What you can do about Hip Pain from Walking
I don’t know about you, but exercise hasn’t particularly been one of my favorite things to do. Look I know it’s essential for a healthy lifestyle and rightly so. I know that if we don’t make effort to exercise, our bodies will inevitably suffer the consequences long term!
With this thought mind, I felt tried everything.
Running, Tennis, Swimming, Golf when funds permitted because let’s face it, Golf is expensive!
Then I simply gave it all away because I just wasn’t enjoying any of these activities.
Running at my age 53, well, just hurt all the time. Got up out of bed and ouch, was constantly painful. It’s no way to live.
Tennis, I was nowhere near fit enough let alone hit the ball.
And golf, although I did enjoy it at a learner’s level, I knew it would become out of my reach financially.
So, what did I do?
I started walking.
One foot in front of the other, walking, for hours.
I loved the pace of it, mine.
I loved being outside and listening to music as I hit the pavement day after day. Even shelling out for an expensive pair of high quality walking shoes. (Nike for me)
Then one day, my hip started to hurt. Started to ache. I really wasn’t sure what was going on and was feeling quite defeated as I thought I had finally found an activity I really DID enjoy.
Walking is one of the safest forms of exercise, I knew that but I soon found out, it doesn’t eradicate the possibility of hip pain. (Which is what I was experiencing).
Below what follows is some useful information I know you will find helpful for your own recovery from pain when walking.
It’s important, to know your body as best you can to assist with the healing and repair, renewal process.
The hip is the strongest ball and socket joint on your body. Who knew!
Despite being well suited for the pressure of my weight (and yours) and some degree of wear and tear, age, sickness, obesity, pregnancy and other factors, force our precious hips, to the limits.
More than 10 million people I came to find out, complain of hip pain annually.
I wasn’t alone (and neither are you) although at times, I felt I was.
And especially those of us above 50 years of age.
Why does your hip hurt when you walk?
66% of the cases of hip pain are associated with osteoarthritis which is: degradation of protective lining in the joint.
This results from prolonged friction between the femur and the pelvic bones.
Although walking may not be the primary cause, it may stir an already existing condition in your joint which was the case in my situation.
This will result in an abrupt or gradually developing pain. Ouch
Long distance walks or a rugged terrain may also result in hip pain when walking or after your walk.
Or your general body structure such as being overweight or pregnant also affects the pressure exerted on the hip. I wasn’t overweight myself, but I knew friends who were and suffered hip pain.
Also, when you are pregnant, there is significant weight exerted on the frontal hip.
General spinal conditions and some back pains may extend to the hip because the hip is connected to the back via the obturator nerve.
As you walk, the bones in your spinal cord aid in movement. Excess pressure or stiffness in the spine may cause pain that may spread to the rest of the body including the hip.
This is the cause of hip pain in most women, especially during pregnancy.
Every step you make involves the movement of muscles, tendons, the femoral head and the bursae which are all part of your hip.
The ball-like head of your femur that attaches to the socket in the pelvic bone does most of the movement.
As you walk, the ball rotates in different directions in the socket as directed by the muscles. The faster and longer you walk the more stress the movements put on the ligaments that lubricate the tip of the bone.
This results in pain, as the tissue tears or stretches, originating from within the joint. This is what happened to me.
The outer hip also experiences pain when walking. This is mostly related to high stress on your muscles and bursae.
The muscles stretch when you are moving while bursae streamline the muscles and acts as a shock absorber.
Although walking is gentle, all these parts of your joint are heavily deployed and if linked with an existing weakness in your hip, they may result in a very severe pain.
If you leave it untreated, a stitch in your hip can be very damaging.
Regular cases start with a mild ache arising from the inner hip proceeding to the front hip, groin area, knee area and finally the lower back.
If uncontrolled, you may possibly lose the ability to walk, drive, stand or even sleep on the affected hip. That’s not what you want.
Continued use of the hip in the injured state may further the damage.
Some cases proceed to surgery and hip replacement when an earlier intervention could make a big difference.
