Hip Flexor Strains: Treatment and Symptoms
If you work a desk job or sit for many hours of the day, you will likely experience stiff and painful hip flexor muscles. On the other hand, if you’re very active and participate in cycling, kicking sports, or aerobics, you may have experienced hip flexor strains from overuse.
At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, it is our priority to ensure that you have the information on how to prevent pain in this vital muscle group. Cayla Hoof, PT, DPT, of Cedarburg Physical Therapy, describes hip flexor strains, provides tips for avoiding this injury, and overviews treatment options.
What is the Hip Flexor?
“Hip flexor” is a broad term used to describe the muscles in the body that perform hip flexion, bringing your knee up toward your chest or bending at the waist. This group of muscles includes the iliacus and psoas major, which make up the iliopsoas, and the rectus femoris, which is part of the quadriceps muscle group.
Hip flexor strains are often the result of overuse of this group of muscles. Hip flexor strains are most common in those who are involved in kicking sports like soccer players, kickers on a football team, step aerobics participants, dancers, martial artists, and cyclists due to the repetitive nature of performing hip flexion.
Common Symptoms of Hip Flexor Strains May Include:
- Groin and/or lower abdominal quadrant pain
- Pulling sensation in the front of the hip/groin
- Pain will typically increase with activity and reduce with rest
- Swelling and bruising are present in the front of the hip joint
- Pain, tenderness, and weakness when walking/climbing stairs
How to Prevent Hip Flexor Strains?
Always warm up before exercising
Performing any warm-up, especially one that targets the hip flexor muscle group, can assist in the elongation of the muscles and allow for better muscle activation throughout the exercise.
Avoid prolonged sitting
Try to stand or walk once every hour with prolonged sitting to ensure that the hip flexor does not stiffen.
Avoid overdoing it
Excessive activation of the hip flexor muscles in activities like running or jumping for a prolonged period at higher intensities can cause inflammation and irritation of the muscle group.
Implement strength training into workout routines
Strengthening surrounding musculature, including the core, hip, knee, and ankle, can help reduce the strain placed on the hip flexors while performing higher intensity exercises and repetitive movements.
Stretches to Improve Hip Flexor Mobility
1. Lunge Stretch
Start standing next to a counter or table to allow arm support if needed. Lunge forward, leaving the back knee extended. The back leg is the leg you will be stretching. You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Only perform to slight discomfort. Hold for 30 seconds for three repetitions.
2. Supine Hip Flexor Stretch
Start laying on your back towards the edge of the table/bed. Keep your knee bent on the table and let your opposite leg hang off the side. You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip and only perform until slight discomfort. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute for three repetitions.
3. Half Kneeling Stretch
Begin in a half-kneeling position. Make sure to kneel on a softer surface. Lean forward over your other leg. You should feel a stretch in the front of the hip and only perform until you experience slight discomfort. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute for three repetitions.
How Do You Treat a Hip Flexor Strain?
Many instances of hip flexor strains can be treated at home without the need for prescription medications or invasive treatments. Treatments to provide at home include:
- Rest: Avoid activities that can cause overuse or strain of the hip flexor muscles for about two weeks; however, this can vary depending on the severity of the injury.
- Ice: Use a cold pack over the groin or painful area for about 15 – 20 minutes, several times a day. Ensure the cold pack is wrapped in a pillowcase or towel to ensure that your skin is protected.
- Over-the-counter pain reliever or anti-inflammatory: Try using Tylenol for pain relief or Advil, Aleve, or Mortin for anti-inflammatory effects. Ensure taking any medication with food to assist with effects on the stomach.
If symptoms worsen or persist, consult a physical therapist for conservative treatment. A physical therapist will perform a further examination. They will identify what may be contributing to the pain and utilize manual therapy skills, a specialized exercise program, and further education on how to promote proper healing and recovery of the muscles and joints involved. When symptoms start to improve, they may provide modifications, if needed, to assist in progressing back to return to exercise safely.
Make an appointment with one of our talented physical therapists today to begin treatment for a hip flexor strain or any other orthopedic injury or condition.