Have Hip Pain? This Often-Neglected Muscle Group Can Cause Runners a World of Hurt

Experiencing hip pain running? There’s a muscle group that most runners – and people in general – don’t think about often enough.

No matter your age or how hard you work to stay in shape, if you don’t keep this muscle healthy it can affect you more than you might think. Many common running injuries are caused by this muscle not being stretched and tended to. What is this fussy muscle group, you ask? Your hip flexors!

Click on a link below to learn more.

Hip pain - hip flexors

Hip Flexors and Injury from Running

This often-neglected muscle group is among the body’s strongest. Our hip flexors are the engine through which our bodies move. They control balance, our ability to sit, stand, twist, reach, bend, walk and step. Everything goes through the hips. And when they’re angry (think tight, strained, or injured), boy can they present some fun challenges!

What can cause hip pain from running?

Your hips are one of those ball-and-socket types of joints. It typically fits together in a way that allows for smooth, fluid movement and has the ability to withstand a lot of wear and tear from repetitive motion—but if you’re experiencing hip pain after running, it’s probably a sign that something is a little anatomically off.

Generally speaking, hip pain during running occurs when there’s some sort of inflammation, damage, injury, or disorder to the tissues or bones that comprise and protect the hip joint. Cartilage—a slippery material that facilitates smooth glides—may lose its integrity over age or intensive training, leading to rough hip pain after running.

Your running hip pain might also be caused by compromised synovial tissue, which produces a lubricating fluid that also aides in smooth functioning. Some of the most common causes behind hip pain running include:

  • Hip flexor strains
  • Hamstring strains
  • Hip alignment issues
  • Groin pulls or tears
  • Strength imbalances
  • IT band syndrome
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Hip bursitis
  • Stress fractures
  • Impinged sciatic nerve
  • General injury

Regardless of why your hip hurts when running, the frustrating pain is undeniable. If you’re unsure whether a hip injury from running applies to you, take a look at the common symptoms plaguing plenty of runners.

Hip Pain Symptoms

Here are just a few of the common symptoms that can be caused by having tight, locked, or damaged hip flexors:

  • Nagging joint pain in the legs, lower back or hips
  • Walking with discomfort
  • Hips locking up
  • Groin pain
  • Bad posture
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sluggishness
  • High anxiety

Tight hips can be debilitating and because the symptoms are so similar, diagnosing the exact cause of hip pain can be difficult. When things aren’t working properly, even sitting or walking can cause hip and lower-back pain.

You might experience exterior, outer hip pain or you could be bothered by front hip pain while running. Wherever you might be feeling your hip pain symptoms, it can be extremely uncomfortable—perhaps even more so than the dreaded side stitch.

Thankfully, there are lower-back stretches that can help prevent pain, increase mobility, and decrease your chances of serious hip injury in the lower region of your body. Treating hip pain from running can be a tricky beast, so prevention is always your best bet.

How to Relieve Hip Pain

Whether you want to relieve sore hips from running or prevent a hip injury before you’re sidelined, here are the best exercises for the healthiest hips.

Stretching Out Your Hip Flexors

Ok, you agree these might be important to stretch out…so what do you have to do to make sure that they stay stretched? Glad you asked! Aside from yoga for runners, here are some of my favorite ways to keep hip flexors happy:

Stretching hip pain

Half Lord of The Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Sit on the floor and extend both legs out in front of you.

Keep the left leg straight and bend and pull the right leg in. Line the right heel up approximately 2 inches away from the back of the right leg and 2 inches away from the left thigh.

Sit up very tall, avoiding sinking into the lower back. Wrap the left arm around the right leg, creating a spinal twist.

Move the left shoulder forward as you move the right shoulder back, and attempt to line up the shoulders. Take your gaze over the right shoulder. The Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is a great hip and lower-back stretch that will also stretch your glutes, spine, chest, shoulders, and neck.

Hold for 8–10 breaths, then switch sides.

Stretching hip pain

Lizard–Lower Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana)

Step your left foot forward several feet in front of the right foot. Bend the left knee until it lines up perfectly with the ankle.

Walk the left foot out to the side. Place both elbows on top of blocks on the inside edge of the left foot. Keep hips lined up parallel to each other. You are opening the right psoas muscle and the left inner thigh. To get deeper into the right psoas, lift the right knee into a high lunge as pictured.

Hold for 8–10 breaths, then switch sides.

Stretching hip pain

Garland Pose (Malasana)

Turn your heels so they line up with your hips; turn your toes outward.

Bend the knees until you reach a squatted position. Place a blanket under your heels if they have to be lifted while squatting. You can also stack two blocks to sit on to work up to the full integrity of the pose.

The Garland Pose increases fluidity in the hips and stretches the ankles, knees, and lower back. It also strengthens the core muscles.

Hold for 8–10 breaths.

Hip pain foam rolling

Hip Flexor Roll Out

If you have a foam roller, here’s a way to help roll that stiffness away that’s typical of hip pain.

Place the foam roller under your hip flexors and roll up and down your body from hip to mid-thigh to help roll out any stiffness you’re experiencing.

Hip Flexors and Knee Pain

The hip flexors also help drive up the knees and keep the pelvis and thighs aligned for better running form. You can do this simple exercise anywhere to help with your knee health!

Single-Leg Knee Lift: While standing on your right leg, lift your left knee until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. A trick to help with balance is to stare at a spot that is a few feet in front of you that is not moving. Keeping your abdominals tight, do three sets of 10 reps on each side.

KT tape for hip pain

Support Tape for Hip Flexor Ailments

Working on getting that stiff hip pain ironed out, but really need to get that race in? See the image below to check out the proper way to tape for hip flexor pain using KT tape to get you back in the race!

Treat those flexors right and they will support you in anything you want to do!

Author bio: Cheryl Petermann is a 6+ year member of the Road Runner Sports social media team. After a life-altering experience, she has spent 15 + years studying Alternative & Complimentary forms of medicine with a focus on Reiki, an Eastern health approach based on the body’s energy and healing abilities. Cheryl and her husband Robert volunteer with the California Labrador Retrievers and More dog rescue and have fostered dozens of litters of puppies and their moms!

3 thoughts on “Have Hip Pain? This Often-Neglected Muscle Group Can Cause Runners a World of Hurt

  1. Brenda Draper says:

    This article was VERY helpful. After 40 years of running, I am having a slight pain in my hip area and am certain these exercises will be a great start!! I have always tried to make sure I add some hip flexor stretches over the years and they truly do make a difference. Again, thank you for the wonderful article.

    • skerstetter says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Brenda! Hopefully these tips alleviate your pain. Let us know how it goes. 🙂 – Sam

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