Running is the most popular physical activity of our generation. People didn’t use to run that much a few decades back, mainly due to lack of alleys and good shoes. Also, it wasn’t as much advertised to be healthy back then. That leads us to our current problem – too many people running. It’s actually a good thing for that many people to go out for a jog but the issue is most of them don’t have the knowledge needed to keep this a healthy process. Regrettably, bad habits and lack of information lead to health problems with people who decided to take on running without prior sports experience. For example, these people often forget that warming up is perhaps the most important part of a successful workout. Not having a pre-workout warm-up or missing your post-workout stretching can ultimately lead to chronic hip flexor pain.
Don’t get us wrong, professional athletes aren’t excused from this at all. Most of them wake up early to go for a run and then forget to stretch before heading into a day in which they will sit down for at least 4-5 hours. Or here is another case: an athlete comes back from college and goes for a run without warming up and potentially misses his post-run stretch. All these scenarios are valid and are unfortunately quite common both among professionals and ordinary people.
Let’s Get You Familiar With The Mechanics
What most professionals call “hip flexors” is the iliopsoas muscle. It consists of a few muscles from which the most important is the psoas major muscle. The iliopsoas flexes your hips and rotates your spine. These specific movements are at the core of running so any unusual signs before or after a run in that area might be a sign that something is not right. We will address a few of the pain sources, but if your pain is severe, please call your doctor to find out what’s going on.
Overall, the iliopsoas is a true workaholic. It is constantly called into play throughout all your day taking place in all activities including walking, running, lifting your legs and many more. It also helps the weaker muscles in the area when they can’t perform effectively enough. This, in general, overworks him, leading to a feeling of sore and tight hip flexors. We covered this particular condition in an article on that topic.
Other Sources Of Hip Flexor Pain
Muscle Tension Or Muscle Injury
The sensation of a muscle injury is quite specific and most people can recognize it instantly after having it at least once. It is a sharp, burning pain which comes quite suddenly. If you experience this, it’s most likely that you’ve injured the muscle. Tension also causes burning but without the sharp, sudden pain. For the most part, it happens to newcomers and runners that forget to warm up.
Buildup Of Lactic Acid
The longer you train, the more exhausted your muscles will be and the more lactic acid will build up into them. This causes a burning, aching sensation in the affected area. If for example, you’ve been sitting all day, your hip flexors will be really lacking proper blood circulation. That makes you extremely prone to lactic acid buildup, since blood and lymph circulation is what takes away the lactic acid away from you. If you start feeling this while on a long run, it probably means that your body is trying to tell you to either slow down or be done for the day.
Another thing that may cause pain around your joints and/or a burning sensation in your hips is arthritis. Osteoporosis may cause similar symptoms. The good is that in both cases regular exercising might help. Either way, you should consult your doctor first before undergoing any plan of your own.
Tips On How To Fix Your Hip Flexor Pain
Before we move onto giving you a few stretching exercise ideas, we want to take a moment to address something which is often overlooked. This is hydration. It is a crucial component of a pain-free and optimal movement of the tendons, muscles and joints. A good rule of thumb is to drink 0.6 multiplied by your weight in number of ounces you need per day. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, you should drink 60 ounces of water per day. Also, don’t forget that every 6 ounces of coffee or any other caffeinated beverage require around 10 ounces of water to rehydrate you.
How To Prevent It All
Example For Your Running Stages
Start by walking slowly for around 5 minutes. Move a little to warm up all your body’s joints.
Pick up the pace a little, but don’t rush yourself into your full pace as your body is still not warmed up enough. Keep this tempo for a few hundred meters.
Get the tempo to your desired speed. Don’t forget to take slow steady breaths throughout the whole process. Breathing is crucial to your running for countless of reasons, not to mention that the psoas major muscle (part of the iliopsoas) is connected to the lower parts of your diaphragm.
You are now warmed up. Keep a steady tempo without many alterations.
After you are done remember to properly stretch out as stretching out is equally important (if not more) than warming up.
You can stretch your hip flexors from a standing position:
- Bend your hip and knee backward and grab that ankle with the same-side hand. Slowly pull your heel towards your gluteal area until you feel a nice and comfortable stretch at the front of your hip.
If you cannot reach that ankle, use a rope or even a towel. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds and then go onto the other leg.
If something happens during your run, ice the painful area for at least 20 minutes after you come back home. Depending on the gravity of the situation you might need to either take time off from running or substitute it with another cardiovascular exercise which doesn’t aggravate your pain.
If static stretching isn’t your thing, makes sure to check our article on how to unlock your hip flexors where you will be introduced to a program which teaches you dynamic stretches and tons of other useful information.
Best Ways To Treat Hip Flexor Pain
If you experience pain when running it might be time for you to take a little break (just for a while, don’t worry). During that period you can actively stretch your muscles every day, but make sure you don’t put extra pressure on the damaged area. Return to running only after you are 100% convinced that everything is good to go.
Consider talking to your doctor about taking anti-inflammatory medication. It will speed up your recovery, but in any case don’t take it on your own (without the doctor’s opinion). There are also natural anti-inflammatory foods that you can use instead of medication.
Improve Your Mobility
There is a big correlation between myofascial restrictions, mobility issues and hip flexor pain. There is often tightness in the quadriceps, the thigh, and hamstrings which leads to pain in the hip area. You can try doing different self-mobilization exercises for the area above, below and around the pain.
There are many more techniques you can use to treat your hip pains such as strengthening your core or hip muscles. Also, a great thing to do is have your gait analyzed while running. Some local running stores or physical therapy clinics offer monthly gait exams. If you can’t find anything like that, ask someone to record you from behind and from your side while running so that you can analyze your posture/biomechanics afterwards.
Final Words On The Issue
The best way to rehabilitate your hip flexor pain is to address it specifically. Stop training and address the elephant in the room. Start stretching, and working on muscle mobility around the painful area. Most people think that pain just goes away with time and never stop training. It might eventually disappear but that might only be cause for the pain to resurface years later as a much more serious issue. Medication is also a great way to treat your condition, but once again, the best way to avoid being damaged in the first place is to never forget to warm up pre-workout and stretch after your training session.