One of the single biggest culprits of overuse injuries in runners is weakness in the hip muscles especially the Gluteus Medius muscle. It is one of the single most important muscles for runners with its action aiding run efficiency and controlling load through the lower limbs.
Poor Gluteus Medius strength or early fatigue can contribute to a multiple of biomechanical adaptations and consequent over load injuries. It is not clear why gluteus medius weakness is more prevalent in runners than other sports but it may be due to the fact that running in straight lines engages the hips muscles less rigorously than sports such as football where side to side movements are required.
The Gluteus Medius muscle is located on the side of your pelvis between the bony protuberance of your hip and the top of your pelvis. The muscle is responsible for both abducting (raising out to the side) and externally rotating the leg. However it’s most important function in running occurs when your leg is in contact with the ground when it acts as a pelvic stabiliser. For example when your right foot hits the ground, your right gluteus medius muscle contracts to slow down and prevent excessive downward rotation of the left side of the pelvis. When the runner does not have adequate strength/ control in the Gluteus Medius muscle it can have implications all the way down the leg causing
the knee to drop towards the centre and internally rotate excessively
the leg to rotate internally relative to the foot
an increase in weight transfer to the inside aspect of the foot.
As a result the athlete is at increased risk of any condition relating to excessive and/or prolonged pronation of the foot, such as shin splints, achilles tendinopathy and ITB friction syndrome.
There will always exist a temptation to search for the quickest cure to an injury with minimal interruption to training. In the case of lower limb injuries which involve over-pronation the search often ends with new shoes, cushioned inserts or custom made orthotics which can unload the injured area and give instant relief. The problem is, these remedies can be expensive and in the case of gluteus medius weakness the pain returns unless the primary driver of the injury is addressed. More and more research has begun to point towards the connection between gluteus medius muscle weakness and altered lower limb mechanics and overuse injuries.
For a muscle so important to a smooth and efficient running stride it makes sense to regularly train the area.
Enjoy your running from JUMP Physio