6 physical therapy treatments for a hip injury from running

Aside from seniors, athletes are one of the most likely groups to experience hip pain. It’s common among athletes of all ages, and researchers estimate that it accounts for 5% to 6% of all sports injuries. Runners can develop hip pain for several possible reasons. Most often, it’s an injury from repetitive movements or overuse. It can also be a result of a traumatic injury or a previous injury that’s been aggravated.

Each individual has different risk factors in their running routine and their health history. Running on hard or uneven surfaces can raise your risk of a hip injury from running, and wearing the right shoes makes a big difference. People with poor nutrition, excess weight, past injuries and genetic predispositions for certain disorders may also have a higher risk of injury. 

Competitive long-distance runners are much more likely to develop hip pain from running than casual runners. In many cases, running can prevent certain types of pain. For instance, running at a recreational level can be protective against pain from osteoarthritis.

If you’re experiencing hip pain from running, getting some rest is a good idea. With some recovery time and some physical therapy, there’s a good chance you can get back to running pain-free.

This article describes six physical therapy treatments that can help treat or prevent hip injuries from running.

How can physical therapy help with hip injuries from running? 

If you do a lot of running, some sports performance therapy can help you prevent or minimize hip pain. During these sessions, your PT can help you work on your form and teach you some stretches and exercises to strengthen the core, glute and leg muscles that support your hips. Aquatic therapy can also help you exercise stiff joints with less strain and more support.

Manual therapy is a type of hands-on therapy, comprising joint mobilization and soft tissue manipulation. With these techniques, your therapist will have you sit or lie down in certain positions while they apply gentle pressure with massage-like movements. This gets fresh, oxygenated blood moving through areas that are stiff to loosen and repair tissue.

The types of therapy your PT uses will depend on your condition and the cause of your pain. They’ll begin with a thorough assessment, which includes questions about when your hip pain began, when you notice it most, and what it feels like. There’s also a physical component where they will assess your current range of motion, strength and flexibility. After that, your physical therapist will recommend a personalized treatment plan.

Physical therapy can help with the following types of hip injury from running:

  • Bursitis.
  • Labral tears of the hip & hip impingement.
  • Tendinitis.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Traumatic injury.
  • Overuse injury.

6 physical therapy treatments for a hip injury from running

Again, your specific course of treatment will depend on what’s causing your hip pain and other health factors. Your individual treatment plan may include both passive and active techniques to help relieve pain from hip injuries. This means your therapist will be doing some of the work with their hands and other tools. They’ll also guide you through exercises and stretches where you’re in control.

Your physical therapist may use the following techniques to treat a hip injury from running:

  • Aquatic therapy — Aquatic therapy adds resistance to simple movements without putting too much pressure on your joints. The buoyancy of water adds support, and warm water helps increase circulation. Doing exercises in an aquatic therapy pool boosts your body’s natural healing processes.
  • Therapeutic exercise — Joint pain tends to happen when there’s an imbalance or weakness in the surrounding muscles. Therapeutic exercise strengthens the muscles that support your joints for better strength and balance on both sides of your body.
  • Therapeutic stretching — Joint pain can also be a result of not stretching properly. Therapeutic stretches promote flexibility and range of motion along with the general health of your tendons and ligaments.
  • Manual therapy — This is an umbrella term for several hands-on techniques that help with soft tissue and joint mobilization. Your therapist will use massage-like movements or push against you to facilitate movement and increase circulation.
  • Ultrasound — An ultrasound device can be used to treat muscle strains, ligament sprains and tendinitis. It delivers sound waves through the skin to relax muscle spasms, increase blood flow and help you heal faster.
  • Sports performance therapy — This is a broad area of physical therapy practice that covers strength training, therapeutic exercise, passive and active stretching, and joint mobilization. It includes injury recovery and prevention, but a sports physical therapist can also help improve different aspects of your performance, like endurance or sports performance anxiety.

Physical therapy exercises for hip injuries

After you’ve rested your hip, you can start doing exercises to regain your strength and flexibility. You should start with a small number of repetitions and work with a physical therapist to increase at the right pace. You don’t want to re-injure yourself!

These are just a few physical therapy exercises that can help with hip injuries:

  • Clamshells — Clamshells gently work your glutes and thighs. Begin by lying on your side with your legs at a right angle, feet touching. Keep your feet in place while you elevate your top knee. Try to raise it as high as possible without shifting your pelvis. Hold this position for a moment or two; you should feel a stretch in your thighs and buttocks. With control, slowly return the knee to its initial position. Try to do this exercise 15 to 20 times on each side.
  • Bridges — Bridges are very helpful for strengthening your hips. Lie on your back with your knees bent and keep your feet about hip width apart. When you’re ready, engage your core and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Like the name suggests, your torso and legs should form a bridge between your feet and upper back. Hold this bridge for a few seconds before lowering back down. Try a few sets of 15 repetitions each.
  • Fire hydrants — Fire hydrants can help strengthen your core, glutes and hips. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders, and your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Engage your core and try to keep it steady while you lift one leg out to the side. Keep your raised knee bent and your foot flexed. See how far you can stretch this leg without twisting out of shape. Alternate with the other leg for several repetitions on each side.

Therapeutic stretches for hip injuries

Both static stretches and moving stretches are important for sports injury prevention. You can incorporate some moving stretches into your warmup routine, and you should do static stretches to cool down after running.

Your physical therapist may include stretches like these in your treatment plan:

  • Hamstring stretch — Your hamstrings play a vital role in activities like running and swimming. To stretch them, sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Then stretch your arms out toward your feet and hold your calves or your ankles for stability. Keep your knees bent just a bit and lean your head down. Slowly release the stretch, sit back up, and repeat. If you want to make it a bit easier, wrap a small towel around your heels and hold on to it.
  • Hip flexor stretch — Your hip flexors are the muscles right at the front of your hips on each side. This stretch looks like a deep lunge. From a kneeling position, plant one foot in front of you with your knee at a 90-degree angle. With your shoulders and chest high, lean forward until you feel a stretch at the front of the hip that’s extended downward. Hold the stretch for about a minute on each side.
  • Low back and hip twist — This one stretches a lot of muscles in your lower back and hips. Lie on your back with your feet planted, just like in the bridge exercise. Move your knees to the left and lower them to create a twist in your hips. Hold for about 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Get treatment for your hip and prevent future injuries from running at Lattimore PT

Hip injuries from running can become chronic issues if they’re not addressed. Many athletes begin sports performance therapy because of an injury, and some stick with it to work on other aspects of their performance. It’s good to check in with a sports performance therapist at the beginning of each season to discuss your plans for training and competition.

At Lattimore Physical Therapy, we care about providing the best physical therapy treatments so you can keep doing the things you love to stay well. Over 30 of our PTs have their Certification in Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (COMT), which means they have expertise in assessing patients and using critical thinking to create treatment plans that work.

Are you ready to get treatment for your hip pain and get back to running? Contact our team today to schedule your first appointment.

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