Understanding Hip Flexor Strains
What are your hip flexors?There are many muscles that work hard to enable you to complete the action of lifting your leg towards 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 iliacus and psoas major muscles, also known as your iliopsoas
The main work of your hip flexors is to bring your knee toward your chest, bend at the waist and rotate your leg, as well as keep all of these together. Symptoms associated with a hip flexor strain can range from mild to severe, and can impact your mobility. If you are experiencing symptoms like these, it’s important that you rest immediately and seek treatment. This could help prevent aggravation or worsening of the injury. However, there are also many at-home activities that may help relieve symptoms if done regularly.
What does hip flexor strain feel like?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 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
- martial artists
- soccer players
When you see an athlete jumping or performing knee kicks during a high-kick routine, you should be aware that there is a greater risk of sustaining an injury to the hip flexors. In fact, deep stretching and pulling your leg back farther increases the amount of stress on these muscles.
Hip flexor strain treatment
It’s important to rest the affected muscles after you suffer a hip flexor strain. One thing you can do is change up your normal activities to avoid over stretching the muscle. For example, you could go swimming instead of riding a bicycle if it’s available.
Most instances of hip flexor strain can be treated at home. Home remedies can alleviate a lot of the pain and discomfort, and help affected individuals recover more quickly. However, it is crucial to consult a medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment before resorting to any more 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 for 10- to 15-minute time increments.
2. To speed up the healing process on a sprained muscle, alternate cold packs with moist heat applications everyday for about 72 hours. One method of applying moist heat is heating up a Microwavable 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.
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 any residual muscle tightness.
3. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Any of the following can help:
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- naproxen sodium (Aleve)
You should not take these medicines for longer than 10 days, unless a doctor tells you to. Stomach bleeding can occur if you continue taking these medicines beyond 10 days.
4. Rest and avoid activities that will overuse your hip flexors for 10 to 14 days after injury (or longer if directed by your doctor).
Stretching exercises help you feel better, but also ensure that you can continue doing the things you love without discomfort and even 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 especially 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.
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). In some exceptional cases, surgery to repair the ruptured muscle may be recommended. However, this procedure is rare and by no means the primary means of 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 2 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 fully heal, which can lead to chronic pain, according to Summit Medical Group.
If your hip flexor strain symptoms don't show signs of improvement after a week, then it's time to call your doctor.