It started out rather insignificantly. My early-morning running partner of five years began to complain one day about a slight pain in her left hip. It wasn’t enough to deter her from our morning runs – frequently disguised as therapy/gripe sessions – but after a few months, I noticed that she had somewhat of a limp to her gait. She did mention that the pain had intensified, even to the point where after a long run, if she sat for an appreciable amount of time and had to stand up, it was very painful. We opted to walk for a few mornings, then alternated our runs with frequent walks to help alleviate her discomfort.
Fortunately for myself, I have never experienced anything quite like that in my running career. In fact, I have remained healthy over the years in that regard, and am very grateful for the manner in which my body endures its daily torture! However, hip pain is a very common complaint among runners, and it can run the gamut, from very severe (stress fractures or arthritis) to milder pain (muscles strains or bursitis).
It is important to note that any pain that inhibits or limits your ability to run should be evaluated by a doctor trained in sports medicine. I know if I had to skip just one day of running, I would be moody, irritable, and would probably have to be caged for the remainder of the day. We don’t even want to go there!
So, where does hip pain originate in runners? It comes from a variety of sources, including the bones, joints, muscles, tendon, and bursa, which consist of the fluid-filled sacs that decrease friction at the bony intersections.
Many muscles attach to the pelvis and the hip, and all of them are important in running. Those powerful hip flexors attach in the front and flex or bend the hip. The abductor set of muscles includes the tensor fascia lata and the gluteus medius and minimus, which serve to pull the leg away from midline.
The location of the hip pain can be very helpful for the doctor’s diagnosis, as he can understand from where it originates. Anterior hip, groin, or thigh pain typically arises from the hip joint or from one of the flexors.