While some causes of hip pain such as osteoarthritis have no cure, all the symptoms can be managed without having to go for surgery.
An early intervention is always helpful.
So what causes pain in hips when walking?
Walking once even over a long distance cannot cause arthritis but it will increase its symptoms which include inflammation of the tissue around the hip.
Osteoarthritis is caused by degradation or cartilage which surrounds the bone to provide a protective lining. After many years of degradation and injury to this layer, it becomes very thin from its original size of about 1/4 of an inch.
While you are walking, the friction between the femoral head and the socket of the pelvic bone (acetabulum) increases significantly resulting in the pain.
With osteoarthritis, the hip pain when walking will increase as you walk and even continue when you rest.
This is the most common cause of hip pain on the sides of your hip. It increases when you bend your knee or walk downhill.
It is caused by the inflammation of the bursae (fluid-filled sacks around hip muscles and tendons) that absorb shock and relieve stress when you walk.
After walking for long, bursitis causes the pain on the lower hip which may continue if you continue with the walk, sit for long or sleep on the same hip.
- Muscle and tendon overstretch
When you walk really fast or over a steep terrain, you have to make quick irregular steps that cause an extra stretch on the hip muscles and tendons.
When you walk for long in this posture, the muscles become inflamed and the tendons start hurting. It is a major cause of tendinitis and can be just treated with enough rest.
- A bone fracture or a sprain
A sharp pain after a forceful move of a fall may be from a sprain or a fracture on the femur.
It will cause a rise in temperature of your thigh or a swelling and a fever. Such a case should be looked at by a doctor as soon as possible.
They may recommend an x-ray to determine the extent of the damage and a proper diagnosis.
- A labral or tendon tear.
The cartilage that connects the femoral head to the pelvic bone is called the labrum and it is affected by the friction caused by the inward and outward movement of the femoral ball.
A tear on this cartilage or the attaching muscles will result in a sharp pain that continues even when you stop walking.
This is a condition of general inflammation of the tendons.
As you walk for long, the tendons get overworked and some sections reach their stretch limits which cause inflammation.
- Weak or stiff Gluteal and Iliopsoas muscles
The muscles that move the femur forward, backward and sideways are called gluts.
Iliopsoas muscles are responsible for lifting the leg meaning they should be as relaxed as possible.
There are three types of gluts namely the Maximus, minimus and radius gluteal muscles which should be well strengthened to sustain the slow but intense movements of the walk.
- Total dislocation
Although it is not common to dislocate a hip while walking, it happens sometimes.
Sudden strong movements such as a change in gradient or a fall while walking can cause a dislocation.
If a hip dislocates, you will hear a snapping sound and the joint is inflamed and swollen making it impossible to put any weight on the hip.
How do I stop my hip from hurting when I walk?
This is the most popular question by those with osteoarthritis and Bursitis when they go for therapy.
The pressure and friction from a walk can cause or escalate any of these conditions making your walk very painful.
However, walking if done right can be a great way of controlling some of these conditions that cause the hip pain while you walk.
To prevent hip pain while walking you should:
- Dress appropriately for the walk
This is the simple practice that will prevent pressure on your pelvic bone while you walk.
Flat rubber shoes with a large surface area allow your legs to attach to the ground at 90 degrees.
This reduces the friction as your femoral ball does not move very far outwards when you lift your feet.
Your clothes when going for a walk should give enough room for movement around your hips. Not overly tight!
Attaching hip pads when walking will reduce the stretch on the muscles also relieving the pain.
- Unless you are a seasoned walker or athlete, meaning you’ve done this activity for years, avoid steep and rugged terrains.
A plain ground is safer for you to walk without putting much pressure on your hip.
Steep grounds force you to step with only a section of your foot which puts much pressure on the joint.
The pressure stretches the tendons and increases friction at the femoral ball resulting in painful steps.
- Stretch before and after the walk! So important and beneficial for overall movement comfort.
This is so good for the cartilage around the hip joint. Before walking, regular stretches align the muscles and the ligaments reducing shock on the cartilage when you finally start walking.
