Hip Pain in Runners

by Onward Physical Therapy | March 8, 2024 |
 Hip Pain
Hip Pain in Runners

Dealing with hip pain when running?

Hip pain, especially in women, is by far one of the most common pain complaints that we see runners dealing with when they book evaluations with us. Like all injuries, diagnosing the root cause of why you developed a hip injury while running is crucial in order to fully resolve symptoms long term so that you can keep running at a high level. 

Common causes for hip pain while running include:

Improper Running Technique

Dialing in running technique is crucial to improving efficiency and speed as a runner. Even making the smallest adjustments in running technique can dramatically reduce injury risk. We believe that every runner has their natural running stride and we try not to deviate from that unless there are glaring issues in running technique OR if there is an injury. Common running points of performance that we like to assess at Onward include steps/minute, torso angle throughout your stride, heel strike angle at initial contact,  pelvic alignment in mid stance, and to see if you achieve adequate hip extension at the terminal stance of your stride. You can learn more about running technique errors in another blog post of ours here.

Imbalances in Muscle Strength and Flexibility

We believe running-specific strength training may be one of the most important variables in assessing someone’s ability to improve speed and efficiency as a runner. Identifying muscle imbalances is important to help diagnose the root cause of hip pain in runners. Runners, more often than any other athlete group, are at risk of developing tendinopathies if there are muscle imbalances and/or have poor running technique. Generally speaking, tendinopathies while running (glute medius tendinopathy, hip flexor tendinopathy, hamstring tendinopathy) tend to ease a bit as you warm up and run at slower speeds AFTER a run is where tendinopathies tend to be the most painful once your heart rate and endorphins drop and symptoms can easily flare up for a few days. 

Having a running-specific strength program will give you the best odds at running for a LONG time while reducing the risks of serious injuries. We believe you can run virtually your entire life if you keep your body strong and healthy. 

Below are a few of our favorite running-specific strength drills that we frequently program for our runners:

Banded Skaters

View on Youtube: https://youtu.be/an3LGzgPPBY

Runner’s Calf Raise

View on Youtube: https://youtu.be/fdKhcT9eMdk

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS)

View on Youtube: https://youtu.be/s5lgifq-N5A

Bone Stress Injuries

Bone Stress Injuries are unfortunately all too common in runners. This can be a serious injury amongst long-distance runners and if not identified quickly, can put a runner at risk of a significant bone stress fracture that could severely impact your running career.

 Generally, a bone stress injury happens in runners when ramping up miles to prep for marathons. We also see that inadequate training, years of strength training and poor recovery habits are also factors that can put you at risk for a bone stress injury. If identified quickly by a physical therapist, you can dramatically reduce the recovery time frame while you work with your physio on improving muscle/tendon strength, mobility, and recovery protocols to keep you running at your best for a long time. 

Compared to tendinopathies, Bone Stress Injuries tend to flare up and increase in symptom intensity the longer you run. Very often, this pain can feel deeper than tendinopathy and can cause limping afterward. Refer to our article HERE for more information on Bone Stress Injuries (https://onwardphysicaltherapy.com/are-you-running-with-a-stress-fracture/)

When Should a Runner See a PT or Doctor About Their Hip Pain?

There are a lot of factors that influence this decision but we recommend asking yourself the following questions?

  • Is my pain a recurring issue that I feel is directly related to running speed, volume, or technique?
  • Do I feel like I have a good game plan on how to solve the symptoms and to keep them away for good?
  • Have I had a one-on-one in depth running injury evaluation and treatment plan to find the root cause of my issue? 

If you answered YES to the first two questions and NO to the last question above, we think you should seek out a physical therapist who specializes in runners to diagnose the root issue at hand and get you on a good game plan for both injury recovery and to improve your running performance. 

At Onward we specialize in both improving running performance and technique in runners and also diagnosing running related injuries. If getting you on a specific game plan on how to improve symptoms quickly and getting you back to running pain free as fast as possible interests you, click the button below to schedule a free 15-minute consultation with us