Does Walking on a Treadmill Put Stress on the Hip Flexor Muscles?

Human skeleton

The hip flexors, or iliopsoas, are a muscle group often overlooked in training programs which are nonetheless incredibly important in such common functions as climbing stairs, dancing or kicking a ball. Located where the legs connect to the hips, these muscles shorten on sedentary people, potentially leading to back pain or knee pain. Worse, when beginning an exercise routine, these muscles could potentially sprain from years of under-use. It is important to asses the safety of any piece of exercise equipment for its impact on various body groups, including the impact of treadmills on the hip flexors.

Low Speed Treadmill

Walking, even at a low speed, involves the hip flexors with every step. Because walking slowly is among the safest exercises, there is very low risk of injury from simply walking on a slow-moving treadmill. Though the hip flexors themselves will not sprain from this motion, a potential problem could result from having extremely tight hip flexors which could pull the leg out of alignment. In this way, the foot would roll inward, putting pressure on the shin, causing inflammation to the foot's arch, and in bad cases could lead to shin splints.

High Speed Treadmill

A high speed treadmill amps up the potential for injury. An athlete can induce the same sort of alignment injury possible on a low speed treadmill, but could also sprain the hip flexor muscles. These sprains are generally caused by quick lunges and kicks, motions speedwalking and running can mimick. As with slow walking, this sort of injury is unlikely in someone with loose or flexible hips, but the average person should be cautious before hopping on a high speed treadmill.

Prevent Injury

There are some simple ways to avoid injury to the hip flexors or to other muscle groups compensating for tight hip flexors. The easiest method is to loosen up. Before climbing onto any excessive equipment, try a few low-impact stretches first. The authors of "The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies" recommend squatting in yoga-like lunges, or lying on your back and drawing one leg up to the chest, holding the leg there for a minute or two, then releasing and switching legs. These simple exercises warm up the muscles, better preparing them for an injury-free workout on a treadmill or any other piece of gym equipment.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A number of injuries present similar symptoms to a strained hip flexor. The same sort of running, jumping or kicking motions may trigger a strain in the quads or more commonly, the groin. One way to tell the difference is to gently move the area and see which movements cause spikes in pain. Pain associated with lateral movement points the way to a groin injury, rather than strain on the hip flexor, according to Jon Heck of Richard Stockton College. Once the injury is established as a hip flexor, it's best to treat it according to severity. A small problem can be treated at home by icing the area for 20-minute increments and staying off of the injury for a few days. If the strain is more severe, physical therapy or surgical intervention may be necessary. To avoid serious complications, always confirm self-diagnosis with a qualified medical professional.