Any type of athlete or individual can suffer from a hip flexor injury, although they are most common in cyclists, soccer players, and martial artists. Any activity that involves kicking, running, or jumping engages the hip flexors. With overuse, overstretching, or sudden contraction, the hip flexor muscles can be injured, resulting in pain and limiting mobility. Knowing how to treat a hip flexor injury can help you reduce the amount of time it takes to recover.
What Is a Hip Flexor Injury?
A hip flexor injury occurs when one or more of the hip flexor muscles are torn. Although several muscles make up the hip flexor group, the psoas major and iliacus, together known as the iliopsoas, are the two that are most often injured. When a smaller number of fibers are torn, the injury is relatively minor and does not significantly impact function, although it is still painful. If the muscle tears completely, the injury is much more severe and can result in a major loss of function in the leg.
What Causes a Hip Flexor Injury?
Hip flexor injuries can be caused by overuse, weakness in the supporting muscles, or an acute contraction that results in a tear. Prolonged sitting can also increase the risk of an injury, because it forces the hip flexor muscles to stay in a contracted position for long periods of time. This shortens the muscle and should be counteracted with regular stretching.
What Are the Symptoms of a Hip Flexor Injury?
When one or more of the hip flexor muscles are torn, you typically feel pain in the front of the hip or in the groin area. You might also experience swelling, bruising, muscle spasms, tenderness, and difficulty executing normal range of motion. Hip flexor injuries often affect your gait and make it difficult to walk without pain.
Treatment and Hip Flexor Injury Recovery
Depending on the severity of the injury, it can take one to eight weeks for a hip flexor injury to heal. Minor injuries typically require one to three weeks of recovery time, while more severe muscle tears can take four to eight weeks. After resting for a few days immediately after the injury, some of the treatment methods you can employ to recover as quickly as possible are:
- Advanced exercises – Stretching the hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles can help prevent future injury and loosen the tight muscles that contribute to hip flexor pain.
- Physical therapy – In addition to progressive stretches, a physical therapist can provide appropriate strengthening exercises, massage, biomechanical correction, and other treatment methods to help you recover safely and avoid reinjury.
- Cold Therapy – Using a cold therapy system will help reduce inflammation deep in the damaged tissues and relieve hip flexor pain. The addition of active compression also promotes healing for faster recovery.
A combination of the above methods is often the best approach, especially for more severe injuries that will benefit from physical therapy. For more tips, see our Guide to Accelerating Hip & Groin Recovery.