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Hip Pain After Running

Learn when the pain can be treated at home and when you need to see your doctor.
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Last updated September 8, 2021

Hip pain after running questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Hip pain after running questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Hip pain after running symptom checker

What is hip pain after running?

Hip pain is a fairly common problem for runners, often caused by overtraining. But it can also be caused by injury to any part of your hip joint, such as the bones, muscles, or cartilage. It can affect your tendons—the fiber-like tissue that connects muscle to bone—or your ligaments, which connect one bone to another. Sometimes, the pain is from injury to the fluid-filled sacs, called bursae, that provide cushioning in your joints.

Hip pain may feel achy, sharp, shooting, crampy, or tight. It can occur in the hip itself or in surrounding body parts, such as the buttocks, back, groin, or leg.

Treatment for almost all causes of hip pain typically includes resting and applying ice packs to the injured area. Recommended pain relievers include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, Motrin, Aleve) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Depending on the type of injury you have, you may also need to wear a sling, brace, ACE bandage, or cast.

Once the pain has gone away, you may need physical therapy to strengthen the area. If you have a severe injury, surgery may be necessary.

Causes

1. Trauma

Symptoms

  • Achy, sharp, or shooting pain
  • Swelling
  • Deformity (a change in the shape of the bone or joint)
  • Bruising
  • Inability to bear weight

Trauma, such as from a fall, is one of the most common causes of hip pain. It can cause something as minor as bruising or more serious injuries, like a broken or dislocated bone or a tear of a ligament, tendon, or muscle. Symptoms vary depending on the type of injury you have.

2. Muscle strains or tears

Symptoms

  • Achy, sharp, or cramp-like pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Spasm

There are many muscles surrounding the hip joint that may become strained and painful if your hip is injured. Too much exercise, running, or repetitive movements can irritate these muscles, leading to inflammation and pain. In some cases, hip strain is so severe that the muscle tears.

Commonly injured muscles include the group of muscles called the hip flexors, which allow you to lift your leg forward and upward during activities like running.

Pro Tip

Some of the symptoms you will likely experience if you have torn your hip flexor is pain or difficulty raising your knee to your chest, or soreness or pain in the upper thigh during such movements as squatting down, running, or even walking. The pain will probably be sudden in onset at the time in which the tear occurs. —Dr. Chandra Manuelpillai

3. Tendinitis

Symptoms

  • Achy or gnawing pain or tightness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth

Tendinitis (or tendonitis) in the hips occurs when the tendons in the area become irritated or inflamed. In runners, the condition is usually caused by overuse or improper training, which places excessive strain on your tendons, leading to pain and swelling.

4. Ligament or tendon strains or tears

Symptoms

  • Aching, sharp, or shooting pain
  • Swelling
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Loss of movement

Like muscles, ligaments and tendons can become strained or tear, usually from an injury. As a result, you may lose the ability to use certain muscles or perform specific movements.

5. Greater trochanteric bursitis

Symptoms

  • Aching pain on the outside of the hip
  • Swelling

The greater trochanter is the bony protrusion at the top of the large bone in your thigh (femur).  A fluid-filled sac known as the greater trochanteric bursa helps cushion this area. If you run excessively, the bursa can become injured and inflamed.

If ice, rest, and pain relievers don’t improve greater trochanteric bursitis symptoms, your doctor may recommend steroid injections to treat the pain. Stretching and physical therapy may also be helpful.

Hip pain after running questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Hip pain after running symptom checker

6. Labral tears

Symptoms

  • Achy, sharp, or shooting pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • A clicking, locking, or catching sensation in your hip

Repetitive movements or abnormal or awkward movements of your hip bones can injure your labrum, which is a thin layer of cartilage in your hip joint. Other causes of labrum tears are injury of the hip joint or if it becomes dislocated.

Treatment includes rest, anti-inflammatory medications like Advil, and physical therapy. If symptoms don’t improve or worsen, you may need a procedure to repair or remove damaged tissue.

Pro Tip

Another common sign that a muscle has been torn is the presence of bruising or “black and blue.” When a muscle tears, some bleeding occurs in the area of the injury, which ultimately turns into a bruise. The bruise may travel down the leg as gravity pulls the blood downwards. There may also be some swelling from inflammation. —Dr. Manuelpillai

7. Osteoarthritis

Symptoms

  • Achy, sharp, or shooting pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

Osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones naturally wears down as you age. It can also occur if you overtrain or train improperly. Also, in younger people, it’s often caused by an injury. You may develop bone growths, called osteophytes, at the joint that can contribute to OA pain.

If ice, rest, and pain relievers don’t help, you may need steroid injections. Stretching and physical therapy may also be recommended. In some cases, you may need hip replacement surgery.

