Hip Pain From Running: What Causes It and How to Treat It

Hip pain

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If you speak to any long-term runner, you hear tales of injury, gastrointestinal challenges, and more than likely, hip pain. As a common issue among runners, hip pain can occur both during and after a run and can last from a few days to months—even requiring healthcare visits and physical therapy in certain cases.

But, you do not have to accept the pain. You can take steps to mitigate hip pain and begin treatment right away. Here is what you need to know about running and hip pain.

Why Runners Experience Hip Pain 

Hip pain is quite common not only among runners, but in general as well. In fact, researchers report that 14.3% of adults have significant hip pain on most days. And hip pain is the second most common joint that experiences pain (after the knee). In addition, this health issue affects women at a rate twice as often as men.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, hip strains can occur following a fall, a direct blow to the hip, overstretching, and overuse. In fact, overuse is often seen among runners because the muscle or tendon becomes weakened throughout time due to repetitive movement.

Risk factors for hip pain include tight hip flexors, differences in leg length, feet issues that alter your gait, or an injury that altered your gait. Additionally, more mature runners may experience hip pain due to a decrease in the range of motion of the hips.

Avoiding Hip Pain

The good news is that hip can be prevented in some cases. Runners can use the following techniques to help avoid hip pain and keep themselves feeling flexible and pain free.

Stretch

Stretching can reduce muscle tightness and help you overcome pain in the hip flexors. In a systematic meta-analysis, researchers determined the effects of hip flexor stretching on performance. Their analysis included eight studies with 165 subjects.

Results showed that stretching leads to an advantageous position of the lumbar spine and pelvis, potentially causing fewer hip injuries. How long you stretch also makes a difference. The researchers found that static stretching for more than 90 seconds has a high probability of decreasing force production and running speed.

Use Proper Equipment 

To train your hip muscles for strength, using an elastic band for resistance training is found to work better than gym equipment. In a study from the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, researchers recorded electromyography activity to discover the health of muscles at the hip, thigh, and trunk during specific hip exercises. They found that hip abduction performed with an elastic band displayed higher electromyography recruitment than using exercise machines.

Implement Strength Training

For strength training your hips, you can follow a cardio and weightlifting regimen. This includes using weights and elastic resistance bands while incorporating swimming and walking on stairs and hills workouts.

When strength training, be aware of proper body position and maintaining a controlled neutral pelvis to avoid hip injury. The Princeton University Athletic Medicine Department recommends starting with small ranges and lower repetitions. You can increase these amounts of repetitions once maintaining pelvic control can be done with ease.

Treating Hip Pain

You can treat most hip pain with the simple RICE formula—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Here is a breakdown of what that entails.

  • Rest: Do not put too much weight on the hip for the first 48 hours.
  • Ice: Apply ice to the hip several times a day for 20-minute periods.
  • Compression: Wrap the area in a bandage or wear compression shorts or pants.
  • Elevation: Keep your legs raised above your heart when possible.

The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can help improve short-term pain. Physical therapy also is sometimes necessary, depending on the severity and how long the pain remains. If the pain still continues, a medical professional might recommend a local anesthetic with steroid injections.

Recovery 

To recover from hip pain, you should rest your hip for the first 24 to 48 hours. Do not stay immobile though; you should lightly move around to keep your muscles loose.

Staying active is necessary for recovery and is the best thing you can do for your health. This keeps other muscles and joints strong and helps prevent this injury from recurring.

After a few days of rest, if you are walking pain free, you can slowly return to activities. Be sure not to push yourself too hard or do too much until you are pain free.

Stretches for Hip Pain 

Stretching can help keep your hips warm and mitigate pain, especially chronic hip pain. Make sure your body is warmed up before stretching. Here are three stretches to try.

Single Leg Stretch

  • Stand at the side of a chair for arm support.
  • Lift one leg and keep standing on the other leg.
  • Hold this for 30 seconds on each side.
  • Do three to five repetitions on each side each day.
  • Incorporate this stretch into your everyday activities by doing it while watching television or brushing your teeth.

Bridge

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Engage your abs and slowly lift your hips by pressing your feet down into the floor and squeezing your glutes.
  • Lift up your hips until your body is in a straight line with your knees.
  • Hold this for three seconds and lower your hips.
  • Do 10 repetitions of three sets, three days per week.

Hamstring

  • Sit with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Bend one leg so the bottom of that leg’s foot rests against your straightened leg’s knee.
  • Stretch toward the straightened leg’s foot with your hands.
  • Hold this for 30 seconds.
  • Do 3 repetitions daily with each leg.

When to Seek a Healthcare Provider

You should see a healthcare provider if the hip pain lingers or grows unbearable. According to health experts, if you do not notice any improvement, you should speak with a medical professional about your symptoms, especially if you cannot put any weight on your leg.

A Word from Verywell

With hip pains and strains being one of the most common injuries among runners, you can take measures to mitigate the pain as well as implement preventative measures to avoid it. You should not overextend yourself—stop running for a few days if you feel any hip pain.

Instead, cross train until the pain subsides. If the pain continues, make sure you see a healthcare provider, rather than returning to running and risking more substantial injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it OK to run with hip pain?

    If you start to experience hip pain, you should not push through it. Stop running, cross train for a few days, and do light stretching. If the pain continues, taking ibuprofen could help. Before you begin running again, make sure the pain has gone away and your body does not feel inflamed.

  • How do you stretch your hips after running?

    After you run, you can perform a stretching routine to help keep your hips loose. Hold each stretch position for 30 to 90 seconds. Be sure to stretch out your hip flexors, which are located in the front of your hip and thighs, and your glutes and hamstrings, which support the back of your hips.

9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Hip strains.

  3. Hermann Memorial. Hip pain while running.

  4. Konrad A, Močnik R, Titze S, Nakamura M, Tilp M. The influence of stretching the hip flexor muscles on performance parameters. A systematic review with meta-analysisInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(4):1936. doi:10.3390/ijerph18041936

  5. Brandt M, Jakobsen MD, Thorborg K, Sundstrup E, Jay K, Andersen LL. Perceived loading and muscle activity during hip strengthening exercises: comparison of elastic resistance and machine exercisesInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2013;8(6):811-819. PMID:24377067

  6. Princeton University Athletic Medicine. Pelvic stabilization, lateral hip and gluteal strengthening program.

  7. ​​National Health Service. Hip problems.

  8. University of Iowa Health Care. Exercises for chronic hip pain.

  9. National Health Service. Hip problems.