Running can be great exercise, but as all runners know, you can expect to get some aches and pains along the way. Hip pain is a frequent issue for runners, particularly if you are covering a lot of miles. There are a number of potential causes – fortunately there are things you can do to minimise your risk of hip pain and effective treatments to get you back on the road if you do have trouble.
Muscle pain when running
Muscle pains are probably the commonest issue that runners encounter. Around the hip, the main muscles that can cause problems are the hip abductors. This muscle group is what keeps your body upright when you are just supported by one leg (which is all the time when you are running).
If you do too much or your running technique is a bit off, then you can develop pain over the outer part of the hip where the abductors attach. In most cases, if this does happen then if you take it easy for a couple of weeks, use ice and rub in an anti-inflammatory like diclofenac then the pain will settle and go away.
If you are careful to regulate how far you are running and concentrate on good running technique then the pain should not come back. If it doesn’t settle then it is worth getting it checked out as sometimes exercises to deal with muscle imbalance, injections, pulsed ultrasound, or very rarely surgery, can be needed.
Clicking hips when running
Clicking or snapping from your hips can be concerning and there are a few reasons why it can occur. A snapping sensation on the outer part of the hip can happen if there is a thickening of the fascial tissue that overlies the hip. Quite often it isn’t painful to start with, but with repeated snapping you can start to get pain.
You can also get snapping deep inside the hip due to one of the flexor tendons flicking over the front of the pelvis, this can be loud enough for other people to hear it. In most cases both these types of snapping/clicking can be treated effectively with a course of physiotherapy, though in some cases it is necessary to surgically release some of the tight bands that cause the snap.
Another common reason for clicking from the hips is damage to the cartilage that forms the rim round the hip socket. This cartilage, called the labrum, can get torn and may make a clicking noise. Tears of the labrum are very common and often there are no symptoms or just an occasional click.
If you get pain in the groin during or after running or if sitting in one position for a while is uncomfortable then the pain could be due to the labrum. Diagnosis can be made with a MRI scan and in many cases seeing a physiotherapist is all that is required. If the pain persists despite physiotherapy then keyhole surgery (arthroscopy) can help.
Stress fractures are breaks in the bone that occur when you do more activity than your bones can cope with. When you run, little cracks appear in your bones, your body repairs these without you noticing.
If you do too much running or have a diet that doesn’t provide the body with everything it needs, then the repair process doesn’t keep up with the damage and the small cracks join together to form a stress fracture. Hip stress fractures are a problem for long distance runners.
If diagnosed early, then a period of offloading the leg using crutches is usually all you need. If you continue to run on a developing stress fracture then the fracture can complete and you may need an emergency operation to deal with a broken hip!
Generally, if you don’t overdo it, concentrate on good running technique and rest immediately if you do get hip pain then you will not run into too many problems.
If you have any questions about hip pain, clicking or discomfort when running, please contact our team to arrange an initial consultation.