The hip region is perhaps the area that plagues runners most frequently. Even when one is not running, he is using his hips to walk, sit, stand, etc. Basically, humans are constantly engaging our hips. For this reason, when a hip injury occurs, it can take a long time to heal.
One of the most common hip injuries in distance runners is referred to as hip bursitis. Bursae are found throughout the body. They are small, jelly-like sacs filled with fluid and they sit between bones or soft tissue to reduce friction when the body is in motion. Bursitis occurs when these bursa sacs become inflamed.
There are two areas in the hips that may be susceptible to bursitis. The greater trochanter sits on the outside point of the hip and tends to be the more common area to fall victim to bursitis. The iliopsoas bursa, in contrast, sits on the inside of the hip (near the groin), and is a less common area for bursitis to strike.
Regardless of where the bursitis of the hip is, the symptoms are similar, the most common being pain in the region of the injury. This pain is typically worst at night, especially with trochanteric bursitis because we often lay on the outside of our hip when we sleep.
Hip bursitis tends to be an overuse injury, though it can be acute if a runner falls on his hip. When a runner begins to feel pain in the hip, it is recommended that he reduce mileage or stop running entirely, because all hip injuries can quickly become serious. Seeing a medical professional is the best way to get a proper diagnosis and learn about the correct methods for recovering from that injury.
If you believe you may be suffering from hip bursitis, there are several steps you can take to relieve pain and speed recovery. First, you may begin taking anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (be sure to read the instructions to learn about the correct dosage).
Next, you should seek out a qualified physical therapist to work with. That therapist will likely prescribe a routine of stretching and strength work that will heal the bursitis effectively and strengthen the hips to prevent future injury. For serious cases, steroid injection or even surgery can be options as well.
For those interested in learning more about preventative maintenance for the muscles of the hip as well as specific exercises that can be used to rehabilitate the hips after an injury, check out these two articles.