Learn how to recognize a hip flexor injury, and what you can do about it.
Hip flexors are the muscles that allow you to bring your knees to your chest, do high kicks, and bend at the waist. They include the inner hip muscles (iliopsoas), part of the quadriceps (rectus femoris), the inner thigh, and one of the gluteal muscles.
With overuse, the hip flexor muscles may become strained. While anyone can suffer from a hip flexor injury, it is most common in cyclists, soccer players, and martial artists. Knowing how to identify and treat this condition can speed up your recovery.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS
Hip flexor injuries can be caused by overuse (such as overstretching the muscle) or a sudden contraction (such as kicking a ball) that results in a muscle tear. Tears can range from minor, where only a few fibers are torn, to a full rupture. The iliopsoas muscles, located higher up within the pelvis, are where injuries most frequently occur.
Prolonged sitting and weakness in the supporting muscles can increase the risk of injury. If the hip flexor muscles are not regularly used, they are forced to stay in a contracted position that eventually shortens them.
Symptoms of a hip flexor injury include pain or tenderness at the front of the hip and in the groin area as well as swelling, bruising, tenderness, muscle spasms, and limited range of motion. Other indicators of the condition include pain when the thigh is raised against resistance or when the hip flexor muscles are stretched.
Hip flexor injuries often affect your gait and may make it difficult to walk. To diagnose this condition, your healthcare provider will ask about these symptoms and your medical history, as well as conduct a physical examination of your hip and thigh.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
To avoid a hip flexor injury, it is recommended that you warm up and stretch before athletic activities. When riding a bicycle, make sure that the seat is adjusted to the correct height to avoid strain from overextension.
If you’re experiencing pain in your hip or thigh, you can place an ice pack on the sore area every three to four hours for up to 20 minutes at a time to reduce inflammation and prevent further injury. If you’re not experiencing swelling, heat patches may be used to help your muscles relax. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can also help reduce inflammation.
For more severe hip flexor injuries, the strain may take six weeks or longer to heal. It is recommended that you take a break from vigorous activity until the pain has dissipated, then start progressive stretches to loosen the tight muscles. You can also work with a physical therapist to massage and correct your alignment in the affected area, and use cold therapy to reduce inflammation and promote healing. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair the ruptured muscle.
If you think you may be suffering from a hip flexor injury, contact an orthopedic specialist to learn about your treatment options. At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, our expert orthopedic hip doctors can help you identify the source of your pain and guide you through every step of the treatment process.