Hip pain from running is very common. From simple things like poor posture to more complex maladies like piriformis syndrome, the causes of hip pain are varied.
This article is designed to help you identify the cause of your hip pain so that you can seek the proper treatment or take steps on your own to mitigate it.
So let’s get started.
How to Identify the Cause
It goes without saying that self-diagnosing oneself is like being one’s own lawyer – it’s a slippery slope, to say the least. That’s why it’s important to remember that this list is meant really to serve as a guideline, rather than as a diagnostic tool. A medical professional should always be sought if the problem persists.
That said, hip pain can present itself in a variety of ways and in different areas around the hip. What that means is that the location of the pain can be a telling sign of what the cause is. If there’s a problem with your hip joint, for example, you might experience pain somewhere on the inside of your hip, or in your groin. Conversely, if the pain is on the outside – or on your buttock or upper thigh – then the problem is likely caused by an issue in the muscles or soft tissue surrounding the hip.
Again, knowing where you feel pain can help you decide whether or not one of the following is the culprit.
6 Causes of Hip Pain From Running
The most salient sign that you have a pelvic misalignment is your legs aren’t the same size; that is one is longer than the other. The problem is that by the time most people notice a difference in the length of their legs, they brush it off as something they were born with. And in some cases, it’s true – some people are diagnosed with simple leg-length discrepancies. But much of the time, it goes much deeper than that. Pelvic misalignment, when left untreated, can lead to much more serious injuries, like runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, piriformis syndrome, achilles tendonitis, and ITB syndrome, among others. All these injuries listed by themselves are also major causes of hip pain when running.
As for pelvic misalignment: there are several causes. The first, and probably most common, is a strength imbalance. This typically occurs if you run on the same side of the road frequently. Remember, most roads have a camber – meaning that they’re not evenly horizontal and instead arch to one side. That has the potential to make one of your legs stronger than the other, which can in turn cause the hips to misalign.
The second cause is poor posture. And not just while walking or running either. Sitting a certain way, favoring one side, each time can do it. As can always leaning to one side on a table or other surface top, or frequently carrying a heavy bag or purse on one shoulder. This last is called habits of imbalance.
Muscle strain is another common cause of hip pain. If this is your culprit, you’ll feel stiffness and aching around your hips when you run. The good news is that this is easily treatable – all you have to do is rest. And that’s because this occurs, usually, because of over-exertion. Your muscles need time to rest or they’ll protest.
This is an obvious one, but worth mentioning. Osteoarthritis is characterized by weakened cartilage, which results in brittleness and even splitting. When you lose cartilage in your hip joint, it means that your hip bones now have less cushioning to prevent them from the impact they have to sustain whenever you run. This can cause irritation and inflammation.
Its true medical name is femoral acetabular impingement, or FAI. In some cases, it goes unnoticed for years, but it’s a serious condition with serious ramifications if ignored. This occurs, very simply put, when the hip socket and the thigh bone produce an excessive amount of friction in the joint; this in turn can cause damage to the cartilage. Damaged cartilage, as we saw above, can lead to some serious issues. Additionally, running with a hip impingement can lead to damage to the surrounding tissue.
Pain in the groin even just walking is a sign that you might have it. If ignored, even sitting for long periods can induce pain, let alone running.
A clicking or locking sound whenever you move is an indication that your hip labrum – the cartilage circumferencing the socket of your hip joint – has a tear. This tear is caused by repetitive motions, such as running. You can bet you have this if you find it hard to really run and when you feel stiffness around the hips.
Repetitive motions can cause other issues as well. One of these issues is putting too much pressure on your bursa sacs, which serve to protect your hip joint’s bones, tendons, and muscles from absorbing excess impact. Repetitive motions, however, can cause the bursa sacs to become inflamed, which your brain translates into pain. If not attended to, this can lead to bursitis, which causes swelling, irritation, and redness.
Tips for Preventing Hip Pain From Running
Resting is always the first thing you should do. No matter what the problem is, it’s always your safest bet to cease the pain-causing activity altogether.
Choose the Right Shoes
Proper footwear is a must. Remember, your feet take the worst beating whenever you run, and are prone to a host of injuries (such as peroneal tendonitis), so make sure you’re running shoes are well-fitted and offer enough support.
Do Your Warm-ups and Stretches
These are often woefully overlooked and passed over. But they’re important. Make sure to do your warm-ups and stretch before and after runs. Doing so will ensure your muscles loosen up – thus preventing cramps and increasing your blood flow. Check out our article on the best stretches for runners. Also, be sure to check out our article on hip-strengthening exercises.
Choose Your Terrain Wisely
We said above that pelvic misalignments are often caused by running frequently on uneven terrain. So choose terrain that’s flat and doesn’t favor any one side. Or you can opt for a treadmill instead.
Work on Posture
Don’t slouch to one side, lean on one leg, or carry heavy things on one shoulder. This is a simple suggestion, but it can go a long way in you keep a fair strength balance.
Consult with a Medical Professional
If the above suggestions don’t work for you, or your pain is too severe, or if you want to be cautious – which we recommend! – you should consult a doctor to get a professional diagnosis.
And there you have it – if you have any questions or concerns, make sure to comment below.