It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a professional runner because you probably experienced several injuries while doing some kind of physical activity. Running is a great hobby, even a profession for some, but participating in any type of exercise can sooner or later result in an injury.
These injuries don’t need to be serious and are usually the result of insufficient warm-up exercises, inappropriate running shoes, or poor running technique. One of these injuries is also experiencing running hip pain.
It’s a common condition that many runners cross paths with. Even though it’s usually nothing serious, the injured hip can cause significant pain and discomfort and ruin the relaxing and fun running experience. Here are the most common hip pain causes and several pieces of advice on how to deal with running hip pain.
Common Hip Pain Causes
Although running provides myriad benefits, from cardiovascular health to general well-being, it’s possible to occasionally suffer from a running injury. If you’ve experienced hip pain during your running session or if you’re dealing with it daily, then it’s very likely you’re experiencing one of the following hip issues. Read more about the four most common running hip injuries and their symptoms below.
- Hip Flexor Tendonitis
Hip flexor tendonitis or hip flexor strain is typically caused by poor body posture or the overuse of muscles and tendons in the hip area from various sports, including a focus on leg movement such as running, cycling, hockey, or swimming. A poor running technique can also cause this condition.
Beginners can experience hip flexor tendonitis if they start with an overly intense workout program right away, without prior running experience or experience in some other physical activity. If you repeat an overly-intense workout regime the tendons connecting muscles to the hip bone can suffer stress, leading to hip flexor tendonitis.
Even advanced athletes can suffer from this condition if they don’t do a proper warm-up before the running session, stretches after the activity, or have enough rest between the two running sessions. Also, falls and other direct hip trauma injuries can often result in hip flexor tendonitis.
In the beginning stages of this condition, the runner will experience sharp but short pain at the front of the hip, usually at the beginning of the workout, which tends to go away mid-way or towards the end of the running session.
However, if the runner ignores the symptoms, the pain will intensify over time, and the pain intensity can go to great lengths. Some runners experience the pain during the entire workout session, and often have to stop the activity because of the unbearable pain. Hip flexor tendonitis can also result in limping until the condition is treated.
In addition to pain, other symptoms of hip flexor tendonitis are frequent muscle spasms in the hip area, which can increase in duration and pain as time goes by. Other, more subtle symptoms are soreness and tenderness around the injured area, and you might feel pain when bending your hip. Some athletes even noticed “clicking” sounds when bending their hips as another valid symptom.
- Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are microfractures of bones and joints. For example, the hip joint and hip bone suffer great stress when dealing with the impacts of running. Running can be a very harsh physical activity on our bones and joints, so they have to work a lot to take on the forces of this activity. However, as they recover by themselves, this can be challenging if running sessions are overwhelming and too intense.
Because of overly intense running sessions, these microfractures cannot recover and repair by themselves, resulting in more and more fractures over time. If not treated, stress fractures can lead to severe hip joint injuries, sometimes even resulting in real bone fractures.
At first, the symptoms of stress fractures are slight pain in the front of the hip or the groin area. Typically, the pain occurs only during running sessions and it goes away with rest. Without the much-needed rest time, stress fractures tend to get worse, and more microfractures happen during physical activities, ultimately leading to a complete break.
However, the pain can’t go unrecognized for so long, and it affects the hip and groin area. Other symptoms might include swelling of the hip, tenderness to the touch, and stiffness of the hip, as well as difficulty in bending the hip.
Runners are most commonly associated with this injury because of the constant body pressure on their hips while running. Hips are also under a lot of stress when running great distances or when running on hard surfaces like concrete. Finally, poor nutrition can cause stress fractures, especially if you combine it with heavy training sessions.
Osteoarthritis, as the most common form of arthritis, affects numerous people worldwide for numerous reasons. This condition usually affects joints in the hands, hips, spine, and knees. When talking about running, knee and hip osteoarthritis are most likely to happen because running as an activity puts a lot of pressure on our legs.
However, focusing on hip osteoarthritis, this condition can often result in chronic pain. As it affects joints, many times it’s irreversible. Once gotten, symptoms of hip osteoarthritis can be slowed down with a couple of tips, but generally, the condition tends to get worse over time.
What causes hip osteoarthritis is damaged cartilage that deteriorates from overuse. The purpose of the cartilage is to cushion and protect the bones and joints and allows for frictionless joint movements. So, many times cartilage first suffers damage.
However, hip osteoarthritis not only affects the cartilage but the hip joint as well. What’s different with this condition is that the cartilage recovers very slowly, if it does. Even though children can easily recover from it, adults might find it almost impossible. So, make sure to keep your cartilage healthy!
If you suffer from hip osteoarthritis, you might experience some of the following issues. As with any injury, pain is the most common symptom. Depending on the severity of osteoarthritis, you might feel only running hip pain, or while doing other activities such as standing, walking, or climbing the stairs.
Because cartilage enables smooth joint movement, stiff and inflexible hip joints could be symptoms of hip osteoarthritis. Again, the level of inflexibility also depends on the severity of the injury, so you might find yourself unable to move your joints in a full range motion or even a little bit.
Swelling, tenderness to the touch are also common symptoms, while you might be hearing “clicking” or “popping” sounds coming from your hip due to the damaged cartilage which doesn’t do its job of smoothing joint movement properly.
- Labral (Cartilage) Tears
Labral or cartilage tears are the least common from all of the conditions mentioned above, but they’re still quite frequent. This condition affects the cartilage ring that follows the outside edge of the hip joint.
Labral’s primary purpose is to protect the joint, but its secondary purpose is to hold the hip ball at the top of the thigh bone. It secures its position while cushioning the hip joint and protecting it from injuries.
