Hip flexor strain is one of the most common injuries a runner faces at least once a year. But most runners ignore the hip flexor muscle because they think they are stronger than that. There is a difference between tight muscles and strong muscles. Hip Flexors are always tight in runners because they are a highly active group of muscles that are not actually that strong. They are muscles responsible for running so when a runner over exerts the muscle they tend to get strained and injured.
Because of the runners’ activity Hip Flexor is very crucial for all the runners and Hip Flexor strain is a common injury associated with them.
Definition of Hip Flexor and the Strain
A group of muscles that originate near the hip and run down to your femur or thighbone is called the hip flexor. The function of this muscle is to flex your hip joint. When you bring your thigh upward toward your abdomen it reduces the angle of your hip joint and that is called flexion. The hip flex can get injured and the most common injury that occurs to this muscle is strain. Strain can happen in rapid acceleration or can gradually develop from constant running.
A hip flexor strain has many symptoms. They can range from mild to severe and can also affect your mobility. If it’s not taken care of properly and not rested, then the symptoms can get worse. There are many home remedies and activities out there which can help reduce the hip flexor strain.
Go through the article to get an in-depth knowledge about the hip flexor strain
Causes and Vulnerability
The hip flexor strain develops because of repetitive or prolonged strain on the muscle fiber, this may also be caused by excessive kicking or jumping. This strain is commonly associated with athletes. The hip flexor strain can happen suddenly, such as from a blow during contact sports or from a fall.
There are many other causes of a hip flexor strain. Some of them are listed below
- Tightness of muscle
- During exercise attempting to do too much and too quickly.
- Repeated injury in the same area.
- Not warming up before exercise
- Poor core and pelvic instability
- Poor biomechanics and muscle fatigue
- Sitting in a bad posture and for prolonged time
- Weak muscles and joint stiffness
Who gets most affected?
When your hip flexor muscles and tendons are overused then you can cause Hip flexor strain. After it happens the muscle and tendon get sore, inflamed and painful. Some people are more prone to experience hip flexor strain than others. These include
- Martial Artist
- Soccer players
- Basketball players
- step aerobics participants
Athletes who need to perform running or jumping a lot or to perform high knee kicks are more in danger of sustaining hip flexor strain. Deep stretching like pulling your thigh backward puts you in greater danger of experiencing hip flexor strain.
Different Phases of Strains
A hip flexor strain represents a tearing in the muscles. These tears can range from mild to severe. It is widely classified into 3 types based on the condition of the injury.
- Grade 1 tear
- Grade 2 tear and
- Grade 3 tear
Grade 1 Tear- This grade of hip flexor strain is associated with mild pain and it appears in a small number of muscle fibers. Grade 1 does not affect any functioning abilities.
Grade 2 Tear – This is the most common grade of a hip flexor strain. Most cases of this injury fall into this category. In this grade, tear appears in several numbers of muscle fibers and also cause moderate loss of function.
Grade 3 Tear – This grade 3 hip flexor strain is associated with massive loss of function. In this classification, all or most of the muscle fiber gets raptured and causes massive damage. It will be impossible to walk without a limp.
Signs that Tell You Have Hip Flexors Strain
Hip flexor strain’s chief symptom is pain at the front of the hip. But there are many symptoms of hip flexor strain too. They include –
- Tender and sore feeling in upper leg
- Hips or thighs experiencing muscle spasm
- Feeling of sharp and unexpected pain in the pelvis or hip area after trauma.
- A tugging sensation with loss of strength in the front of the groin
- hip and thigh area experiencing swelling or bruising
- Unable to kick, sprint or jump
- Constant feeling of discomfort and pain in the upper leg area
- Limping, reduced mobility and discomfort when moving
- A cramping or clenching sensation in the muscles of the upper leg area
Your general health will be discussed by the doctor and the doctor will also ask about the activities you were doing before getting injured. Swelling or tenderness of your leg and hip will be checked. To asses you range of motions your doctor will apply pressure to various muscles in the area and move your leg and hip in various directions.
The doctor will also ask you to do a variety of stretches body movements to identify damaged muscles. He may seek imaging studies such as an X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan to exclude other injuries. In severe cases, particularly among adolescents, an X-ray may be advisable to exclude the possibility of an avulsion fracture.
X-ray is used to get images of dense structure like your bones. In this matter the X-ray will be used to dismiss another injury called stress fracture of the hip which has the same type of symptoms. Commonly X-ray is sufficient to confirm diagnosis.
