If you ever experience joint pain when you walk, run, jog or cycle, this is a need-to-know: Ice, rest and knee supports are not your only tools to ease and prevent that pain. In fact, research suggests that lower leg injuries are often attributed to weakness in the muscles that support the hips.
“The hip muscles are responsible for stabilizing the leg during running,” explained Dr. Reed Ferber, lead researcher at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, in Reuters Health. “If these muscles are weak or become fatigued easily, there is less control of the leg, and the risk of injury increases. For example, if your hip abductors are weak, this will allow your knee to roll in and can cause pain under and around the kneecap.”
An estimated 70 percent of runners sustain an overuse injury each year; about half of those injuries occur in the knee. In addition to knee pain, shin splints, achilles tendonitis and foot pain are also overuse complaints for runners.
Exercise and stretch your hips
So if you enjoy walking workouts, running or cycling, don’t ignore the need to take care of your hips.
- Hit the gym and find an abductor machine to work your outer hips.
- Use exercises like squats, lunges and leg lifts to strengthen the hip flexors and work the gluteus medius muscle, which is the hip stabilizer.
- Don’t forget to stretch your hip flexors. Stretching the muscles around your leg joints is just as important as strengthening them. Tight hip flexors lead to a host of other issues including low back pain.
Keep your hips strong and flexible to help prevent injuries that can derail you from your fitness routine!