Various activities can cause Labral or cartilage tears, but some of the most common ones are sports, direct hip trauma, or even structural abnormalities. When it comes to structural abnormalities, some people are born with weaker hips and are prone to hip injuries, including labral tears.
Next, direct hip trauma can also cause labral tears. It includes injuries such as falls or direct hits to the hip including playing sports like hockey or football. Direct hip trauma can also be caused by car accidents.
However, when talking about sports, repetitive motions are the main cause of labral or cartilage tears. For example, running, golf, ballet, softball, ice hockey, and many more are all sports that include numerous repetitive motions either with legs, arms, or trunk of the body. Repeating the same motions over and over again while using body power and force can result in running hip pain.
One of the symptoms of labral or cartilage tear is, understandably, pain. It starts as mild but progresses towards severe if not treated. The pain is located in the hip or groin area and it usually gets more intense after long periods of running, standing, walking, or even sitting.
Other symptoms include “clicking” and “popping” sounds of the hips, increased inflexibility while trying to bend the hips, and grating sensation while doing any kind of physical activity, including running.
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How to Reduce the Risk of Hip Pain?
As all the injuries and conditions mentioned above include pain as their main symptom, the first thing is to react to it. Pain is a natural way of our bodies telling us that something is not quite right. Therefore, it’s important not to ignore the pain and treat it appropriately.
If you’re experiencing running hip pain, think about several things before deciding what to do. When did the hip pain start? How long does it last? Is it present only during a specific activity or body movement? How severe is it? When you answer these questions for yourself, you’ll know what to do. However, here is a list of possible ways of reducing and relieving hip pain.
- Rest – There’s no better medicine for our body and soul. Although it might not seem like much, rest can do so much for our bodies. It helps us heal and regain strength. So, if you’re experiencing hip pain, the first thing on your mind should be lots of rest.
By taking this step, not only are you reducing hip pain but you’re also decreasing the chances of even more severe injuries. Having enough rest is important even when you’re not experiencing any pain at all. By ensuring you have some rest between two running sessions, you’re giving your body enough time to recover and remove hip pain successfully.
- Stretch – Gently stretching your body can efficiently reduce hip pain, especially if we’re talking about muscle strains and spasms, as well as pinched nerves. Hip pain can often be sudden, sharp, and unexpected. In those situations, what you could do to immediately reduce pain is lightly stretch the torso from one side to the other.
- Prepare – Your daily run shouldn’t only consist of running. Starting an activity without prior preparation, especially an intense one like running can quickly turn into a catastrophe. To avoid that, it’s crucial to include warm-up exercises to prepare the body for the main physical activity.
Warming-up and stretching before and after each run can significantly decrease all chances of getting injured while doing your favorite activity of the day.
- Ice – If you started to experience hip pain, swelling, tenderness, or stiffness during or after your running session, you could try applying a cold pack or ice to the injured area. It’s a great way to quickly numb and reduce the pain in any area, hips included. Some people apply ice on body parts that tend to give them trouble preventively, to avoid swelling and pain on time.
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Treatments for Consistent Problems
If you can’t seem to get rid of your running hip pain, think about the following advice:
- Rest and light, low-impact excercise – If you think you had enough rest, think about it again. More often than not, people trying to get some rest still sneak in a lighter workout session. If not, they still walk a lot or run when they’re late.
Even though this might not seem like a big deal, putting pressure on an injured hip can cause many issues. So, make sure to take resting seriously, and avoid putting any kind of pressure on the injured hip. Also, include some low-impact physical exercises to help the hip completely heal and recover.
- Take supplements – There are numerous pain-relieving medications for all kinds of injuries that can help with hip pain. Today, there are separate supplements for the recovery of joints and cartilages, so you can treat them as well. Also, taking collagen helps with faster recovery of cartilages, so you can add it to your diet.
- Visit the doctor’s office – However, if you’re experiencing excruciating pain and nothing seems to help, head over to your local doctor’s office. You might need to do a hip X-ray, so the doctor can see in detail where the injury is.
Even if the pain is not severe, you can always check with your doctor to make sure precisely where the issue lies. The doctor will prescribe you medication, proper treatment, or book you for a procedure for your running hip pain if necessary.
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Equipment That Can Help
Although rest is excellent medication, some light exercises might help you with a faster and smoother recovery. However, make sure to check with your doctor first if you’re allowed to do some light exercises and which ones. If you are, don’t go overboard and overwork your injured hip. Head to your local gym and try out the following equipment:
- Treadmill – The treadmill is an excellent piece of equipment as it’s very customizable. You can set the desired duration, speed, and incline of your exercise. If you’re exercising with an injured hip, we recommend a slow walk without an incline for the best workout without any drawbacks.
- Stationary Bike – The best piece of equipment for exercising when suffering from hip osteoarthritis is the stationary bike because the gentle and slow cycling can allow hips to move externally if needed. Besides, the stationary bike is a great way to get back into exercising even after serious injury or surgery, only after the doctor’s approval of course.
When using the stationary bike, make sure that the seat height is just right. Too high or too low seat placement can result in additional hip injury and cause hip pain.
- Elliptical – The elliptical is a great machine that has all the benefits of running, without its main downside; the impact of each step. As previously mentioned, running causes hips and hip joints to endure great shocks while suffering from the impact of powerful and forceful steps. The shocks are even more increased if running on hard surfaces such as concrete.
With the elliptical machine, feet are placed on footplates and aren’t moving for the entire workout, which is a great alternative to running.
Running hip pain is something many runners experience at some point in their life. It’s impossible to engage in physical activities without ever getting hurt, especially running. However, it’s possible to react to pain and injuries correctly and incorrectly.
If you happen to experience any kind of discomfort during or after your daily run, make sure not to ignore it and check if it’s anything serious. Usually, a couple of days of rest do the trick, but you sometimes need more treatment and effort to get back into your old shape.