Hip flexor muscle strains are a very common injury especially in sports that require high velocity running and jumping and/or kicking. The hip flexors are the muscles that allow you to lift your knee up towards your chest and bend at the waist. When these muscles are strained it often results in the following signs and symptoms:
- Increasing pain when you move your knee towards your chest especially against resistance
- Pain at the front when stretching your hip muscles
- Difficulty and increased pain with kicking, jumping or sprinting
- Increased pain walking up stairs
- Tenderness to touch over the injured muscle at the front of your hip
- Limited range of motion in your hip
- Pain that was caused by a specific incident or event
What is a hip flexor muscle strain?
To start with let’s run through a little bit of anatomy. The hip flexor is just a lay term to describe two main muscles that are commonly injured around the front of the hip. The first muscle is the iliopsoas and the second is the rectus femoris.
Both of these muscles cross over the hip joint and when they are activated have the ability to pull the thigh bone (femur) up towards your chest. Generally we strain one of the hip flexor muscles by putting more force through the muscle then it can normally tolerate. However sometimes the muscle can be strained from overuse and other potential biomechanical factors e.g. poor kicking technique in soccer. To be specific we categorise muscle strains into 3 simple ways. A grade 1 strain is a very small micro tear of the muscle fibres, grade 2 strains involve a partial tear of the muscle and a grade 3 is a complete tear of the muscle. Depending on what level hip flexor strain you have will change your treatment and healing timeframes.
What are the risk factors for a hip flexor muscle strain?
Based on the actions of the hip flexor anyone that flexes their hip a lot during everyday life especially against heavy resistance will have an increased risk of developing hip flexor muscle strains. Such sports generally include
- Martial arts
- Soccer players
How does physiotherapy help with my hip flexor strain?
At Fixio we know any hip muscle strain no matter how small (grade 1) or large (grade 3) can be frustrating and be the sole reason why you’re no longer doing the activities you love. We take the time to record an accurate history of your injury and exclude other potential diagnosis’s around the hip area such as referred lower back pain, hernia’s and groin strains. The next part will involve a physical assessment of the hip to ascertain any strength or flexibility impairments you currently have and exactly what grade strain it is. We will also enquire regarding any upcoming events or important goals that you need to have it fixed for. This allows us to map out a tailored treatment program with the correct timeframe for your individual goals.
First off, we want to help you with any of the pain and swelling around the hip. This will take a different amount of time depending on what grade your strain is. This can involve the tried and tested RICE method (link). Other strategies we use to help with pain and breakdown swelling can be massage, taping, acupuncture and range of motion exercises.
The next part of treatment generally focuses on progressively strengthening the hip flexors. As a general rule of thumb we want to get your sore hip flexor be more than 90% as strong and flexible as your other non-affected side to help prevent recurrences. During this progressive strengthening program we will look at exactly what your goals. For example, if you’re a striker when playing soccer we will focus on specific kicking drills and build up towards short explosive running acceleration practice. Or maybe you want to just be able to walk the dog around the block pain free; we can certainly help with that as well.