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Hip pain from running: Best practices for prevention and treatment

Most runners aren’t strangers to aches and pains. From chapped lips to sore knees to blistered feet, you’ll be extremely lucky if you’ve never experienced any kind of running ailment. And today we’re talking about hip pain. 

The hips are a complex body part. Connecting to the thigh bone and pelvis, they’re one of the body’s largest weight-bearing joints. And, surrounded by many important muscles that enable movement such as the glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings, hip pain from running is very common. But it might be avoidable – let’s look into those sore hips in more detail. 

What causes hip pain from running?

Plenty of runners experience hip pain. Being connected to so many large muscles, it’s not surprising. However, diagnosing hip pain isn’t straight-forward. There are a number of reasons you might be experiencing hip pain from running, so it’s always useful to get the pain checked out by your GP. 

For most runners, hip pain comes from overuse. When the area becomes overworked it doesn’t have enough time to heal. Most hip pain from running falls under one of the following categories:

  • Alignment issues: lots of people have body alignment issues they aren’t aware of. For example, one of your legs may be slightly shorter than the other, or you might lean in a certain direction when you run, putting more weight on one side of your body. This can put pressure on your hips and cause pain or discomfort.

  • Strains: hip strains are common among runners, as they occur when the hip flexor muscles are overworked. Mild hip strains can take a few weeks to heal, whereas severe strains can take months.  

  • Bursitis: bursitis is one of the more serious hip injuries. A bursa is a sac of fluid that provides a cushion between the surfaces of a bone and soft tissue. When this becomes irritated or inflamed in the hip, you’ll feel significant pain and soreness. 

  • Stress fractures: Hip stress fractures are commonly caused by overactivity, making them common among runners. Pain will be found in the front of the groin when standing, walking or running.

Ways to prevent hip pain

Considering there are many different causes of hip pain, prevention methods will vary. Despite this, all runners should aim to run in a way that prevents hip pain. One less ailment means one less thing to worry about. The following methods should help:

Strength training

All runners should be doing strength training alongside running. Strength training builds up the muscles that help you when you run, giving you better balance and stability. It also helps prevent injuries. 

To stretch and strengthen your hips, you should focus on the gluteus maximus (the main extensor muscle of the hip) and the gluteus medius (the main muscle on the side of the hip). Lateral step ups, side steps with resistance bands and hip circles are all great exercises to try.

Rest days

One of the most important ways to prevent hip pain is to not overwork them. This means planning rest days into your training schedule as well as varying the exercises that you do. While we know you love to run, doing it every day won’t do you any favours. 

Try to find a balanced routine, with running on alternate days and filling the others with strength training, walking and, most importantly, rest. Plenty of water and the right diet will also give you enough energy to fuel you on longer runs, making injuries less likely.

Gait analysis

Every runner should get at least one gait analysis in their life. A gait analysis matches the runner’s degree of pronation with the correct shoe type. But, what has this got to do with hip pain from running?

Well, when you get a gait analysis, an expert will watch how you run and establish if you have any imbalances. For example, my left foot points outwards when I run, meaning that I need a sturdy shoe to angle it correctly. That’s just me, but it’s universally known that when something’s wrong with your feet, you’ll feel the impact of it throughout the rest of your body – and particularly your legs and hips.

So, a gait analysis will help identify whether you have any alignment issues and get the right footwear to help prevent pain in the future.

Ways to treat hip pain

Unfortunately, prevention doesn’t always stop hip pain from occurring. So, once you’ve started feeling pain and discomfort in your hips, it’s important to act quickly so you don’t do any further damage. Of course, you should book in some time with a physiotherapist or your GP to check out your pain. But these are a few ways that could help in the meantime:

Rest

This isn’t what anyone wants to hear, I know. But it’s so important. If you start feeling pain in your hips, the first thing you should do is rest. Don’t try running again until the pain has died down. Your body needs time to recover, and it can’t do that if you’re putting pressure on the damaged area.

Ice

Ice always works well after a running injury as it reduces nerve activity and swelling by reducing the blood flow around the area. For hip pain, lie down and place an ice pack on the painful area. Use ice up to five times a day for severe pain.

Stretches

Runners know how important stretching is before and after a workout. But, when you have hip pain, it can be done simply on its own to reduce pain. Try a lunge with a spinal twist, a figure four stretch or a downward facing dog to eliminate tightness and relieve those sore hip flexors.

Did you know? Let’s Do This offers free injury protection across all its events, so if you’ve booked into an event but are worried about an injury, then you can rest easy.
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Briony is a writer currently living in London. While she spends a lot of time hunched over a desk trying to craft sentences, her other passion is running. She enjoys setting her own goals and is currently training for her second half marathon.

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