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Hip Pain While Running

Mark Adickes, M.D., Orthopedic Surgeon
Co-medical Director, IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial Hermann

Hip Pain While Running

If you've felt hip pain during or after running, you're in good company. In fact, hip pain is one of the most common complaints by athletes. Pain in the hips is most often caused by inflammation within tendons or soft tissues.

Common problems include:

  • Muscle strains, including groin pulls and hamstring strains
  • Trochanteric bursitis, which causes inflammation of the bursa, or soft tissue, over the hip joint
  • Tendonitis, which affects the tendons around the hip joint

Old Injuries May Be a Factor

Many hip problems are caused by insertional tendonitis, which is an inflammation of the tendon where it inserts into a bone. This often causes problems in the hip flexor, the muscle that helps lift the knee. Injuries of the hip abductor or external rotator muscle, which may cause weakness, poor mechanical utilization and imbalance, also are common hip injuries.

Hip pain frequently occurs because of a difference in leg length or a foot problem that alters the person's stride or gait. Often the abnormality of gait or foot pathology has been there for a long time and it finally manifests itself.

Other times, a problem may have been caused by an injury that altered the gait. For instance, a person may develop knee pain then alters his or her gait to compensate for it. In older runners, a decrease in range of motion in the hips and back may cause motion restriction and muscle overload.

Practice Prevention and Patience

To avoid hip pain and injuries:

  • Warm up properly before exercising
  • Wear good, well-fitting shoes
  • Stop to stretch during exercise
  • Have any pre-existing leg, foot or hip problems checked before beginning training

Strengthening or resistance exercises can make the muscles and tendons of your hip area stronger and help them perform properly. This type of exercise might include using weight machines or elastic bands, swimming, or walking on stairs or hills.

Sometimes, a little prevention and TLC can head off hip pain before it becomes a major problem. If you are starting to have hip pain, don't push through the pain. Stop running and cross train for a couple of days. Do some gentle stretching and treat the pain with ibuprofen. Allow the area to calm down for a few days before getting back into your training regimen.

If the pain is persistent and does not go away with rest and stretching, visit a sports medicine specialist or orthopedic doctor.