Hip pain is a common complaint in runners. There are many reasons it might occur, and we’ll discuss a few of those shortly. First, let’s define what the hip is, or is not! The hip is NOT either side of the base of your spine – that’s your sacro-iliac joints (and they can be dysfunctional in runners, too). It’s also NOT where your love handles are – it’s actually a little lower than that. The hip is also called the femoro-acetabular joint. It’s where the top of your thigh bone (femur) meets the lower outer part of your pelvis in the form of a big ball and socket joint. There are many muscles and connective tissues attaching to these two bones and across the hip joint; a large proportion of which are involved in lots of our everyday movements such as walking, sitting down and getting up, and running! It should therefore make sense that it can be a troublesome area then.
Here are a few things to think about if you are having challenges with your hip.
How many hours a week do you run? And how many hours are you seated or sedentary? For many of us, we run somewhere between few hours up to ten plus hours (for the highly committed athletes) per week. However, even for those whose training volume is relatively high, its nothing compared to the 20-40 hours per week so many of us spend sitting at a desk (or similar). You have to realise that these seated or sedentary hours are moulding you – slowly shortening your hip flexors, stiffening your hip and lower spinal joints – and your body is creating a memory of this sedentary pattern. The complete contrast between sitting for 6-8 hours a day and then going for an hour run in the evening can be quite difficult for the body to adapt to and damaging to muscular system.
Try to mould more of an upright and dynamic posture and movement pattern in your body by breaking up long periods of sitting with a stroll around the office. Better yet, opt for a standing desk! Skip the short drive to work and walk or bike instead; skip the elevator and give the hips a spin up the stairwell. The bottom line is: move more.
Too much, too soon
The fact you used to run back in your early twenties, or that you ticked off a half-marathon last year won’t matter if you haven’t been consistent in your training. While we love to promote life-long running through a lifestyle that includes regular running, we’re also very aware that different people prioritise different things. For those out there who like to sporadically or intermittently focus their energy on three or six month goals like choosing a particular running event, we advise you build up the miles gently. Too often we see individuals who decided that their first two weeks of training would include something like 80km of running! It doesn’t matter what pace you do it at, the training volume is too much, too soon. Those connective tissues around your hip joints simply can’t adapt to the sudden increase in training load (see the point above!).
Have someone who knows what they’re doing write you a programme with a well-balanced progressive training load that has you in tip-top shape at the right time.
Your running technique
Funnily enough, not many people actually know how to run well. Most of us go through a thought process somewhere along the lines of “it’s just running, there’s nothing to it. Just put on some running shoes and put one foot in front of the other!”
This line of thinking would have worked 2000 years ago, before the advent of paved roads, chunky “running shoes” and before we began to spend our days predominantly sitting down. For these reasons – and many more – most people have gross musculoskeletal dysfunction when compared to the optimal biomechanics of running. A good sign of this is pain. Ankle pain, knee pain, hip pain or back pain. So, what to do? Have a coach check out your running style and give you one or two things to focus on. It’s remarkable how much things can change with a little technical analysis.
Your running routine
Chances are, when you go for a run that’s all you do. You just walk out the door, start running for a prescribed amount of time and then trot back in the door when you’re done. Some of us might add to that a little calf and hamstring stretch 10 minutes into the run or once finished. How many of us actually take the time to warm up the many joints of the lower limbs? Sacroiliac joints, hips, knees, ankles and feet. It might be time that you started including some purposeful warm-up in your training routine to ensure form, function and longevity! All James Kuegler Coaching sessions and events begin with a mobility routine catered towards this.
Lack of body work
Chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, acupressure, assisted stretching… There’s so much out there that is proven to aid in musculoskeletal function and longevity for busy athletes! At James Kuegler Coaching we are big advocates for all of these modalities but, in particular, we are promoters of chiropractic care. Check out the recent article we shared about the specific benefits of ongoing chiropractic care for runners.
If you’re doing ALL of these things really well and still having issues, it might be time to get in contact with James Kuegler Coaching.