Experiencing Hip Pain from Running?
When I read or see the term “Runners” I kind of feel proud! Proud that I actually fall into that category of athleticism and commitment.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no olympian, but when I read sports or fitness blogs, you see so many people disliking running or not wanting to include it into their fitness program.
I have no idea why. Maybe they think it’s physically too hard, time consuming, too hard on the body joints, or just something that’s not their thing.
To me, I LOVE running. I haven’t always been light enough in terms of weight to run, but it has been the positive start of my weight loss journey.
Running is my go to place for when things in life get tough. I throw on my sneakers, often without checking the weather, and get outside, and run.
Maybe you can relate.
Hi my name’s Laura. I’m in my mid 40’s female who has been running consistently now for almost 8 years.
I run mostly for health and recreational purposes. I don’t compete in any running events like marathons or mini marathons.
I guess I think of my life as a my main event really.
As I mentioned above, running clears my head, rejuvenates me mentally and physically, and gives me purpose. Its my happy place!
Unfortunately, that all changed a few years ago when my running really affected my hips in terms of pain. And when I say pain I do mean intense hip pain.
This made me miserable and I became unbearable around my family for weeks.
I couldn’t get out and move, run in nature, feel the sun on my body, wind in my face, sweat and just feel alive.
I did the usual and went along to see my doctor who in turn simply diagnosed me pain killers.
I hated these! I’m not saying people should not take medication to relieve pain, it’s just never resonated with me personally.
I do my best to tackle things naturally.
That’s when I decided to find out more about why runners experience hip pain and what follows is valuable information I NEVER knew prior to taking up running myself.
I hope it is as useful to you, as it was for me.
What to do about Hip Pain before, after and while Running
Whether you are a professional runner or just an amateur, running can be fun and fulfilling.
In essence, this form of exercise is perhaps the easiest way of keeping fit and having fun at the same time. However, just like in any other sport, runners also suffer from injuries, sprains and muscle aches simply because of running.
Apart from runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis and hamstring issues, hip pain ranks highly as one of the most common injuries associated with athletics
As expected, hip pain is one of the most reported injuries associated with running. On the flipside, it is also one of the most overlooked problems facing athletes.
This is because most runners take it for any other annoying body ache, especially during the initial stages of the condition.
By the time you realize that the condition is severe, it might be too late to find a lasting solution. Bearing this in mind you are encouraged to seek medical help as soon as you notice any pain in your hips when running.
To have a better understanding of this topic, let’s delve in into the anatomy of the hip, and discuss some of the leading causes of hip pain and how to fix them.
Anatomy of the hip
The hip is regarded as the largest ball and socket joint. It is made up of the acetabulum socket, where the thigh bone joins the pelvis.
The joint consists of muscles, tendons and ligaments, as well as synovium tissues, which hold the hip together and facilitate easy movement of the thigh/leg.
Essentially, the hip joint plays a vital role in movement by providing balance, power and momentum whenever you are walking or running.
Bearing this in mind, any misalignment, inflammation, tissue damage or any injury of the hip joint is more likely to impede your movement and cause profound pain in your hips during running.
So, what are the causes of hip pain in runners?
Well, pinpointing the actual causes of hip pain from running is quite a challenge.
As you might be aware, the structure of the hip joint is complex in the sense that any problem in the back of your legs or in your hamstrings may lead to pain in your hips.
Furthermore, the symptoms associated with the causes of hip pain share striking similarities, making it very difficult to diagnose the problem. With that said, below are some of the most common causes of hip pain for runners.
• Hip Osteoarthritis
Hip osteoarthritis is a form of arthritis that attacks the cartilage of the hip joints, causing inflammation and pain around the affected area.
This degenerative condition causes the cartilage in the hip joint to wear away, subsequently forcing the thighbone to rub against the pelvic socket. This leads to severe pain that might restrict you from running or even walking.
• Hip tendinitis
Hip tendinitis occurs when the tendons surrounding the hip joint become irritated or inflamed due to repetitive stress for overstretching or overuse.
While the hip tendons are capable of withstanding the high demands of walking or running, participating in high-intensity running programs and other physical activities puts you at risk of developing this harrowingly painful condition.
You are advised to take regular breaks in between your training programs to give your body tendons time to recover from the physical strain.
• Hip flexor strains
The hip consists of flexor muscles that move the thigh up and in a forward direction when walking or running. Nevertheless, repeated high-intensity activities may put a strain on these flexor muscles, leading to inflammation and severe hip pain.
In addition, hip flexor strains may also be caused by anterior pelvic tilt that forces the muscles to contract.
• IT band syndrome
Another cause of hip pain for runners is IT band syndrome, or simply ITBS. This syndrome originates from weak hips and glutes that are unable to control the tension exerted on the IT band during strenuous activities.
This causes irritation on the surrounding connective tissues, leading to pain and discomfort in the hips. ITBS accounts for about 22 percent of overuse injuries in athletes.
It is therefore not surprising that this condition is closely associated with hip pain.
• Hip fractures
Hip fractures are common among elderly runners and they normally affect the neck of the femur in the hip joint. It occurs due to performing weight-bearing activities and high-intensity running training programs.
Wearing the wrong footwear during training or when running may also put you at risk of suffering a hip fracture. Whether it is a partial break or a complete break of the femoral neck, a fracture of the hip will certainly lead to pain and discomfort.
Seeking medical help immediately is the only solution to alleviating the pain.
Bursae are special sacs of liquid that act as cushions between the muscles and tendons. They reduce friction, allowing the tendons and muscles to glide smoothly over the hip bones.
However, due to repetitive movements during running, the bursae can become irritated or inflamed, leading to a painful condition known as bursitis.
