June 09, 2021 9 min read
So, you overdid things in the gym or on the field and now you’ve got hip pain. Or, perhaps you’ve been spending many days in a row now sitting behind a desk or on the couch without moving around a lot and now your hips hurt. Depending on how bad your symptoms are, you may have a strained hip.
Thankfully, managing your hip flexor strain can usually be done right at home. With certain rehab exercises, stretches, and maybe even a simple lifestyle change or two, you should be back to normal in no time. Here’s our easy guide to managing your hip flexor strain.
Before we get into how you can manage your hip flexor strain, you must have at least a basic understanding of this important muscle group. Unfortunately, because the hip flexors are a smaller group of muscles, they’re often overlooked by larger muscle groups.
Yet, a strain in this small muscle group is enough to keep you out of the gym for weeks and leave you in serious pain. Therefore, start by getting to know your hip flexors a little better!
All of the muscles in your hips are grouped based on the types of movements they help initiate. Therefore, the hip flexors are the muscles in the hips that help initiate hip flexion. Flexing the hips allows you to raise your legs forward. The movement is initiated from the hip joint by the hip flexor muscles. Not only do your hip flexors help raise your legs forward, but also allow you to:
Several muscles make up your hip flexor muscle group including the:
The iliopsoas is the largest and most important of the hip flexor muscles. It does most of the initiation of movement from the hips while the other four muscles assist it. It attaches to the lower back, also known as the lumbar spine, then runs through the pelvis and eventually attaches at its other end to the top of the femur.
The hip flexor muscles have a tight relationship with the quadriceps because the rectus femoris is technically also part of the quads and because the quads extend from the hips to the knees. So, taking care of your hip flexors will also have an impact on your quads and vice versa.
A hip flexor strain is a type of hip flexor injury categorized by hip flexor pain near the front of the hips by the groin. The pain comes from inflammation or tearing of the hip flexor muscles and/or tendons within the hip flexors.
If left untreated, the strain can turn into tendonitis, which is more severe inflammation or tearing of the hip flexor muscles that often leads to degeneration. As soon as you start to experience frontal hip pain, even if it's mild, make sure to address it to prevent it from developing into tendonitis.
You don’t need to do a whole lot to strain your hip flexors. In fact, you don’t need to do anything at all to strain them! Most hip flexor strains are caused by sitting for long periods and having an overall very sedentary lifestyle. And, when you sit with poor posture, you’re even more likely to strain your hip flexors. When you regularly sit down for extended periods, your hip flexors not only weaken but also tighten up. Both weak and tight hip flexors are common causes of strains.
Other times, hip flexor strains are caused by overstretching and overuse. Overuse injuries usually occur in athletes who play sports where a lot of kicking or lifting from the knees is involved. For example, soccer players, dancers, and track and field athletes are usually some of the most prone to hip flexor strains related to overuse.
The most common sign that your hip flexors are strained is generalized hip pain. Some additional signs that you may be dealing with a hip flexor strain include:
If you have any one of these symptoms, you could be dealing with a hip flexor strain. And, if you’re an athlete who kicks a lot or someone who finds themself sitting behind a desk for much of the day, then the odds of you having a strain are even higher.
Sadly, x-rays cannot show whether or not you have a strained muscle. However, they can show if fluids are accumulating around a muscle, which is a common sign of inflammation and a potential indicator of a strain. Therefore, you might not be able to get a formal diagnosis for your strain and may just have to go off whether or not you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms.
If you are struggling with a hip flexor strain, then hopefully it’s one of a lesser degree. Strains of lower degrees are overall less painful, more manageable, and simpler fixes. However, if you’re experiencing debilitating pain, you, unfortunately, could be dealing with a higher degree of strain.
There are three key degrees of strains:
Hopefully, if you do have a strain, you’re only dealing with a 1st or 2nd-degree one. The higher the degree the strain is, the more likely you’ll need to see a doctor.
Once you’ve got a better understanding of your hip flexor strain, it’s time to move on to learning how to manage it. And, the best way to do that is to do the right exercises and stretches. These movements will help strengthen your hip flexor muscles while stretching them out to help manage the pain and prevent further injuring them.
Before getting started, make sure you’ve got all the necessary health information you need so that you’re not overdoing it and accidentally making your injury worse.Also, if you want to help prevent hip flexor strains in the first place, then make these exercises and stretches a part of your regular warm-up routine!
Strengthening your hip flexors with these exercises is extremely important for anyone who has weak muscles thanks to spending long hours sitting around. And, if you want to prevent hip flexor injuries in the first place, then making sure that the muscles are strong to begin with is super important!
Stretching your hip flexor muscles helps make them more flexible. The more flexible they are, the greater range of motion they have and the less likely you are to injure them. And, if you’re an athlete, having flexible hip flexors will also allow you to kick higher, run faster, and overall improve your athletic performance.
In addition to doing rehab exercises and stretches, you can also give these treatments a try to help heal your hip flexor strain:
If you’re suffering from a very severe strain, then you may need to have surgery. While it is rare, it’s possible if it’s bad enough. But, before you jump to conclusions, be sure to get solid medical advice from a healthcare professional.
If your strain is bad but not bad enough for surgery, then you’ll probably want to pay a visit to a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor. Physical therapy would be the best way to help repair a bad tear and alleviate the pain.
Whether you’re an elite athlete or a perpetual sitter, a hip flexor strain can strike at you! If you’re already there, then make sure to do all of our top exercises and stretches to manage that strain.
And, if you don’t currently have a strain, then do them anyway in order to prevent a strain from developing in the first place. The best thing about a hip flexor strain (if there is one) is that you can probably solve it on your own. So get to it so you can get back into the gym!
Bonus tip: When you’re doing your hip flexor exercises, be sure to get the full range of motion to get the maximum benefit of each movement!