This article will guide you through all aspects of a hip flexor strain and help you to understand the injury better.
First of all, what is a hip flexor strain? Simply put, it’s a tear (could be very small, or very large) in one of the hip flexor muscles, usually the psoas since it’s one of the largest and most used hip flexor muscles.
The hip flexors comprise a muscle group that can be found at the top portion of the front thigh extending towards the hip. These muscles help to raise the thigh in the direction of the chest at the same time moving the hip towards the front. These muscles are prone to get strained, torn, or pulled. When this happens, this part of the lower limb can get inflamed and it can be very painful. It is essential to consult a medical practitioner once symptoms become apparent in order to avoid worsening of the injury. The initial step is to find the cause of hip flexor pain as well as the injury’s severity.
Hip Flexor Strain Causes
The first thing to look at in regards to a pulled hip flexor is how it was injured in the first place. Certain injuries can happen in a multitude of ways, but a hip flexor strain is not one of them. Imagine what happens in order for a strain to occur in a strong muscle group such as the hip flexor; there has to be a force strong enough not only to damage the muscle(s) but to cause a physical tear in the muscle, this is an enormous force required! There are rare cases where someone has a tight muscle to an extreme degree and pulls it doing something routine, but the majority of muscle strains are caused in explosive movements like sprinting or changing directions really fast, almost always while playing a sport.
Hip Flexor Strain Symptoms
A strain is one of the easiest injuries to recognize when it happens because it almost always happens while you are exercising in one way or another. A strain occurs when you overstretch beyond your muscle’s current operational range of motion. For hip flexors, in particular, this usually occurs when you pull up your leg too forcefully, often when sprinting.
So that’s the case, what about the symptoms? You’ll typically feel that extra stretch and pain during that moment when you overstretch. Afterward, you’ll notice that it hurts whenever you activate that muscle. This means that most hip flexor strains will hurt whenever you lift your leg.
Note that the degree you lift after you’ve strained a muscle will correspond to the amount of pain felt. For example, if you’re just walking it will hurt a little bit because you’re only lifting your leg a bit. On the other hand, if you’re lifting it higher to try and run or go upstairs it will hurt substantially more.
Hip Flexor Strain Types
There are officially 3 types of hip flexor strain: first, second, and third degree. Try to think of them not as absolute terms, but as relative terms on a spectrum, with a first-degree hip flexor strain being at the very bottom, third degree at the top, and second degree in the middle of the spectrum in regards to damage done to the muscle.
How to Treat A Hip Muscle Strain
Hip Flexor Strain – First Degree
A first-degree pull is a minor tear in a muscle, but you can usually still perform all movements like normal, except you will feel some pain or discomfort. Obviously, this is the ideal level if you do pull your hip flexor as the recovery time is very short, often you may be able to play through the injury with little risk of further injury.
Hip Flexor Strain – Second Degree
A second-degree hip flexor strain is a point in which significantly more damage has been done to the hip flexor than in a first-degree hip muscle strain. This type of strain involves a significant partial tear to a muscle and can cause considerable pain and function loss. Typically along with the pain, there is minor bruising and swelling, which will be addressed later on in treatment.
Hip Flexor Strain – Third Degree
This is the absolute worst hip flexor strain you can suffer, a full muscular tear. If you have a third-degree hip flexor strain I can only hope that the first thing you did was go see a doctor, if you have not yet please do so NOW. Along with a third-degree pull is a large amount of hip flexor pain, and extremely limited functionality, usually you will not be able to walk at all. There will not only be a pain, but also major bruising and swelling, and possibly even spasms.
Treatment of Hip Flexor Muscle Strain
- Consult with your physician. If the hip flexor has been strained or injured, it is safer to visit your physician in order to find out exactly what occurred and if there is a severe injury. The physician will examine the thigh and hip to determine what is wrong. Other tests may be necessary if the physician suspects any further injury.
- Immediately after a hip flexor injury, you can put a cool gel pack, ice pack, and a pack of frozen meat or vegetables may also do on the affected area every three to four hours for twenty minutes. Bear in mind that these packs must be wrapped in cloth to protect the skin.
- Ice massage also helps a lot to minimize hip flexor pain. Put some water in a disposable coffee cup with cove and store in the freezer. When needed, remove the cover of the cup. Hold this over the affected area and rub the ice portion for five to ten minutes. Ice massage may be done in a day as necessary while there is hip flexor pain.
- Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medication may be taken as prescribed. Non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are not recommended since these medications can cause problems like bleeding in the stomach. The risks of problems increase with age. It is important to keep in mind that with any type of medication used, always read the label first and use according to instructions. Not unless it as in accordance with your doctor’s recommendations, avoid overuse of medications. Take the medication for a maximum of ten days only and not more.
- Unless the pain goes away, take some rest and avoid doing strenuous activities that will require the use of your hip flexor muscles. If you do not give your muscles enough time to rest and recuperate before going back to your usual activities, the problem may worsen and become chronic.
- Eventually, doctors may recommend engaging in the daily routine of exercises to help in recovery. Gradual stretching can help regain the flexibility and strength of your hip.
- Following recovery from a serious injury, make use of a moist heat pad for ten to fifteen minutes before doing some stretching and warm-up activities. However, heat must be avoided if the affected area is swollen.
While recuperating from an injury, it is advisable to engage in a different sport or physical activity. It must be one that will not aggravate the condition.
Duration of effects
The period of recuperation or recovery is contingent on several factors like the person’s state of health, age, and if he had a history of hip flexor muscle injury before. The period of recovery may also depend on how severe was the injury. A slight strain on the hip flexor may get better in a few weeks, while a severe injury may last at least six weeks to recuperate. It is necessary that the person ceases from performing all the activities that may affect the area and cause pain. He may resume the things he used to engage in once the hip is restored to health. If the person does not stop from those activities that may cause pain to his body, the symptoms that leave him immobile will just come back again and will take even more time to recover.
Return to normal activities
People have varying rates when it comes to recovering from injury. Going back to normal activities is contingent on how quick your hip has recovered. The period since the moment of injury is not the gauge if you can already go back to previous activities that mostly use the hip flexor muscles. Typically, the longer the symptoms are experienced prior to treatment, the longer it can take to recover. Return to normal activities when it is already safe is the ultimate goal. Going back to these things prematurely may aggravate the condition of the injury.
It is safe to go back to normal activities only when:
- The leg on the affected side has a full range of motion as compared to the one on the unaffected side.
- The leg on the injured side has full strength when compared to the other leg.
- Can walk straight with no discomfort or limping.
Prevention of hip flexor injury
This kind of strain or injury may be prevented when keeping in mind to warm up and do stretches prior to an exercise of activity. In addition, a cyclist has to make certain the seat is adjusted to the appropriate height.