Walking is a way to stay active, increase the muscle strength in your legs and improve your cardiac health. Despite all these benefits, if your hips hurt after walking, it may be a sign of injury or an underlying medical condition. Understanding the possible causes of hip pain will help you adjust your activity level and pursue the appropriate treatments.
Hip pain after walking can be caused by inflammation of structures such as muscles, tendons or bursa in your hip joints.
Too Much, Too Soon
Hip pain after walking — particularly after walking for an extended period of time — might just be strain from overuse of your leg muscles. According to Mayo Clinic, self-care for a muscle strain includes rest from aggravating activities and applying ice for 15 to 20 minutes, every few hours, for a few days. You might find it easier to sit in a bathtub of ice and water to treat both hips at once.
Hip Pain After Walking
Osteoarthritis can cause hip pain after walking. Osteoarthritis often occurs with age, causing the cartilage in a joint to break down, resulting in inflammation and pain. Hip joints are commonly affected by this condition, and walking puts a great deal of pressure through the hip joints. Pain from osteoarthritis is often treated with medications, but the underlying condition cannot be fixed.
Bothering the Bursae
Inflammation of the bursae — or fluid-filled sacs that help lubricate joints — may also cause pain in your hips after long periods of walking. According to the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, repeated friction of an inflamed bursa can lead to bursitis — a painful condition that can worsen when left untreated.
Pain from bursitis often worsens with activities such as prolonged walking, climbing stairs and standing up from a seated position. You might also wake up in the night if you roll onto the affected side.
Tend to Your Tendons
Tendonitis can cause sore hips after exercises such as walking. This condition is characterized by inflammation of connective tissue structures that attach your muscles to bone. Repeated stress on these structures can lead to inflammation or even microtearing — particularly if you aren't used to walking long distances.
Consider Other Exercise Options
Having hip pain after walking doesn't mean you have to stop exercising. In fact, there are plenty of options that put little to no pressure through your hip joints. Walking in a pool reduces the amount of stress through your hips significantly. Consider swimming or taking a water aerobics class to boost your heart health.
Recumbent steppers or bicycles allow you to strengthen your heart and leg muscles without supporting your body weight through your legs. If you are dead-set on walking, go for shorted distances and avoid hills.
See a Doctor
If your hip pain does not begin to improve within a few days of your walking excursion, see a doctor. If you are unable to bear weight on your legs due to hip pain, seek immediate medical attention to rule out bone-related injury.