• Hip labral tear
The labrum is a ring of cartilage that cushions your hip joint and acts like a gasket that holds the ball of your thighbone securely within the pelvic socket.
Essentially, its main function is to reduce friction between the bones.
Nevertheless, running involves a lot of repetitive movements that might damage the labrum, leading to hip labral tear. A tear of the labrum is extremely painful, and it may impede your movement.
• Runner’s knee
If you are a fervent runner, then you probably have heard about runner’s knee. Well, as the name suggests, runner’s knee is a common condition that affects runners and other athletes.
It attacks either of the knees, causing damage to the cartilage around the kneecap.
When one knee is affected, the runner is likely to rely on the unaffected leg, subsequently exerting more pressure on that side.
This will lead to misalignment and pain due to the strain on one side of your hips.
• Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis)
Avascular necrosis is a condition that restricts blood supply to the femoral head (the ball of the hip joint).
Cutting off blood supply eventually causes the femoral head to degenerate and the bone tissue to die, subsequently leading to arthritis.
The cause of this disease remains unknown, but it is believed that drinking too much alcohol, using steroids or undergoing frequent radiotherapy may put you at risk of developing avascular necrosis.
• Strength imbalances
Poor biomechanics and strength imbalances may cause misalignment of the hip, eventually leading to wear of the hip joint surfaces.
Furthermore, if you have poor foot control, your feet will likely roll inwards, leading to poor positioning of the hip.
All these imbalances will certainly force the runner to favor one side, subsequently putting more strain on one hip, eventually causing a misalignment.
• Poor posture
You might not know this, but poor posture may also cause hip pain. Running awkwardly with bad posture for prolonged periods may put a strain on your musculoskeletal structure.
This may subsequently cause pain in your neck, back, hips and spine.
However, hip pain associated with postural dysfunction comes gradually and it does not last for long unless it is a very severe case.
The causes of hip pain for runners are not limited to the above-mentioned factors. Other risk factors such as illness, infection, back pain and even conditions such as cancer can lead to hip pain.
The only reason these factors are not highlighted is because they are not a preserve to running.
What helps hip pain from running?
If you feel any slight discomfort or pain in your hips when you are on the trail, then it’s high time you consult your physician as soon as possible.
Your doctor will carry out comprehensive tests, including physical examinations, X-rays and bone scans in order to diagnose the problem correctly.
If not treated on time, hip pain from running may become severe, preventing you from enjoying your favorite sport.
Below are a few hip pain treatment options that you can apply at home before visiting your healthcare provider.
Cut yourself some slack and take a break from the tracks. This is a sure way of alleviating the pain and preventing further aggravation of the condition.
You should also avoid lifting heavy loads. Instead, use a trolley to carry oversized items.
Use medications such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Consult a doctor if you are unsure about the dosage to avoid taking an overdose.
If the pain persists, you may opt for pain relief injections.
Massaging the affected hip may help increase blood flow and loosen up the abductors and other muscles that caused the misalignment.
You may use a foam roller or a tennis ball to make the most out of your massage sessions.
Even though you are supposed to take a break from running, performing simple exercises such as stretching and cross-training routines can help not only build up your strength and flexibility but also alleviate the pain.
• Ice packs
The use of ice compression to reduce pain and inflammation is an old-age trick that you should consider trying out. For best results, apply the ice to the painful area for about 15 to 20 minutes every hour.
Do this three to four times a day to reduce pain.
Heat can also be used to alleviate hip pain. However, this is only possible if there is no visible swelling around the affected area.
Using a hot water bottle can come in handy if you want to apply heat to the affected hip.
Severe hip pain may require the input of a special doctor. In cases of hip fracture or dislocated joints, recommended treatment options include physiotherapy and corrective surgery.
With all this info at your disposal, it is advisable that you seek medical help early to avoid complicating the condition.
Should I run if my hips hurt?
Although some professional runners might be tempted to continue running through the pain barrier, it is not advisable to run if your hips hurt.
This is because the repetitive movement may aggravate the situation and degenerate the affected hip further.
It may even weaken the hips making them susceptible to fractures and muscle strains.
Severe injuries that come from running often start as slight hip pain before deteriorating into a worse condition.
Bearing this in mind, you should not ignore the pain in your hips.
How long does it take a hip flexor injury to heal?
It all depends on the severity of the injury. In most cases, hip pain from running is not severe, and the pain tends to go away after a few days without seeking medical help.
However, hip flexor injuries may take a longer time ranging from one to 8 weeks depending on a number of factors, including the treatment method used and the severity of the injury.
How do I know I’ve pulled my hip flexor?
Hip flexor strain is a common condition among athletes. It often occurs when the hip flexors are torn, injured or stretched due to trauma, stiff muscles, weak muscles or lack of warming up before training.
Hip flexor strain not only causes pain, but also leads to hip misalignment.
You can know you’ve pulled your hip flexor by watching out for these signs and symptoms:
• Sharp pain in the hips
• Muscle spasms in the thighs or hips
• Loss of strength near the groin area
• Tugging sensation in the front of the groin
• Soreness in the upper leg
Prevention of hip pain for runners
Prevention is always better than cure, so they say. Taking preventive precautions will not only protect you from injury, but also ensure that you enjoy your favorite sport without having to contend with unexpected pain in your hips or legs.
Here are a few preventive measures you should consider to avoid hip pain from running
• Perform strengthening and stretching exercises to build up your hip muscles
• Always warm up before and after training
• Massage your hips and legs regularly after running
• Wear the right footwear and clothing for running
• Sit, stand, walk and run in the right posture
• Seek medical help in case of any hip injuries or fractures
Hopefully this information will help you in your quest to run better for life and health. If pain persists in any area of your body or hips specifically, please consult your health professional.