent review into chamomile showed that it helps improve pain in those who suffer from lower back pain. According to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, wintergreen can be just as effective as aspirin for pain relief when massaged into the lower back.
  • Physical therapies – Some people can benefit from seeing a professional physical therapist, especially if the pain is related to injury. A physical therapist can guide a patient through safe stretches and exercises. It is important to discuss this option with your doctor first.

Iliac crest pain exercises

In addition to understanding the treatment options available should you find yourself suffering from iliac crest pain, you might want to learn a little bit about iliac crest pain exercises. The exercises outlined below can help ease symptoms and prevent further injury. As with the home remedies mentioned above, it is advisable to discuss your exercises for iliac crest pain with your physician before engaging in a routine.

  • Hip flexor exercise – Kneel with your left knee on the floor and your right knee bent in front of you. Thrust your hips forward, making sure you keep your back straight. Hold for up to 30 seconds and switch legs. If it is too painful, simply sit on the ground with both feet beneath your buttocks and lean back slowly. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds.
  • Hip abduction – Standing up straight, keep your hips, knees, and feet pointing forward then slowly lift your left leg out to the side. Pause for a few seconds and lower your leg to the starting position. Repeat nine times and switch legs and do the same exercise. Try to do hip abduction three times each day.
  • Lunges – Stand up straight. Step your left foot forward until your knee forms a 90-degree angle with your right ankle parallel to the floor. Push your weight back into your right heel and return to the starting position. Repeat as many times as it is comfortable and then switch to the right leg.
  • Hip extensions – Grasp the back of a chair and extend your right leg back behind you. Keeping your back straight, try to hold the pose for three seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat this move nine more times. Switch to the other side, extending your left leg backward. Try to do this exercise three or four times each day.

Iliac crest pain prevention


If you have never had iliac crest pain but have seen someone else suffer with it, you might be interested in knowing how you can avoid the pain, discomfort, and immobility that often comes with the condition. There are various ways to prevent iliac crest problems. For instance, most shoes eventually wear out and when that happens, they don’t provide appropriate stability for feet. We should all make an effort to change our shoes to something tough that can help give us good shock absorption and stability for our feet and legs. We can also avoid constantly walking or running on surfaces that are unequal or in locations that are uphill and downhill. This can put a lot of pressure on the legs and therefore the hip area.

Enhancing muscles is considered one of the best ways to avoid pain in the ilium. Regular exercise that includes stretching to keep the abdomen and hip muscles strong as well as keeping the joints flexible can go a long way in preventing iliac crest pain.

Taking preventative measures into consideration can be important. This is particularly true in the case of avoiding iliac crest pain or other hip-related discomfort. The Arthritis Foundation has been saying for years that exercising can delay or prevent the worst-case scenario when it comes to problems associated with the hip. The worse case scenario is. of course. the need for surgery.


Related Reading:

Hip pain in women: Causes and pain relief tips

Sacroiliitis: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

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