As most runners know, aches and pains are a common part of training. However, according to a study published in the May/June issue of Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, the real culprit for overuse running injuries, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, and Achilles tendonitis may have more to do with weakened hip muscles than how many miles run.
Various studies have estimated that up to 70 percent of runners sustain an overuse running injury each year with more than 80 percent of those injuries occurring below the knee. Based on a literature review, it appears that foot pronation (how one steps) and inadequate hip muscle stabilization are the top categories for injury. Hip muscle weakness especially appears to lead to atypical lower extremity mechanics and increases forces on knees and feet while running. These results suggest that hip strengthening rehabilitation programs may be an effective way to lessen running overuse injuries.
One of the studies analyzed in the review suggested that after 4-6 weeks of strength training, 22 of 24 runners experienced significant decrease in pain and a 35-51 percent increase in hip abductor strength. â€œThese results suggest that hip strengthening rehabilitation programs may be an effective way to lessen running overuse injuries, said Ferber
Dr. Ferber recommends performing hip abductor strengthening exercises to prevent injury. Individuals should progress up to three sets of 10 repetitions gradually to avoid muscle soreness. A simple exercise to work the muscles of your outer thigh / abductors.
How to Excersize Your Hip Abductor:
Lie on your side with both feet together, toes pointing forward, using your arms to help fix your upper body position. You may wish to lay your lower arm totally straight, and rest your head on this arm.
Keeping your knees and toes pointing forward smoothly lift upper leg to a position of about 40 degrees.
Smoothly lift and lower the leg only a few inches in a controlled smooth pulsing movement.
You may wish to swap on to the other side and repeat the same process, or simply rest the leg for a brief moment then repeat again on the same leg.
Ankle weights or resistance bands can be used to make this exercise harder.
You can bend your lower leg and use your arms to aid balance during the exercise.
Throughout the movement, focus on feeling the muscles of the upper leg (outer thigh) and buttocks performing the action.