Weak muscles may be to blame, but these three key exercises can help.
As runners, we know there’s always a chance of getting injured. Sometimes it’s because we up our mileage too quickly, and other times, we’re just plain clumsy and land the wrong way.
But new research shows that there’s another cause we may not even consider: contralateral pelvic drop (CPD), or the side-to-side movement of the pelvis – you would be able to notice it if you stand on one leg and your pelvis drops on the opposite side.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers out of the University of Salford in Manchester, England, found that people with hip drop were more likely to rack up running injuries like patellofemoral pain, iliotibial band syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome, or Achilles tendinopathy.
The researchers compared 72 runners who were currently injured – 18 with patellofemoral pain, 18 with IT band syndrome, 18 with Achilles tendinopathy, and 18 with medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints – with 32 runners who had never experienced any of these injuries before.
Then, the researchers had them run on a treadmill for 10 minutes with reflective markers attached to them, which allowed infrared cameras to track the movement of different joints to measure hip drop. They discovered for every one degree increase in hip drop, there was an 80 percent increased chance of being classified as “injured”.
“We feel contralateral pelvic drop may contribute to multiple different injuries, as it increases the stress placed throughout the entire body – particularly the lower limbs,” study author Christopher Bramah, M.C.S.P, M.Sc. said in an email to Runner’s World. “The pelvis is the centre of the body and acts as a keystone to keep the upper and lower extremities aligned. Abnormal movement at the pelvis will likely influence movements around the pelvis, which can increase the stress on the body and lead to injury.”
Hip drop may also increase tension through the IT band, causing your kneecap to tilt to one side. This increases pressure through your shin and inside your foot – all leading to the four types of injuries the study participants had.
While Bramah and his team don’t know exactly how frequently CPD occurs, they believe it’s probably a lot more common than people think. They also don’t know for sure what causes it, but they think it may be due to altered muscle function at the hip – in particular, reduced hip muscle strength and delayed muscle activation of the gluteal muscles.
“As a result, runners are unable to control the side-to-side movement causing the pelvis to drop away on the standing leg,” Bramah says.
How Can You Treat and Prevent CPD?
Making sure the muscles around your hips are strong – specifically your glute muscles – is key, according to Bramah. So incorporating any exercise that works your glutes into your regular routine is a good place to start regarding prevention.
“Basic split-stance single-leg work in the gym would be great,” Mike Robertson, M.S., C.S.C.S., president of Robertson Training Systems told Runner’s World via email.
He recommends the following progression:
1) Half-Kneeling Cable Chop
“This will help build static stability and control. Focus should be on keeping the foot, knee, and hip of the ‘up’ leg in-line and stable throughout,” Robertson says.
2) Dumbbell Split Squats
“This would make the exercise more dynamic, and further challenge stability and control,” Robertson says.
3) Reverse Lunge
“This is an exercise where the stance-leg hip is loaded independently,” says Robertson. “It helps with hip stability.”