8. Stress fractures

Symptoms

  • Achy, sharp, or shooting pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

While stress fractures are more common in the foot and lower leg, it is possible to suffer a stress fracture of the hip. The fracture develops over time, particularly if you run excessively on hard surfaces. The bone in and around the joint space may break down slightly, leading to small cracks or fractures.

9. Dislocation or subluxation

Symptoms

  • Extreme pain
  • Swelling
  • Deformity of the hip and leg

While rare in the average runner, it’s possible to develop chronically stretched ligaments of the hip joint, which causes the joint to become loose. As a result, you may experience a dislocation, in which the head of the femur is wrenched out of its socket in the hip bone, or a subluxation, which is a partial dislocation. In many instances, these conditions cause a deformity of your hip and leg. 

Dislocations and subluxations are emergencies and require immediate medical attention. Surgery is usually necessary to treat them.

Other possible causes

  • Sciatic nerve pain. The sciatic nerve, which runs down your buttock into the back of your leg, may become inflamed or irritated from running. You may feel pain in the hip, buttocks, groin, and down your leg. Other symptoms include numbness, tingling, weakness, and muscle spasm.
  • Piriformis syndrome. The piriformis is a muscle of the buttocks that can become irritated and swollen with repetitive running. When this happens, the piriformis compresses the sciatic nerve, causing symptoms of sciatic nerve pain.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome. The iliotibial (IT) band is located along the outside of your hip and runs down the thigh to the level of your knee. When you run, the IT band can become irritated by rubbing against other areas of the hip and leg, causing pain and tightness of your hip, leg, or knee.
  • Hernia. Some excessive, strenuous activities can weaken the muscle of your abdominal wall. A hernia occurs when some of the organs or parts of the abdomen protrude through the weak area, causing a painful bulge or mass. The pain worsens when you strain or push downward with your abdomen (such as when you have a bowel movement).

When to call the doctor

In most cases, hip pain after running can be treated at home with over-the-counter pain medication, rest, applying ice packs, and elevating the injured part of your body. If these measures don’t improve your symptoms within 1 to 2 weeks, or you start to feel worse, see your doctor.

You should also call your doctor if you’re experiencing hip pain along with any of these symptoms:

  • Unexplained fevers or chills
  • Unexplained or unintentional weight loss
  • Masses or bulges in the hip or groin area
  • Persistent weakness or numbness of the leg, hip, or groin

Hip pain after running questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Hip pain after running symptom checker

Should I go to the ER?

You should go to the ER if:

  • Your pain is rapidly worsening
  • You experienced significant trauma with severe pain or deformity of your hip or leg
  • You have ongoing or worsening weakness of your legs or numbness in your pelvis, groin, or legs.
  • You’re unable to control your urine and bowel movements.

Treatments

At-home care

RICE

  • Rest. Don’t run when you’re injured or in pain because it may worsen or prolong your symptoms.
  • Ice. Applying an ice pack to areas of pain or swelling helps decrease both symptoms.
  • Elevation. Elevating the injured side of your body may help relieve swelling and ease pain.
  • Compression. Applying compression bandages, such as ACE bandages or tight dressings, over the painful area can help reduce your range of motion, preventing further injury and assisting in the healing process.

Dr. Rx

It can be difficult for some patients to understand the concept of rest. These types of injuries rarely improve quickly. They are often due to minor trauma/injury occurring over time, so it will take time to reverse the damage. Even in the absence of pain, the injured portion of the hip is still healing—and it can be easily undone by being too eager to return to exercising and running. —Dr. Manuelpillai

Medications

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) treat pain, swelling, and inflammation.
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen)
  • Topical pain cream/gel/patches. Bengay, Aspercreme, Tiger Balm, and lidocaine can reduce pain when applied to the injured area.

Stretching

Because running can cause tightness of certain muscles, it’s important to stretch them to reduce stress when you run. Some commonly recommended stretches include:

Other treatment options

  • Physical therapy. You may need to see a physical therapist, who can suggest effective stretching, resistance, and strengthening exercises. They may also offer pain treatments such as massage, active release therapy, and electric stimulation.
  • Steroid or trigger point injections. Your doctor may recommend injections into certain painful areas, such as the muscles or bursae of the hip. These injections typically include a numbing medication and a steroid to help control pain and reduce inflammation. You usually need to get injections every 3 to 6 months.
  • Surgery. If you have a torn muscle, labrum, ligament, or tendon, or dislocations or fractures, surgery may be necessary to return you to your normal functioning.
Share your story
Dr. Manuelpillai is a board-certified Emergency Medicine physician. She received her undergraduate degree in Health Science Studies from Quinnipiac University (2002). She then went on to graduated from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Sciences/The Chicago Medical School (2007) where she served on the Executive Student Council, as well as was the alternate delegate to the AMA/ISMS-MSS G...
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