Hip pain is the worst, especially after doing a healthy thing like running. You are more active and ambitious than 90% of the population, so why do you hurt? Why do you get punished for working hard? Thankfully, the solution to hip pain from running may be easier than you think. This article takes a look at what muscular issues are likely going on and how to get relief.
Hip Pain Patterns
Before you read on, I want to make sure we are talking about the same hip pain. I've consulted many people who have "hip pain" who point to the glutes, tailbone, or even low back when say their hips hurt.
The hip pain I am describing is felt in the front and side of the upper thigh. The images below show where this pain is felt on the body. If you are hurting in either location, read on - you're in luck.
Hip Pain Referred Pain Patterns . Left: Hip pain pattern caused by the TFL muscle. Right: Hip pain pattern caused by the Psoas and Iliacus (Iliopsoas) muscles.
Hip Pain-Inducing Muscles
The hip pain patterns above are caused by two muscle groups: the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL or IT Band) and the Iliopsoas complex (Iliacus + Psoas muscles). The TFL muscle tends to refer pain more on the side of the hip and thigh, while the Iliopsoas refers pain directly on the front of the body just below the waistline.
Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL): The TFL muscle is a hip flexor that run from the outside of the pelvis down to the knee. The muscle consists of a dense bulb near the upper thigh, and a long ligament - the IT Band - that runs down the side of the leg.
Iliopsoas Muscles: The Psoas and Iliacus muscles make up the Iliopsoas complex. Both muscles are hip flexors that work and tighten together, so they are often referred to as one. Psoas and Iliacus get very tight from sitting and can also refer pain to the low back .
Psoas (left/top) and Iliacus (right/bottom) Muscles
Hip Muscles in Running
Now that we identified which muscles are likely culprits of your hip pain, I'm going to explain WHY these muscles cause hip pain in runners. The TFL and Iliopsoas share the function of hip flexion (swinging the leg forward in running, bringing the knee to the chest), and both get tight during sitting.
TFL has an additional function that makes it extra susceptible to hip pain during running - single leg stability. When you plant on one leg during running, TFL fires. When you swing your leg forward, TFL fires. The TFL muscle works all the time during running and is very strong in runners.
Iliopsoas does not have as much function during running. However, it is likely to cause hip pain after running due to how tight it gets from sitting. If you work a 9-5 desk job like most of us, your Psoas and Iliacus muscles are tight without question. Unless you have an elaborate hip stretch routine, this Iliopsoas tightness can breed pain during running.
Running Hip Pain Relief
The best way to relieve TFL or Iliopsoas hip pain is by deep tissue release. The TFL is accessible with a lacrosse ball or foam roller, but I prefer a tool like QL Claw because it doesn't roll around, it has a soothing massage material, and it is versatile enough to use on all my hip, back, and glute muscles. Check out QL Claw's TFL release video tutorial, and make sure you massage the upper bulb portion of the muscle - not the IT Band.
For Iliacus and Psoas release, I also love QL Claw. There are expensive products on the market that solely release the Psoas and Iliacus separately, but QL Claw can release both.
Check out QL Claw for hip pain from running at the link below!
 Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.
 Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.