It’s the result of the modern sedentary world we live in…
..and a strained hip flexor can be one of the most irritating injuries to overcome.
Fortunately healing a hip flexor strain is possible, and can be done without completely eliminating all activity.
In this article, we will discuss some of the symptoms of strained hip flexors. We will also discuss how to heal them.
Some of the basic treatment options can significantly provide relief.
But first thing’s first…
What are Hip Flexors?
The term hip flexors refer to a group of muscles that run down either side of your pelvis, crossing your hip joint. There are several muscles involved in this group. They are all different lengths and sizes, but they all contribute to hip flexion.
Anatomically, the word flexion is defined as a movement that decreases the angle between two bones in a joint. Hip flexion is the shortening of the distance between the femur (your thigh) and your pelvic bone. It involves lifting the knee up to hip height or even higher, depending on your flexibility.
Hip flexors allow such movements as lifting your knee towards your chest and bending forward at the waist. If you consider how often you do these movements throughout the day, it is clear that these muscles are important for comfort and mobility.
What is a Hip Flexor Strain?
A muscle strain is more commonly known as a pulled muscle. This means that the muscle has been overstretched or even torn. There are varying degrees of severity in torn muscles.
For example, every time you lift heavy weights at the gym, you are causing micro-tears in your muscle fibers. When the scar tissue grows in to repair them, it makes the muscles stronger. These types of tears are a good thing. However, when a muscle tear is the result of a strain, it is a much different scenario. These tears can be painful and somewhat debilitating, depending on how severe they are.
Muscle strains are usually caused by overuse or fatigue of the affected muscles. They can also be caused by improper use of those muscles, such as performing an exercise incorrectly or trying to lift or move something that is too heavy. Depending on which muscle is strained, it can cause a variety of symptoms.
In the hip flexors, a strain can cause pain when walking, sitting, using the stairs, and other common activities. They can occur for a variety of reasons, but they all cause similar symptoms. Here is a list of common symptoms.
Symptoms of a Hip Flexor Strain:
Sharp pain in the area immediately after the injury
Pain or tenderness in the groin and/or front of the hip
Pain when lifting the knee towards the chest
Muscle spasms or cramping sensation
Stiffness or tightness in the area after being sedentary for a period of time
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it is possible that you have a hip flexor strain. It is important to talk to a medical professional to diagnose exactly what the problem is.
How to Heal a Strained Hip Flexor Fast
Although strains can be painful and annoying, it is possible to rehabilitate them with some basic knowledge about the muscles and how to treat them. The healing pathway will be dependent upon how severe the injury is.
For this article, we are going to focus on minor hip flexor strains and how to treat them at home. These are injuries that you can feel and you want to take care of, but you don’t think you need to go to the doctor. More advanced conditions should be diagnosed by a medical professional.
We will start our discussion with the good, old-fashioned philosophy of R.I.C.E. This is a commonly used acronym in the sports medicine and physical therapy world. The letters stand for Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation. These are the commonly recommended steps of recovery after an injury. Let’s look at them more closely.
Resting the muscles should be your first course of action. Since the majority of hip flexor strains are the result of overuse, improper use, or fatigue, rest is best! This doesn’t mean that you have to lay on the couch and not move for a week. It just means that you should limit movement in the area and try to avoid activities that will make it worse. No high knees, high kicks or toe touches right now!
Applying ice directly to the injury can help decrease swelling and inflammation. For best results, this should be done within the first 48 hours of the injury. After the initial 48 hours, ice can be applied to help with pain management.
There have been studies in recent years that debate whether or not ice is helpful to an injury. The best advice I can give is to do what works for you. If it helps with pain management, use ice. If you prefer not to, that’s okay too.
This seems like an odd area of your body to compress, but it is possible. Compression helps a muscle heal by decreasing swelling and inflammation, which interfere with the healing process. If you are experiencing either of those symptoms, you should consider a compression wrap. There are a variety of compression wraps available on the market that are designed specifically for the hip area.
