If you’ve ever experienced hip flexor pain, you know that it can make it difficult to move and walk. Some people are unaware that the pain they are experiencing is due to their hip flexors and their pain often goes undiagnosed and untreated.
Understanding sore hip flexors and the symptoms that go along with them can help people seek the proper medical treatment to help them feel better.
What are hip flexors?
When you think about lifting your knee towards your body and bending your waist, your hip flexors are the muscles that make that happen. In more specific terms, these muscles are known as the iliacus and psoas muscles which are known as your iliopsoas. The hip flexor also encompasses the rectus femoris, which is part of your quadriceps muscle. These muscles attach to different points of the spine, pelvis, and femur.
Symptoms of Hip Flexor Pain
The symptoms of hip flexor pain can vary from patient to patient. Several different things may indicate that you’ve injured your hip flexor. These include:
Aching at the site of the muscle: This can be a constant aching pain or general discomfort in the groin or hip area. This does not need to happen when someone is in motion. It can kick in even when sitting.
Tenderness, swelling, or bruising: If you notice any of this in the upper leg or groin when you press on it, it could be due to hip flexor pain.
Decreased range of motion: Often people with hip flexor pain notice a decreased range of motion when kicking, running, or bending.
Cramping or Muscle Spasms: Look for these feelings in the hip or thigh area that are affecting movement. These may be signs of an injured hip flexor.
Weak feeling in the groin: If you experience this, you may have difficulty walking or kicking your legs.
How Hip Flexor Pain Develops
The cause of hip flexor can vary. Many common causes include:
- Tearing or straining the hip flexor beyond the normal range of motion
This happens when someone makes a sudden movement like switching the direction while they’re running. Additional causes are:
- Problems in the hip joint that cause the hip flexor muscles to tighten
- Hip impingement
This happens when there is abnormal bone growth that causes someone to experience hip pain. This usually happens in the groin area and decreases the range of motion in the hip. Hip impingement is classified as either cam, pincer, or combined. The diagnosis is determined by the location of the abnormal bone growth.
When someone is experiencing hip flexor pain, going up and down the stairs or sitting for long periods of time can aggravate it. Bending over to pick something up and bending the knee to the chest can also make the pain worse.
Hip Flexor Injuries
Hip flexor injuries can occur when the hip flexor muscles and tendons are overused. People who bike, dance, and play sports are often more likely to develop hip flexor pain. Some hip flexor pain injuries include:
This happens when the iliopsoas bursa becomes inflamed. The iliopsoas bursa is a small, fluid-filled sac that is located between the front of the hip joint and the iliopsoas muscle. Often people who take part in high-impact sports get these types of hip flexor injuries.
Hip flexor tendinopathy
Hip flexor tendinopathy happens when there is an acute injury, like a fall or car accident. It can also be caused by overuse such as running or gymnastics. This type of injury can also occur as people get older and the tendons naturally lose their elasticity.
Hip labral tear
This affects the hip labrum, a flexible cartilage that runs around the outer edge of the hip socket. This allows people to have a good range of motion. When there is damage, it causes front hip pain. It can happen suddenly or over time. These types of injuries are common in people who play sports.
Osteoarthritis in the hip happens when the protective cartilage of the hip wears down over time. This reduces the friction between the hip’s ball and socket joint when people move. This can make the hips stiff and tender.
This is a very rare hip flexor pain. It is caused when blood supply to a bone is completely cut off or significantly reduced. This type of hip pain is often felt in the center of the groin, thigh, or buttocks. It can develop gradually or can be caused by trauma, or excessive alcohol or steroid use.
Sore hip flexors can be caused by overuse of the muscles. People who play sports that involve kicking and running can experience hip flexor pain from overuse.
Hip Flexor Strains or Tears
Hip flexor strains or tears happen when a muscle or tendon is stretched too far. This occurs when someone makes a sudden movement like changing direction while running. Hip flexor tears can range from mild to severe and are often classified in different grades.
Grade I Tear
This is a minor tear that occurs when only a few fibers are damaged.
Grade II Tear
When there is a moderate loss of hip flexor function and a significant number of damaged muscle fibers, the tear is diagnosed as grade two.
Grade III Tear
This is the most significant injury. This happens when the muscle is completely torn or ruptured. When this happens it is nearly impossible to walk without a limp.
Hip Pain and Running
If you experience hip pain and are running or take part in sports that require running, it’s best to take a break and rest it. If you continue to run while having hip flexor pain you’re only going to aggravate it and make it worse. As your injury gets better, you can reintroduce activity gradually until you feel up to fully using the muscle area.
Hip Pain in Kids
If your child is experiencing hip pain, it can be more than just a hip flexor issue. There are many other hip pains in children including hip dysplasia, fractures, infections, or childhood diseases. It’s best to see your pediatrician if your child is experiencing sore hip flexors or has pain in their hips. This can assure you will get a proper diagnosis and can treat the pain effectively.
Getting a Diagnosis for Hip Flexor Pain
When you begin to notice hip flexor pain, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible so that the proper diagnosis can be made. A physical therapist, physical medicine, or orthopedic surgeon can all help to diagnose your hip flexor pain.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history as well as perform range of motion tests to see where the pain is the greatest and if you are suffering from hip flexor pain.
Treating Hip Flexor Pain
There are things you can do to get hip flexor pain relief. Here are some things to consider:
Rest, rest, rest!
If you have a sore hip flexor the best thing you can do is rest it. While you don’t want to overstretch the muscle, you do want to do some gentle stretches to release tension and prevent future injury.
Apply moist heat
Putting moist heat on the affected area is also a good idea as well as warming up your muscles if you’re going to try to take a light walk.
Avoid bending at the hip
If you don’t want to strain the hip flexor anymore, avoid bending at the hip and doing any activities that are going to strain the area.
Use an elastic bandage for compression
You can also buy an elastic bandage to prevent or reduce swelling. The compression should be moderately tight and wrapped around the hip and pelvis to be effective.
Take over-the-counter pain medication
Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with sore hip flexors.
Seeking a physical therapist can also help relieve pain if there is a large tear.
It’s important to understand hip flexor pain and its causes so that you can get the proper diagnosis. This can help to reduce the pain and assure that you get the proper treatment for your hip flexor pain.