Understanding Hip Flexor Strains

Understanding Hip Flexor Strains

Many muscles work hard to enable you to complete the action of lifting your leg toward your stomach. This display of physical prowess is known as hip flexion. The muscular system responsible for this movement includes:

  • the rectus femoris, which is part of your quadriceps
  • the iliac and psoas major muscles, also known as your iliopsoas

Your hip flexors play a crucial role in bringing your knee towards your chest, bending at the waist and rotating your leg. When you strain your hip flexors, it can result in symptoms that range from mild to severe, which can affect your ability to move around.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's essential to rest and seek treatment right away. This will help prevent the injury from getting worse. There are also some easy and simple activities you can do at home that may help alleviate the symptoms if done consistently.

What does hip flexor strain feel like?

The hip flexor strain's primary symptom is front and center pain. However, there are also several similar symptoms associated with this condition, including:

  • pain when stretching your hip muscles
  • swelling or bruising at your hip or thigh area
  • pain that seems to come on suddenly
  • tenderness to the touch at the front of your hip
  • muscle spasms at your hip or thigh
  • increasing pain when you lift your thigh toward your chest
  • You may feel this pain when running or walking.

What are the symptoms of hip flexor strain?

Hip flexor strain is a common injury that can cause discomfort and limitations in daily activities. The symptoms of hip flexor strain may vary in severity and can be characterized by several key indicators. One primary symptom is pain, often felt in the front of the hip or groin area. This pain can range from mild to severe and may worsen with certain movements or activities such as walking, running, or climbing stairs.

In addition to pain, individuals with hip flexor strain may also experience muscle weakness. This weakness can make it challenging to perform activities that require strength and flexibility in the hip area, such as lifting heavy objects or engaging in sports activities. It may also lead to a noticeable decrease in the individual's overall mobility and range of motion.

Another common symptom of hip flexor strain is stiffness. The affected area may feel tight and rigid, making it difficult to move the hip joint freely. This stiffness may be particularly noticeable after periods of inactivity, such as when waking up in the morning or getting up from a seated position.

Individuals with hip flexor strain may also experience swelling and bruising around the hip or groin area.

How Hip Flexor Pain Develops

Hip flexor pain, also known as hip flexor strain, can develop due to several factors. One of the main causes is overuse or repetitive movements that put excessive strain on the hip flexor muscles.

Activities such as running, jumping, kicking, or cycling can all contribute to the development of hip flexor pain if not done with proper form or if done excessively without allowing enough time for rest and recovery. 

Another factor that can lead to hip flexor pain is muscle imbalances. When certain muscles in the hip area, such as the hip flexors, become stronger and tighter than their opposing muscles, it can create an imbalance.

This imbalance stresses the hip flexors, making them more susceptible to injury. Weak core muscles, tight hamstrings, and gluteal muscles that are not properly activated can all contribute to these imbalances and increase the risk of hip flexor strain. 

Poor flexibility and inadequate warm-up routines can also play a role in developing hip flexor pain. If the hip flexor muscles are properly stretched before engaging in physical activity, or if the warm-up is rushed or insufficient, they may need to be adequately prepared for their demands.

What causes hip flexor strain?

Hip flexor injuries occur when you work out your hip flexors too much. This strain can be either acute or chronic and affects the muscles around the pelvic bone and the tendons that run behind your thigh and attach to the upper part of your leg. Some people are more likely to suffer from these injuries than others. These include:

  • kickers on a football team
  • step aerobics participants
  • dancers
  • martial artists
  • soccer players
  • cyclists

When you see an athlete jumping or performing knee kicks during a high-kick routine, you should know there is a greater risk of sustaining an injury to the hip flexors. Deep stretching and pulling your leg back farther increase the amount of stress on these muscles.

Hip flexor strain treatment


Resting the affected muscles after you suffer a hip flexor strain is important. One thing you can do is change up your normal activities to avoid overstretching the muscle. For example, you could go swimming instead of riding a bicycle if it's available.

Home remedies

Most instances of hip flexor strain can be treated at home. Home remedies can alleviate much of the pain and discomfort, and help affected individuals recover more quickly. However, consulting a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial before taking extreme measures.

Here are some home remedies that can help reduce pain and swelling when you have hip flexor strains:

  1. Apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the affected area in 10- to 15-minute increments.
  2. To speed up the healing process on a sprained muscle, alternate cold packs with moist heat applications every day for about 72 hours. One method of applying moist heat is heating a Microwaveable heating pad in the microwave, wrapping it in a towel to keep it warm, and then mashing it onto your injury. Alternatively, you can use herbal heating pads or hot patches, like those you find online or at the pharmacy.


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    For instance, if you have an acute sports-related injury, you could also take an extra hot shower after cooling down from working out to reduce residual muscle tightness.

    1. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Any of the following can help:
    • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
    • ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
    • naproxen sodium (Aleve)

    Unless a doctor tells you to, you should not take these medicines for longer than 10 days. Stomach bleeding can occur if you continue taking these medicines beyond 10 days.

    1. Rest and avoid activities that overuse your hip flexors for 10 to 14 days after injury (or longer if directed by your doctor).


    Stretching exercises help you feel better and ensure you can continue doing what you love without discomfort or injury. Many people are unable to stretch as much as they need because it can be difficult or uncomfortable at times.

    And although stretching is beneficial, we don't want anyone pulling or tearing something they care about, so we recommend finding an exercise routine that's gentle enough for all ranges of flexibility, such as these hip-flexor stretches.

    The last thing you'd want to do is either damage your hip flexors from over-stretching or make them too tight, which would be just as problematic.

    These muscles flex your hip and are responsible for a wide range of it's essential to stretch them correctly - especially if activities have heavily stressed them, like lots of running or sitting down at work all day long.

    To reduce the risk of hip flexor strain, make sure you warm up before stretching by casually walking around for about three minutes and applying moist heat over your tight hip muscles.

    What are the activity restrictions once you get a hip flexor strain?

    Once you suffer from a hip flexor strain, there are several activity restrictions that you should keep in mind to ensure proper healing and prevent further injury. The hip flexor muscles are located in the front of the hip and are responsible for lifting the knee towards the chest and bending the hip joint.

    When these muscles are strained, it can cause pain and limit your range of motion. Avoiding activities that put excessive stress on the hip flexors is advised to facilitate recovery.

    First and foremost, high-impact activities should be avoided. This includes running, jumping, and any activities involving sudden or forceful hip joint movements. These movements can further strain the injured muscles and delay healing. Giving your body time to rest and recover is important, as this will allow the muscles to heal and regain their strength.

    Additionally, activities requiring excessive hip stretching or bending should be avoided. This includes activities such as deep squats, lunges, or leg lifts. These movements can strain the hip flexor muscles, exacerbating the injury and hindering healing. Listening to your body and avoiding any movements or positions that cause pain or discomfort is crucial. 

    In severe cases

    If your hip flexor strain is so severe that it results in a large muscle tear, you may seek the help of a physical therapist (PT). Surgery to repair the ruptured muscle may be recommended in some exceptional cases. However, this rare procedure is not the primary treatment for most injuries.

    What is the outlook for hip flexor strain?

    The time it takes for a hip flexor strain to heal depends on the severity of the injury. A mild strain usually takes at least two weeks to fully recover from, and a severe strain takes around 3-5 weeks. Not resting properly or consistently after such an injury usually leads to worse injury or failure to heal fully, which can lead to chronic pain, according to Summit Medical Group.

    If your hip flexor strain symptoms don't show improvement after a week, then it's time to call your doctor.

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