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Hip pain is a very common ailment for runners. It is highly debilitating and can put a halt to your training goals. So, here we will look at a common hip injury: hip flexor strain or tendonitis, as well as milder hip flexor tightness; what the possible causes are, how you can alleviate the problem and prevent recurrence.
For information and guidance on other types of Hip Pain check out Hip Pain from Running.
Causes of Tightness / Treatment / Stretches (Video) / Exercises / Strain or Tendonitis
Hip flexors are a group of muscles and tendons on the anterior (front) of your hip joint, linking your legs to your pelvis. They move your thighs forwards and upwards, influencing the movement between your torso and legs. They effect the smoothness of your stride, feed into your quads, affect your hamstrings, and if they're tight, affect the spine and cause lower back pain.
There can be myriad reasons. Number one being that you’ve got a hip flexor strain or tendonitis due to:
The good news is there are many positive things you can do, from hip flexor specific stretches and mobilisation to exercises targeting weaknesses that often lead to hip flexor injury.
Don’t forget the benefit of rest initially for any injury / pain, dial back on any exercises that irritate it and concentrate on stretching, strengthening and making sure you’ve got the correct running shoes for when you go back to running.
Watch the video to see three excellent hip flexor stretches:
There are some hip flexor exercises but in most cases the strength needs to be built in other muscles to take the excess strain off the hip flexors.
Initially, when the area is inflamed, no. Just rest, stop running and ideally go to your physio. Once it’s less painful you can start gentle stretches, like those in the video, easing into the stretch rather than jerking. Take pain as your guide: some pain but also a feeling of ‘that feels good’ release is perfect; pain that has you gasping, not a good idea!
Rest initially, whilst the pain is intense, and then get to work to balance your body’s biomechanics and build strength so you can fulfil your running potential. Always listen to your body and then educate yourself to know what it needs to feel happier. A visit to a good physiotherapist is always a GOOD idea.
Having been a sufferer of hip flexor tightness for decades, I’ve learnt that it’s all about management. If I stopped running every time it hit, I’d never do another Ultra race. Instead, I consistently work on my core muscles, do weekly sessions on my perennially lazy glutes, run conscious of my posture, following the Chi running form techniques, and STRETCH after every run.
These are exercises that we've found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not certified instructors. Always consult your specialist before beginning any exercise programme. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.
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Benjamin OngJanuary 11, 2019 at 4:59amGreat stretch routine to the hip flexors. Add it on with a downward facing dog, plank and cobra to make it complete! Reply
Shankara SmithJanuary 11, 2019 at 12:05pmHi Benjamin,
Glad you like it. Yes, downward facing dog Is a great exercise for runners - gives a good stretch to those tight calf muscles. Plank is very effective at building that essential core strength and the cobra is a good counter balance stretch, though it is important not to put pressure through the lower back with that one.
All in all a great combination for happy muscles and tendons!
LumyJune 5, 2016 at 12:26pmHello Shankara,
That is a board question but who better than you to advise. I am 52 yo woman who I have made little spot in my life. I start running just a few years ago, I had plantar fasciitis, stress fracture and now a stubborn pain at the back of my hip.
I started quite controlled, slowly building up millage and with a good nutrition plan.
I wonder what would you advise me about how to run, do you thinkI should keep on? I really enjoy so much being out there but I want to do it safely. Tips? Do's and don't s?
Shankara SmithJune 6, 2016 at 9:58am
It's great to hear that you've fallen in love with running but it does sound like you've hit a few obstacles that need attending to.
I wonder if your running shoes are supporting you as much as you need them to. Plantar Fasciitis and hip pain can come from the feet collapsing through the arches as you run and the legs coming under extra pressure to support you properly. So I would recommend that you get your shoes checked out. If you're able to get to one of our branches we can advise you on that.
There can be many contributing factors that lead to the problems you've described. Without seeing you and speaking to you more it's hard to guess what course of action needs to be taken. However, taking an appointment with a Chi Running Instructor, like Balavan Thomas, can be very illuminating. You can learn where you're putting extra pressure on your body as you run and how to balance things out better.
My other advice would be Pilates. A class once a week can really benefit your overall posture and core stability and is a very good supplementary exercise for runners.
Hope some of this helps.
JonathanNovember 1, 2015 at 12:21pmThanks for the routine. I thought I was just getting too old to start running! ? Reply
Shankara SmithNovember 2, 2015 at 1:09pm
You are never too old! But stretching does become more essential as the years tick by. Enjoy your runs and just take it steady, as long as you don't overdo it your body will adjust quite quickly. Good luck :-)Reply
RaulOctober 10, 2015 at 10:41amHello Miss Shankara;
Wow..very great vedio for streching for hip flexors... i will definitely used it on my system.
Thank you so much. Reply
ShankaraOctober 12, 2015 at 11:10amHi Raul,
That's great to hear, thanks. I use this stretch all the time and it saves me!
HeideJune 13, 2015 at 5:04pmI've really hurt me hip flexor and I competed today and yesterday and am competition tomorrow Wednesday Thursday and Sunday next week! What do you recommend for quick pain relief? Reply
Shankara SmithJune 15, 2015 at 10:33am
The hip flexor tendons can be slow to recover, so you definitely want to take it easy. I would suggest gentle stretching, not pushing it beyond what feels like a gradual release. You can also try using an ice pack for ten to fifteen minutes a day. You also need to consider what brought on the problem in the first place, whether tightness in quads has put more pressure on the hip flexors, or stomach muscles tightness from over-crunching, etc.
If you've got competitions coming up then you'd be best advised to visit a good physio to get advice and speed up recovery.
paulaMay 4, 2013 at 3:51pmGreat stretches,i'm back running after a partial ham string tear and physio and also do karate.I would really appreciate some more ham and quad stretches and any advice to improve and maintain flexibility to keep my legs flexible so I can do both the activities I love.
Thanks in advance1 Reply
Shankara SmithMay 7, 2013 at 2:34pm
Thanks for your comment. It's great to hear you're getting back into running. After a muscle injury it's really important to ensure your muscles are properly warmed up before you exert them too much, so start each session with a 5 to 10 minute brisk walk, or gentle jog. Follow this with gentle stretching of your hamstrings; if you're outside find a bench/low railing to rest your foot on and then bend at the waist, hold the stretch and breathe into it, then ease back and repeat. It's not a bad idea to squeeze in a quad stretch at this point too, just hold onto a tree/bench/wall and pull your foot towards your glutes, pushing your knee towards the ground to get a good stretch.
When you're warming down after exercise, follow the stretches in the video above, and to ensure you're stretching the hamstring fully, try angling your foot a bit to the left and then the right of straight, this will encourage a deeper stretch throughout the entire muscle. I would also recommend you invest in a Grid, it's so great for massaging out tension in big muscle groups, and we've got a handy vlog on it for you to follow: see Using the Grid: For Runners here »
Enjoy the road back to fitness!