Friday, 15 May 2015

Running?  Hip Pain?

I have been reminded this week by a few Runners, both newbies and experienced runners, that there is nothing better in this spring weather than being able to put on a pair of trainers and just run out your front door! 

I also recently visited St Francis Running Club where I was warmly welcomed by a group of committed and experienced runners.  Talking to the runners it was really interesting to note that a few of the women runners in the Club all had similar “aches, niggles, tension” (we all have different names for it) at the side of and back of one hip, amongst the buttock muscles.  With my Sports Massage, and own running experience, this led me to promptly check out the following muscles to see if they were the culprits:

Piriformis- a small muscle lying deep in the middle of the buttocks, joining the sacrum and the ball of the thigh bone
Gluteus Medius – which lies underneath and on the side of our big superficial gluteus maximus
and the Gluteus Maximus itself (generally at the top of the pelvis)

To understand if it is one of these muscles causing a problem, I ask my Client to perform a few simple movements and upon this movement I palpate and ask how these muscles are feeling? 

As a Sports Massage Therapist I would then go on to treat the problem muscles HOWEVER IMPORTANTLY I continue to consider the surrounding muscles, the position and structure of the hip and what is happening further down the leg at the knee and the ankle, in order to start to identify what could be the cause of the tension at the hip?  Put simply and generally tension means the muscles are overworking, compensating for weaker muscles.  Women tend to be more susceptible to hip pain owing to the wider female pelvis structure and more inward orientated thigh bones, than males, and hence females tend to have more instability at the knees and ankles and more force running through the calves, knees, thigh and into the hips. Another common cause is over-pronation at the feet, so trainers wearing out more on the outside of the heel, causing more force running through the outer legs and hips.  

So what do I suggest ?
Well, by identifying the causes of tension I aim to educate my Client, to give them the power and knowledge to do something about it.  I can treat the muscles but in order for you to truly feel great and to continue to do so when running our muscles also need to be STRONG, so strength training is really important.  Research has proven that by strengthening hip muscles over-pronation is partially corrected [1]

We discuss the muscles and try out which exercises will help build improved strength. 

Typically the main muscles to focus on strengthening are the hip abductors, which are the outer hip and thigh muscles, specifically the gluteus maximus and medius, tensor fasciae latae, piriformis and the hip flexors at the front of the hip and thigh. 

So I am not talking about having to spend hours at the gym, the type of exercises we can discuss are not time consuming, it just requires knowledge, a bit of time (whilst watching TV at the end of the day?) your focus and then it will be great to feel your
over all stamina and fitness improving, and over the spring and summer months and you can continue to throw on the trainers and run out into the sunshine!

If you would like to discuss anything in this article, or have any general questions, please email or give me a call

[1] University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Jennifer Earl, Phd., ATC, and colleagues prescribed a hip-strengthening program to a group of healthy female runners for eight weeks.