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Why Runners Need To Pay Closer Attention To Hip Alignment

Hip Misalignment Can Have A Domino Effect

I was in severe pain. The kind of pain that makes a runner question their injury-free status, as well as their pity party about miserable running weather. It could be hailing, for all I cared–I just wanted to feel good enough to run again.

I’m quite naïve when it comes to the medical world, so I did what most naïve runners do: I Googled my symptoms. Ten minutes later, I was on the verge of tears, convinced I had a sacral stress fracture. All the symptoms were there. I was doomed.

Because I was a collegiate student athlete at the time, I had excellent resources. Thankfully, I had enough sense to make an appointment with my team’s athletic trainer. We both knew I had a history of stress fractures. I was familiar with the pain. “It feels just like a stress fracture,” I told her.

Luckily, it wasn’t. Instead, my hips were apparently rotated. This was wreaking havoc on my running stride and putting undue stress on my muscles. A few adjustments and a rehab regimen were all I needed to get back on the trails. I was relieved, but also confused. Truthfully, I was embarrassed to admit that, although I’d been a collegiate runner for two years, I had no clue that the alignment of my hips was so impactful to my running.

Clearly I’d been missing something. So, I did some research. Given my lack of medical knowledge, I’ll explain this to you in the simplest of terms: As a runner, your power comes from your hips. They propel your body into motion by driving your legs. But they can get out of alignment due to a variety of factors, like your posture, pre-existing injuries or your running mechanisms. When they do get out of alignment, it can cause pain—nasty pain, like the kind I was feeling. The misalignment can even cause bone injuries (like stress fractures) if it’s not properly addressed.

Once I knew how important my hips were to my running, I got my hip alignment checked regularly. But that wasn’t all I did. I learned that strengthening exercises, along with regular hip alignment, could help my hips stay in alignment better, so I started doing some. I wasn’t entirely sure how the hip checks and exercises would improve my alignment, but if it nixed the back pain, I was all for it.

Maybe you are clueless about the mysteries of your body’s mechanisms. That’s okay; I was, too. But if you’re a regular, competitive runner with back or hip pain, I would encourage you to get it checked by a physical therapist or sports chiropractor. At the very least, you can add hip strengthening exercises to your pre-run routine. Trust me: Five or 10 minutes of prehab is worth it. If you keep your hips healthy, you’ll go far. If not, you might have to face larger injuries down the road.

Related:

A Runner’s Guide To Hip Pain And Causes

Why Runners Should Care About The Gluteus Medius

Video: How To Sculpt Your Core With Hip Bridges

Hannah Hartzell

Hannah Hartzell

Hello! My name is Hannah Hartzell. I am student, an athlete and an all-around enthusiastic person! I grew up in Lewis Center, Ohio and currently run cross country and track for Butler University. When I’m not running, I'm most likely studying, drinking tea or hiking (I fit sleep in there somewhere). I’ve gained valuable experience as a prior communications intern for Just Between Us Magazine and the Columbus Running Company. You can read more of my musings at A Grateful Life Lived, and connect with me on Instagram. See you out on the trails!