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What Was Causing Molly's Hip Pain?

Molly was a puzzle. She could run several miles, her legs were extremely strong, and she was doing the proper stretches for her body, but she kept getting pain at the front of her hips following most runs. It took some digging to find out what was causing Molly's hip pain. We found one area of weakness…and it wasn’t her hip flexors.

Molly running

Molly met Dr. Alex at one of Anna McGee’s Fit Days in Duluth, MN. She had been doing AP Training’s virtual fitness program for a while and knew that virtual and online treatment was effective. She signed up with Dr. Alex the following week.


We always test strength on our first visits and find areas with apparent weakness; this is not the case with Molly. Molly could do the following superhuman feats:


  • Deep single-leg squats with excellent control

  • Single leg side planks for over 30 seconds

  • Single-leg front planks for over 30 seconds

  • Hamstring planks for over 30 seconds


Rarely has a client come to us with so much strength before we even started treatment. And yet, Molly was hurting. The front of her hips hurt after a 3-5 mile run, and the pain would stick around for a few days. 


Molly’s pain was consistent with a hip flexor injury. With most of these injuries, clients get lots of irritation when we have them perform a hip flexor stretch and when we have them perform movement that stresses the hip flexors. This was not happening with Molly. She could do our tests, do them well, and not have pain, so we needed to dig deeper.


We tested Molly’s core, which was the first sign of weakness. Not strength weakness, but stability weakness. We had Molly try to hold certain positions that require you to stabilize with your core, and she struggled. Strength and stability are related, but they are not the same thing. Our bodies need both to be healthy, so we went toward stability with Molly.


We taught her how to engage her core–not the big strong 6-pack muscles, but the deeper muscles that help stabilize your back, spine, and pelvis. For serious exercisers, these activities can be annoying. They don’t usually make you sweat, seem simple if you watch from the outside, and require a lot of concentration to do correctly. Molly stuck with it, and we slowly advanced her exercises.


When our core isn’t providing the stability we need, other muscles have to take up the slack. With running, our core helps to gently stabilize our pelvis and spine so hip muscles aren’t overburdened. Because Molly’s core was not helping as much as it should, her hip flexors had to do more work than they were meant to. This resulted in an overuse injury. Often, with overuse injuries, the muscles themselves are quite strong, but too much is being asked of them and activated repeatedly. Eventually, they start to hurt. You can take a break from the activity–running for Molly–but unless you treat what’s causing the problem, the pain will likely return once you resume the activity.


Molly started becoming aware of how to engage her core with activity. We advanced her exercises, and after 6-7 weeks, Molly no longer had the same hip pain following her runs. All of Molly’s core strength and stability tests have improved, and, best of all, she has returned to her favorite activity without hurting. 


Molly, you are awesome, and we’re so excited for you to get outside this spring and explore the world the way you love.


At motivPT, we'll get you moving in a healthy way. If you have pain, weakness, or imbalance, consider booking with us for an online Physical Therapy routine customized to fit your individual needs. Book your free 15-minute consult to talk with Dr. Alex about your concerns and learn more about how we work!

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