Repeating the stretch after walking for a long distance relieves the stress on the muscles and the cartilage as well.
- Use trekking or hiking poles.
A walking pole helps bear the extra weight laid on the hip and also regulate your step.
A good pole for trekking or hiking should be adjustable for different terrains. It should stand at 90 degrees from your feet to the elbow and be light to move around with.
- Stick to a moderate dose of exercise.
Know your physical limits.
Walking for very long distances even with these supportive features can still hurt your hip. You should only go as far as the therapist prescribes and stop if you sense signs of extreme strain.
What can you do for hip pain?
Whether you have been diagnosed with arthritis, bursitis or not diagnosed with any condition, a hip pain can be managed comfortably at home.
- Get enough rest
Taking a break from regular walks and your exercise will relieve the pain and allow the hip to heal.
You should avoid laying any pressure on the hip during the rest for a quick and effective recovery. If the pain persists even after taking enough rest, reach out for medical help.
- Use anti-inflammatory medication
Common pain-relieving medication such as paracetamol can help relieve the pain.
This should only be used if the pain is not severe. If the pain is persistent or it has other symptoms such as a rash, you should seek a prescription.
Painkillers may cause false relief leading to delayed treatment of some severe conditions.
- Use ice on the painful hip.
An inflammation on your hip can be reduced by holding ice to the hip for about 15 minutes.
The ice will allow your muscles to relax and relieve pressure on any stretched or swollen tissues. Once the temperature falls, the sore muscles slowly shrink back to normal to relieve the pain.
- Take a warm bath and a massage.
The power of hydrotherapy as a pain reliever is enormous. A warm bath will relax your body and allow your blood to flow through every part of your body.
A massage also helps relieve pressure on muscles and strengthen them.
- Avoid putting pressure on the painful hip.
Whatever causes pain, more activity on the injured hip will worsen it. You should consider getting another method of moving around without hurting it. If you can get a ride or use aids to walk such as crutches, it will prevent further harm to your hip.
How can you prevent hip pain?
- Lose weight.
This is a hard comment to hear and we don’t wish to offend anyone. Yet this is the most effective solution for most obesity-related joint pains.
You can get a physiotherapist to help you reduce weight resulting in less pressure on your hip when you walk.
- Observe simple muscle strengthening exercise muscle therapy helps your hips withstand more pressure.
Simple exercises such as sleeping with a pillow between your knees, yoga, early morning stretch will help you get stronger hip muscles.
The most helpful muscles are your tummy muscles, hip and knee muscles.
- Use straps and pads when walking.
The stretch on your muscles can be greatly regulated if you use a strap on the hip while walking. This way, the bursae and muscles are less overworked during your walk.
This reduces the symptoms of bursitis or chances of developing it.
- Avoid hard and rugged surfaces.
Believe this or not, concrete and rugged surfaces exert more pressure on your legs than grass-covered surfaces.
Do you recall running on grass fields when you were little? Soft and fluffy? Nothing has changed there so consider walking on grassier.
The chances of fatal falls and accidents are also lessened when you use plain grass surfaces.
When should you call a doctor?
Are you undecided on whether your hip needs a doctor or not?
Any time is a good time to seek a doctor’s advice. When you have a hip pain after walking even for short distances you should always seek medical advice and avoid self-diagnosis.
You should call the doctor with any symptoms you deem, or feel are dangerous for example:
- The prolonged or extremely severe pain inside or around the hip or any bleeding.
- Total inability to move the hip or put weight on it.
- If all attempts of pain relief are not working.
- If the pain comes with other symptoms such as a rash or swellings.
- If you notice a deformation or hear strange sounds during or after injury.
Feeling hip pain when walking or after a long walk could be caused by the walk or something more severe.
Due to the large range of factors that cause these pains, understanding your body is key to keeping yourself healthy during and after exercise.
You should always do long walks in the company of other people if you are suffering from any condition that you feel, may result in injury.
A good friend or partner comes to mind.