Hip pain after running: what could be causing it and how to treat it

Posted by Gary Robinson on

Most runners pick up a niggle from time to time, and hips are a common source of complaint. They’re also pretty essential for running.

The hip is a ball-and-socket joint that joins the head of the femur – the thigh bone – to a rounded socket in the pelvis. Ligaments attach the pelvic and thigh bones to boost your stability, and the muscles that attach around your hip allow you to bend and straighten your leg, lift it away from your body and rotate it internally and externally.

While there are many causes for hip pain, there are also steps you can take to prevent it. Monitoring your NURVV metrics to spot any imbalances in your running technique can highlight warning signs. And keeping an eye on your training volume with the Training Load feature will ensure you’re not putting yourself at unnecessary risk of injury.

We’ve listed some of the common causes and treatments for hip pain below, and NURVV’s resident Biomechanist, Dr. Grant Trewartha, has provided insight on using NURVV Run to spot any potential injury risks.

The best advice if you’re experiencing extreme discomfort in your hips though, is to stop running and visit a medical specialist. They’ll be able to diagnose exactly what the problem is and prescribe the best form of treatment.

Common causes of hip pain for runners

Any discomfort or irritation in the hips can play havoc with your training. Some of the common causes of hip pain for runners are:

Overuse injuries including:

Tendinopathy and muscle strains

Muscle strains and tendinopathies – a degeneration or inflammation of the tendon – usually start as a niggle and gradually get worse. You might feel pain and stiffness in and around your hips, especially when you try and run.

IT band syndrome

The iliotibial (IT) band is a sheath of tissue which runs down the outside of your leg, from your hip to just below the knee. IT band syndrome is a very common running injury, causing pain on the outside of the knee and sometimes the hip or thigh

Glute medius syndrome

If you have a weak glute medius, overuse can cause it to become irritated and you might feel a burning pain on the side of the buttock near the hip as you run. 

Hip bursitis

Bursitis happens when fluid-filled sacks called bursa, that protect your joints, become inflamed. Hip bursitis causes pain on the outside of the hip. 

How NURVV can help

‘Make sure you look at the load you’re putting your body under regularly,’ says Grant. ‘The vast majority of running injuries are overuse injuries and a good proportion are training errors, with runners building up mileage too quickly or completing too many of their runs at too high an intensity.’

NURVV’s training load feature lets you monitor your training over time, highlighting any sudden spikes in mileage that could increase your injury risk and giving you guidance to help you strike that perfect balance between boosting your running fitness and overtraining.

Also keep an eye on the running health feature, in particular the balance metrics. Balance looks at the symmetry between the left and right side of your body as you run. Any large imbalances or changes over time could indicate a restriction in one of your legs and may be a warning sign of injury.

Treatments and prevention

Depending on the severity of the injury, treatments involve restricting the amount of running, stretching to help joint mobility, and strength and conditioning exercises focused on the hip region, starting with static holds. 

‘Bridges, hamstring raises and fire hydrants will help with the range of motion and get your glutes firing,’ says Grant.‘And side planks and side planks with leg raises are great for targeting your glute medius.’

Biomechanical factors

Every runner has their own unique style of running, but your biomechanics can mean you’re more prone to certain types of injuries. 

‘Runners that tend to run with hip adduction may be more at risk of hip pain,’ says Grant. Hip adduction is when your thighs point inwards towards the midline as you land.

‘Some hip problems can also be attributed to over striding, when your foot lands ahead of your hip as you run.

‘Runners who excessively over pronate – when your foot rolls inwards as you land – often have higher hip adduction, which brings a higher risk of hip injury,’ says Grant. You can see details about your pronation by looking at the Pronation and Balance metrics in NURVV’s Running Health feature. Any over pronation will be highlighted and you’ll receive coaching tips and guidance to help you tackle any issues.

Treatments and prevention

Lower leg and foot exercises such as towel curls, calf raises and resistance band exercises can help develop control of foot motion during running. You might also want to look at your footwear. Supportive running shoes may be beneficial for runners who over pronate and neutral shoes for runners who under pronate.

To prevent over striding, Grant recommends looking at your cadence. ‘If you increase the number of steps you take per minute, typically what you’re going to do is reduce your step length,’ he says. ‘That will reduce over striding and can potentially reduce hip adduction.’

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