When pain does occur, you can take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication to relieve some discomfort and help reduce swelling. If you want to avoid medication or supplement it with other methods
So you can treat hip flexor strain by the help of your doctor or you can also try a number of effective home remedies. It depends on you and how bad the injury is.
Go through the next two sections to learn more about the treatment of hip flexor strain.
Treating Hip Flexor strains at Home
Hip flexor strain can be treated by a physiotherapist’s direction or by a doctor. You can take over the counter pain medication and if necessary use crutches to assist in walking. Depending on the severity of your injury, physical therapy may be needed. Recovery program should include graduated stretching exercises to restore flexibility in your hip. Eventually, you can rebuild your hip flexor muscles.
If the injury is not serious and mild in nature then home remedies can also help you recover from hip flexor strain. Few of the methods to treat from both ways are listed below –
- Taking Rest
- Applying ice
- Using ice massage
- Using heat
- Compression wraps
- Taking a hot shower
- Keeping the Legs Elevated
- OTC (Over-the-Counter) pain relievers
- Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
The best way to start recovering is to rest and resting includes taking a break from regular exercise regimen, stopping of all running activity and stop doing things that makes the symptoms worse. Complete rest until you are pain free throughout the day.
Apply a cloth-covered ice pack to the affected area for 10- to 15-minute time increments.
Using ice massage
Alternate ice packs with moist heat applications starting at about 72 hours after the initial injury until the areas are pain free.
Applying a heat pack to the affected area until pain goes away. These are available to buy in pharmacies or online.
Wearing a compression around the injured area is also very helpful. These are available to buy in pharmacies or online.
Taking a hot shower
A bath or hot shower help the muscles relax and heal the fibers faster.
Keeping the Legs Elevated
Keep the injured leg elevated and don’t put any pressure on it until the muscle fibers heal themselves.
OTC (Over-the-Counter) pain relievers
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection
A PRP injection can be used to accelerate healing by injecting concentrated growth factor platelets from the patient’s own blood into the hip.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation
If the pain doesn’t subside within a couple of weeks then the physician may enroll you into a physical therapy program to gain full strength and mobility.
When to opt for surgical treatment?
If the tear is really severe and not healing then the doctor may recommend physical therapy or though it is rare, surgery to repair the ruptured muscle may be recommended.
Recovery from Hip Flexor Strains
You should rest for 10 to 14 days depending on your injury. You should also stop doing the activity that caused the trauma for same number of days. It takes a long period of time for a severe muscle stain to heal and based on your injury the recovery time may vary. When you continue the activity that caused the injury and there is still pain then stop that immediately. Go back to easier activities that do not cause any pain.
Prevention is better than cure
Prevention is better than cure and you can follow these steps to prevent causing this injury
- Ask your doctor about your age appropriate exercise and activity level. Condition your muscles through regular exercise.
- Always use protective gear for your respective sports.
- After an injury give time to yours muscles to heal before you return to sports. Wait until you get the flexibility and strength like before.
- Take rest and cool down after an exercise session. Don’t do a large number of rapid stretches but stretch slowly and gradually, holding each stretch to give your muscle time to respond and lengthen.
- Warm up before every exercise session. Don’t just jump into it and sustain an injury.
Exercises That Help Prevent Hip Flexor Strains
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The following exercises and stretching will help to increase flexibility, reduce tightness and strengthen muscles to help prevent an injury.
- Seated butterfly stretches
- Pigeon pose
- Glute Bridge
- Dead Bug
- Wall psaos hold
- Banded Bodyweight Squat
- Skater squats
- Straight leg raises
- Hip flexion
- Hip flexor stretches
- Quadriceps stretch
- Heel slide
- Resisted hip flexion
- Hip extension while lying
- Forearm Plank
Seated butterfly stretches
Sit on the floor, back straight, shoulders down, abs engaged, soles of the feet together in front of you, and knees bent to the sides. The heels should be pulled gently inwards, and the knees dropped further towards the floor. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
If you Google “exercise to reduce Hip flexor strain” then this is the first exercise that will show on top. But this exercise may make things worse. This stretching is called static stretching and there is no dynamic movement in this so it doesn’t help the cause. It will loosen up ur muscle more than intended. The pose is mention below anyways
Starting in the elevated plank position, the individual brings the left leg forward, so the knee is on the ground by the left hand. The right leg then slides back as far as possible. Hold the position and then swap sides.
First you lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Then you take a deep breath before raising your hips off the floor while squeezing the glutes. Hold for a moment, gently lower, and repeat.
