Hip Flexor Strain: Symptom, Treatment, Prevention

hip flexor strain

What Is Hip Flexors?

Hip flexors are a group of muscles involve in bringing your leg and knee toward your body. We call his action “Flexion” of the hip. Hip flexors are located in the front part of your hips.

  • Psoas Major, Iliacus, Iliopsoas is a combination of both muscles
  • Rectus Femoris (Quads)
  • Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)

What Is Hip Flexor Strain?

Hip flexion strain can occur when one or more hips are strained or overstretch by overuse activities.  Tearing of hip flexors muscles or ligaments will lead to a hip flexor strain. The correct diagnosis will lead to faster recovery.

Often times, we see hip flexors strain from athletes because of their high-intensity training.  Sometimes hip flexor strain may start from hip tightness, later the athletes may experience slight discomfort with activity. If the athletes choose to ignore their pain, the worst-case scenario will be tearing of their hip flexors due to microtrauma from overuse.  Sometimes stretching, foam rolling and correct strength training exercise in the early stage

Overuse or overstretch may limit your mobility and activity.  Not everyone will have hip flexor strain but someone is more prone than others.  Personal activity and job may be the contributing factors for hip flexor strain.

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A hip flexor strain represents injury or tearing in the muscles.  The degrees of tearing are breakdown three categories.

Three Tear Grade For Hip Flexor Injury:

  • Grade I Tear: A minor tear to the few muscle fibers
    • An example of a Grade I tear is when you try to pull apart a piece of paper towel on both ends, the middle of the paper towel starting to stretch due to force being pull on both sides.
  • Grade II Tear:  A moderate to severe damage to significant muscle fibers, hip range of motion and function will decrease
    • An example of a Grade II tear is when the piece of paper towel continues to stretch out and the area of stretch out increases, but the paper towel still intact, not break apart yet.
  • Grade III Tear: A complete torn of the muscle fibers, hip mobility will be impaired, can’t bear the weight, stand or walk
    • An example of a Grade II tear is a complete tear of the paper towel.

Most of hip flexor strain injuries start from microtrauma/microinjury in overuse activity.  Some early sign of hip flexor muscle fibers injury is tightness and decrease in range of motion.  If you continue to neglect the sign, the injury will gradually worsen until the complete tear of the fibers.  Taking care of hip pain early on is the best way to prevent the condition from getting worse.  Seeking professional help such as physical therapists or chiropractors is the best way to avoid worsen your injury.

Who Are More Susceptible To Hip Flexor Strain?

hip flexor strain

  • American Football players especially kicker
  • Soccer
  • Cyclist
  • Martial Artist
  • Heavy Weight Lifter
  • Dancer

Highly competitive sports are more prone to a hip flexor injury.  The list above is sports and activities that are more prone to hip flexor strain due to the repetitive high-intensity training require.

Another reason we see more hip flexor strain in competitive sports besides repetitive overuse is the competition in the sport itself.  Some athletes will neglect initial hip pain because they want don’t want to lose their position in the team.  They may experience hip flexor strain if they continue to neglect their hip pain.

Not only athletes are more susceptible to hip flexor strain, but office workers or jobs also require repetitive sitting are more prone to hip flexor strain.  Prolong sitting will cause hip flexor muscles to tight (shortening), this will cause more back pain and decrease hip joint range of motion.  When the hip flexors are tight, sudden activities such as running for the bus, running up the stairs for the train, or lifting heavy boxes may strain the tight hip flexor muscle.

What Are The Symptoms of Hip Flexor Strain?

The main symptom of hip flexor strain is at the groin area or at the front of your hip.  However, there are other symptoms associated with hip flexor strain that are not in the groin area.  These includes:

  • Sudden, sharp pain  with or without activity
  • Sharp pain in pelvic or hip
  • Difficulty with activities involve lifting up leg such as kicking, sprinting, stairs climbing
  • Spasm in the upper thigh or hip
  • Tightness or stiffness from stationary to moving
  • Pain in hip or groin when going upstairs
  • Swell or bruise in hip or thigh

The main contributing factor for hip flexor strain is related to sports overuse injury.  But non-sports-related causes such as poor posture, prolonged sitting, incorrect gait due to conditions (knee injury, plantar fasciitis, foot injury, ankle sprain, surgery), and muscle atrophy (weaken of muscle strength) can contribute to hip flexor strain.

Often time, hip flexor tightness or lock the hip flexor muscles may lead to hip flexor strain or hip related problems.  Unlock Your Hip Flexors program is designed to unlock your hip flexor tightness and reduce pain.  Check out our full review on Unlock Your Hip Flexors Program.

Hip Flexor Tear Treatment

It is important to rest appropriately for hip flexor injuries.  Most of the hip flexor strain can heal when enough time is giving.

Ice Pack and Hot Pack Treatment

The use of Ice pack on the hip for 10-15 minutes can reduce swelling and inflammation in the acute stage of the injury (within 72 hours of initial injury).

You can alternate between an ice pack and hot pack after 72 hours.  Applied hot pack to the hip area for 10-15 minutes. The reason for the hot pack after ice pack treatment is to increase recovery time by increasing blood flood to the injury area.  Continue to use an ice pack treatment if you’re still experiencing swelling or inflammation.  If the pain still presents after 72 hours, schedule an appointment with your doctor for evaluation.

Exercises For Hip Flexor Strain

It is recommended to avoid activities involve in weight-bearing of your hip or hip flexion exercises.   In other words, avoid stairs climbing, elliptical, treadmill, jump, squat, leg press, or soul cycle.  You may worsen your hip flexor strain if you continue high intense hip exercises.  Worse case is an increased grade in hip flexor tear.

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Non-weight bearing exercises such as swimming, reclined bicycle, upper body weight lifting can be applied during your hip flexors recovery.

Sever Cases

For severe hip flexor tear such as complete rupture of muscle fibers, speak with your hip specialist before doing any exercises recommended.  Improper exercise or treatment may worsen your symptoms.  Surgical repair of ruptured muscle fibers may be recommended.

Hip Flexor Strain Recovery Time

Hip flexor strain recovery time depends on the severity of your injuries.

A mild strain such as Grade I tear will take 2-3 weeks with proper rest and treatment.

A moderate strain of hip flexor strain such as Grade II tear take months for recovery.  Proper nutrition, therapy will help with recovery time.

A severe strain such as a Grade III tear may take a longer time to recover.

Summary

Hip Flexor strain was commonly seen in overuse and overstretch activities. But non-sport-related factors can cause hip strain too.  The best way to prevent hip flexor strain is actively stretch, foam roll, and seek professional help early.  Grade I hip flexor tear recovery is much faster than Grade III tear.  So don’t wait until your hip pain worsens to the point you need months of recovery.

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