Of all the R.I.C.E elements, this one seems to be the most challenging for hip flexors. Elevating the injured area helps reduce swelling and inflammation by reducing blood flow to the area. It is recommended that the injured area be elevated above the heart in order to be effective.
In the case of the hip flexors, this can be done by lying down flat and placing several blankets or pillows under the hips, legs, and feet. It doesn’t need to be a drastic elevation change. It just needs to be enough to get the blood moving back towards the heart and away from the hips.
Some over the counter pain medications may also help with pain management. Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen sodium are commonly used in the treatment of injuries. Be sure to consult your doctor prior to taking any medications if you are unsure or have never used them before.
Be mindful of taking pain medications and then trying to exercise the injured muscles. If the medication dulls your pain, you might not know if you are causing further injury. The body’s pain sensors are the best way to know if what you are doing is helping or hurting the affected area. If you numb your pain sensors with pain killers, you have decreased awareness of actual pain levels.
Should You Exercise with a Strained Hip Flexor?
After the initial phases of pain, swelling, and inflammation have subsided, it is time to start moving again. For many minor injuries, this will likely be in the first 72-ish hours after injury. However, more severe injuries may require more rest time. Listen to your body and let your pain guide your decisions.
Keep in mind that starting to move again does not mean that your hip flexor is completely healed. It simply means that movement is part of the healing process. When you start to load and move the muscle properly, it is likely to respond in a positive way and continue to heal itself.
Let’s talk about how to do this safely and some of the key exercises to incorporate.
Bent Knee Fallout
This is a great stretch to start getting your hip flexors moving in the proper plane and range of motion. This movement will isolate the hips and help them to increase mobility.
Lie down flat on the floor
Bend both knees and place your feet flat on the floor
Your legs and knees should be touching (i.e., not spread apart)
Keeping your feet next to one another, gently let your knees fall out to the sides of your body, opening into a butterfly or diamond shape
When they have fallen out as far as they can go, let them rest there for about 30 seconds
Bring your legs back together in the starting position and repeat this exercise 2-3 more times
During this movement, it is important not to press your knees out or down using your hands. Allow them to move through their own range of movement and monitor yourself for pain. As you progress, you can start to challenge them a little bit, but not at the beginning.
A bridge is also a great way to help the hip flexors regain range or movement without hyperextending or overloading them.
Lie down flat on your back
Bend both knees and place your feet flat on the floor
Your feet should be hip-distance apart or slightly wider
Let your arms rest on the floor on either side of your body with palms facing down
Press through your feet to slowly lift your hips up off the floor into a bridge position
Your head, neck, and shoulders should still be on the floor
There should be a straight, diagonal line from your knees to your head
Slowly lower your hips back down
Repeat this exercise 8-10 times, take a 30 second rest and perform 8-10 more repetitions
As you become stronger and your pain starts to subside, you can add more repetitions or more sets of this exercise.
Time Frame: How Long to Heal a Strained Hip Flexor?
One of the most common questions we get is “How do I heal a strained hip flexor muscle?
The length of time it takes to heal from a hip flexor injury is dependent on a variety of factors. These factors include the severity of the injury and whether or not you take proper care of it.
For example, if you’re stubborn and refuse to rest the muscles, it will take a lot longer to heal. If you choose not to use R.I.C.E or some of the mobility exercises we discussed, it could take longer to heal.
In general, the recovery time for a hip flexor strain can range from 1-6 weeks. Minor injuries are on the shorter end of these timelines while larger tears can take much longer. If you allow your injury to go untreated, it can lead to much bigger problems such as larger tears or chronic pain.
The important thing to remember is that you do have some control over your own healing process and how long it will take. Be mindful of how it feels each day and take the appropriate steps to care for it.
Heal your strain even faster…
We discussed some ways to help your hip flexors that can yield really good results…
Want to know some better ways?
It’ll cost you a little bit of investment…
But would you agree a small amount for long term relief is worth it?