“I don’t want to run, it’s not good for my knees and my hips.” You’ve heard it all before, and while there is validity to some of these statements, better understanding would help us break down some of these issues and how it can help us run pain-free.
Running, is known for the high impact and stress it places on your bones, muscles and connective tissues around the hip, especially when done repeatedly. It doesn’t matter what age you are, hip pain can occur in all runners. While it may start off mild, hip pain can become much more severe as time goes on if it is not treated properly. Therefore, it is important to take the proper precautions and scale back on your training if you're experiencing running-related hip pain.
At UFIT, one of the biggest groups of patients we see for injuries are competitive and social runners. Runners, more than most, have a single-minded devotion to their sport – heading out, rain or shine, here in Singapore. Unfortunately, this devotion often leads to them “running through the pain” when they feel a niggle in their knees or ankles. Eventually, this kind of attitude will lead to you ending up in physiotherapy with one of our therapists, while we are glad you’ve chosen us to assess your issues, we would think you’d probably prefer to be still out there jogging!
It all starts with your hips!
When you think about it, running is really just a series of single leg hops, over and over again. If you do not have sufficient strength and stability in your pelvis and hips, this is going to make this single leg hop action unsteady and not very powerful. If this is the case, it will make you less efficient as a runner, and also more likely to injure yourself, which is definitely bad news for any runner, social or competitive!
Why the hips?
First, let’s discuss performance: running is about moving from point A to Point B in a straight line, as quickly as possible. Any deviation from this straight line in your body is a waste of energy – you are bleeding power. If your hip and pelvis aren’t stable, this leads to a “rolling gait”, and your knees pointing inwards instead of straight ahead – a loss of straight line power. Over the course of a long run, these incremental losses will add up to quite a big waste of your stored energy levels, leaving you with a less impressive run-time than anticipated.
The second issue is injuries. Without hip and pelvic stability, your knees and ankles will roll inwards with every step. Eventually, this will lead to overuse stress on the cartilage on one side of the knee, or your patellar tendon, resulting in a painful chronic injury, making running painful, leading to many physiotherapy appointments, and potentially leading to surgery.
How do I know if I have pelvic instability?
You can test and assess yourself very simply with the below.
Single Leg Hop Test
One easy way is to hop up and down in front of a mirror, watching your knee. Does your knee stay in line with your toes, or rotate inwards? Does your upper body stay straight and stable?
Single Leg Hop Demonstration courtesy of My Doctor - Kaiser Permanente
Wobble Lunge Test
If you have access to a wobble board, place it out in front of you about three feet away. Then, with a dowel across your shoulders (a broomstick will do), lunge forward, placing your lead foot on the wobble board. Again, are you able to keep your knees in line with your toes? Can you keep a strong, stable body position, or do you collapse to one side?
If your answer to either of these questions is “No” – it would be recommended that you speak to a qualified personal trainer, such as one of our many coaches at UFIT, or a physiotherapist at the UFIT Clinic, before you commit to a regular running schedule. They should be able to assess your running gait and prescribe you some hip strengthening and pelvic stability exercises to ensure that you remain injury-free, and work towards becoming a stronger and faster runner. Come speak to us to if you are experiencing any pain, remember, it is always wise to nip any issues in the bud instead of "working through the pain".
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Declan Halpin has always maintained a strong sporting interest and has previously worked as an Academy Physiotherapist for Crystal Palace Football Club and as a Rehabilitation Coach for the Western Province Stormers Academy, on top being a strength and conditioning coach and physiotherapist for teams and associations across Asia. He is passionate about helping his patients achieve their long terms goals through identifying their weaknesses and imbalances, and developing a strategy to eradicate them. These days he serves UFIT as the Team Director.