It’s in the middle of the night, and your hips are aching. They feel tight and stiff, and you need to stretch to feel a release. If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing hip flexor strain.
As the popular Shakira song goes, hips don’t lie. So if you’re feeling tender and sore in your upper legs or there is hip pain, it’s time to find out more about this common sports injury known as hip flexor strain.
Hip flexors are very important since they stabilize your spine and help you balance. They play a significant role in walking, postural alignment, joint mobility, flexibility, and balance.
What is hip flexor strain?
Hip flexor strain occurs when these muscles are overstretched or overused. The hip flexors are a group of muscles, including the iliacus, and the psoas major muscles as well as the rectus femoris. If you feel pain when you try to lift your leg up and forward, or it hurts when you bend at your waist, that is one clear sign of hip flexor strain.
At the front of your hips, you might also feel pain and tenderness. There might also be a click or snap when your hip tendon rubs across your hip bone when you walk. This feeling is hip flexor tendonitis, a form of hip flexor strain.
What does a strained hip flexor feel like?
Apart from pain when you lift your leg forward, other symptoms might mean you have strained your hip muscles. The most common symptom is hip pain after running. For some people, you might also feel it when you walk. A list of symptoms include:
- If you’ve injured your hips previously, you might feel a sharp pain in the hip or pelvis.
- When walking or running, there is sudden hip pain.
- Your upper leg constantly feels tender and sore.
- You experience muscle spasms.
- You notice that your thighs and hips are swollen and bruised.
- -After long rest periods, you might feel tightness and stiffness, or your upper leg may cramp.
- When you try to lift your leg to the chest, you feel pain in your hips.
If it is not so severe, your strained hip flexor muscles might have a few tears. At its moderate stage, your muscle fibres are damaged, and you might lose some mobility. The most severe stage would be when your muscle fibres are torn and you have trouble walking.
Is hip flexor strain common?
For most people, hip flexor strain can occur if they are active sportspeople. Should your sport require you to kick upwards constantly, you risk a hip flexor strain. Running, cycling, kicking and jumping uses the hip flexors a lot as you either need to lift the leg and forward or bend the waist forward.
Therefore, certain athletes such as martial artists and dancers may be more prone to hip flexor strain.
If you like to stretch by pulling your thigh to the back, you may also stress your hip flexor muscles, causing a tear. When you constantly load the hip flexor, the muscle gets overstretched, and minor tears occur without resting.
But some people are more likely than others to experience hip flexor strain if they have weak hip muscles. Among other reasons, lack of exercise and long hours of seating, which most office workers do, can result in weak hip flexors that injure easily.
How do you prevent hip flexor strain?
You should pay more attention to your hip muscles to avoid hip flexor pain. Here are some tips to prevent hip flexor strain:
1. Do not stay seated for too long
When seated, your knees are bent, and your hip muscles are flexed. When we spend so much of our time sitting with the hip flexed, your hip flexor might start to tighten and shorten up.
When you run for a bus or a plane or trip and fall, the muscle could become stretched. Imagine this stiff, brittle muscle that all of a sudden gets extended. You are setting yourself up for strain or some hip flexor pain.
2. Include hip-strengthening exercises in your workout
To minimise strain on the muscles around the hip and avoid hip flexor pain, always be sure to stretch properly before doing any exercise, even walking. Warming up is essential prior to stretching as cold muscles are prone to strain and tears.
Simple hip-flexor exercises performed regularly can help prevent hip flexor pain. Many strengthening exercises that target the abdominal muscles will also help strengthen hip flexor muscles.
3. Warm-up before you start your main workout activity
One way to incorporate strengthening exercises and get your body ready for the main activity is to go through a warm-up. As we warm up, our body temperature increases. Blood vessels open up and bring more blood flow and nutrients to our muscles. Our muscles contract more easily, our joints loosen up, and we feel ready for the upcoming activity.
Dynamic warmup are warmups where we bring our body through movements while we stretch, or stretching through a joint’s range of motion. Walking lunges with hip flexor stretch are excellent dynamic warmup exercises one can do to improve hip mobility, and get the body warmed up at the same time.
An example of a good warm up routine would be to start with a light aerobic warmup, followed by dynamic stretching, and ending with specific warmup for the particular exercise in question to get our body ready for the activity.
How do you fix sore hip flexors?
If your hip flexors feel sore or inflamed, you can treat mild injuries yourself and should feel better within 2 to 3 weeks. These are steps you can take:
Firstly, you should stop the aggravating activity and allow the muscles to rest.
Secondly, apply a ice pack to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes.
If the pain persists, try taking over-the-counter pain medication. However, if it gets worst, you need to see your doctor and seek professional treatment.
How long does it take for a hip flexor strain to heal?
Depending on the severity of your injury, it can take 1-6 weeks to heal a hip flexor injury.
Minor injuries typically need 1-3 weeks of recovery time, but more severe muscle tears can take 4-6 weeks, or even longer. Untreated severe injuries may take longer, especially if they cause chronic pain.
Therefore, it is pertinent to see a doctor if you feel constant pain and have trouble walking.
Hip flexor strains, if untreated, can cause you to lose mobility. Therefore you must see a doctor once you feel pain in your hips. That way, you will not lose your quality of life, you can heal quickly, and you can start being active and doing sports once again!
At Hip and Knee Orthopaedics, we believe that every patient deserves to receive comprehensive and efficient care for their musculoskeletal conditions to gain back their independence in mobility and enjoy quality time with their loved ones.
With a passion for treating hip and knee conditions, Orthopaedic Surgeon Singapore aims to provide you with quality care by thoroughly assessing your condition and personalizing our treatments to meet your needs and goals