You begin by standing straight with your feet together. Then you take a step forward with the right foot, bending the knee and transferring the weight onto that leg before lowering their hips to the floor and holding the position. This should then be repeated on the other side.
Lie flat on your back with your arms held out in front of you pointing to the ceiling. Then bring your legs up so your knees are bent at 90-degree angles. This is your starting position, and it’s vital to get your back as flat against the floor as possible. You shouldn’t be able to get a hand in between your back and the floor, and you need to maintain this position.
Wall psaos hold
You should start in a standing position then bend your right knee lifting the upper part of the leg towards the ceiling and balancing on the other foot. Then you try to hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Banded Bodyweight Squat
Stand upright with a resistance band evenly spaced underneath your feet, shoulder width apart. Then Bring the handle bars of the resistance band behind your shoulders and hold your hands above your shoudlers with palms facing forward. Exhale and squat by bending your knees into a sitting position so that your thighs are parallel with the floor. Inhale and push off with your feet to stand and return to the starting position and then repeat
With your legs together you bend your knee while keeping your back straight and chest up. Once in the squat position then you should lift each leg off the ground one at a time, stretching it out and pointing the toes, while transferring the weight to the other.
Straight leg raises
Lie on your back, palms either side, you should pull up the left leg and bend at the knee while keeping the foot on the floor. The right leg is then extended up towards the ceiling, without bending the knee. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then switch sides.
Start by lying flat on your back with your legs straight, then you slowly pull the knee of your right leg towards your chest, as close as possible, without straining. After slowly lowering the leg then repeat.
Hip flexor stretches
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes forward.
- Bend your right knee, and bring your right heel up toward your butt.
- Hold your right foot with the right hand, and gently pull to point your knee toward the floor. You can hold on to a counter or chair with your left hand for balance.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on your other leg.
- Kneel on your right knee and curve your pelvis under like a “scared dog.”
- Flatten out your lower back and keep shoulders and chest upright.
- Bend forward from the hip to the knee even more to stretch the right hip and quad.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then switch knees.
Place a belt or loop around your foot and lie on your back. Pull the strap upwards with a heel slide causing knee flexion. Make sure your knee is in a straight alignment and does not bend to either side.
Resisted hip flexion
Lay on back with knees bent. Slowly push the knee towards the chest while resisting the movement with the hand. Hold for a count of few seconds. Repeat several times and then perform the same movement with the opposite leg.
Hip extension while lying
Lie on your back with your legs extended. Draw your right knee in toward your chest and hold on to your right thigh with your hands. Hold for about 30 seconds and switch sides. To deepen this stretch, lie on a tall bench or the edge of a bed. Position yourself so your legs are hanging off the side. Your glutes and torso should be supported by the bench. Now draw your right knee into your chest and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
1) Begin lying on the floor with your forearms flat on the floor, making sure that your elbows are aligned directly under your shoulders.
2) Engage your core and raise your body up off the floor, keeping your forearms on the floor and your body in a straight line from head to feet. Keep your abdominals engaged and try not to let your hips rise or drop.
A List of Actions to Follow to Prevent Hip Flexor
There are many ways to prevent Hip Flexor from happening during exercise. Here is a list to go through
Use Support – While exercising use supporting devices like support tape and braces to avoid stress on muscle.
Maintain proper balance – Maintaining a proper balance while doing your daily chores and exercise is very important. You can talk to a trainer to learn about correct posture for the exercises you are performing.
Make sure to stretch – To maintain your muscles elasticity and flexibility daily stretching routine is a must. Always remember to stretch before and after exercises to stop muscles from tightening up.
Plan resting days – To allow the muscles to heal themselves, Schedule days in between working out to rest and not exercise. This off sessions are important to prevent any muscle related injury.
Try different workouts – Do not repeat the same exercise, it will strain the muscles so Alternating between exercises aerobic exercises, and low-impact exercises such as yoga can help to prepare the muscles for a variety of movements.
Hip flexor stain can be painful and inconvenient but it is a common injury and it rarely becomes a cause for panic. How long will you take to recover depends on the severity of the injury? It might take a few weeks to up to 6 weeks and more for serious damages. Until full recovery does not repeat the exercise and give a break to heal the muscles.
Always work on your lower leg mobility as part of your recovery regimen. Add strength training routine that targets the hip muscles as part of your ongoing cross-training as well as a core strengthening routine. So not getting injured is always the best way to go.