The hips are major joints in the body and are essential to carrying out nearly any everyday movement. As the attachment point for the legs to the pelvis, the hip joints perform a wide range of motion while enduring a large amount of stress. This is why hip injuries, including hip flexor injuries, are so common.
The hip flexors are one of the muscle groups required for lower body movement, specifically lifting your knee to your upper body and bending at the waist. The muscles that make up the hip flexors include the iliopsoas and the rectus femoris, which is part of the quadriceps muscle in the thigh. Since these muscles are so heavily used and cross both the hip and knee joint, they are subject to more stress and strain and therefore, a wide range of injuries including strains, ligament sprains, and even tears can develop.
For a better understanding of hip flexor injury and how to receive proper diagnosis and treatment, the OJRCA team has created the following informative guide. If you have any questions or are seeking information about your therapeutic options, we invite you to contact a member of our friendly staff.
What Causes Hip Flexor Injury?
The most common cause of hip flexor injury is overuse. When we perform strenuous activities, our muscles and tendons stretch and contract repeatedly. Overexertion can lead to small tears forming in both the muscles and the tendons, resulting in strains for the muscles and sprains for the tendons. This is more common in those muscle tendon units that cross two joints rather than just one, such as the hip flexors, hamstrings, and achilles tendons.
These types of injuries occur in muscle groups throughout the body, with hip flexor injury being especially common in the following activities:
- Soccer and hockey
- Martial arts
Additionally, physical jobs can also lead to hip flexor injury, especially professions that involve repeated leg movement and lifting. Patients who have been diagnosed with degenerative conditions such as arthritis of the hip may also be at an elevated risk for hip flexor strain, due to the excess stress and hip joint dysfunction this condition places on the hip flexors.
To lower the risk of developing hip flexor injury, people are advised to avoid overexertion, stay hydrated, use proper form and work with a trainer or physical therapist to strengthen and improve the function of this and other muscle groups.
How Physicians Diagnose Hip Flexor Injury
The most common symptoms of damage to any of the hip flexor muscles are:
- Sudden pain, particularly as you lift your thigh toward your chest or stretch your hips
- Muscle cramps or spasms in the hip and thigh region
- Visible swelling
- Inflammation and tenderness, particularly on the front of the hip region
- Symptoms that generally worsen with activity
Injuries to the hip flexors can improve on their own with rest and at-home treatments such as cold compression and heat, elevation and over-the-counter medication. If pain does not improve in a short period of time, patients should seek a professional diagnosis from a qualified physician.
Typical diagnostic steps include reviewing your medical, injury and treatment history, performing a hands-on examination, conducting movement and posture analysis and ordering diagnostic tests. Imagery such as an X-ray or MRI is usually not ordered for minor strains and sprains, but may be needed to rule out other conditions, ranging from fractures to arthritis.
Treating a Hip Flexor Injury
Upon diagnosis of a muscle strain or ligament sprain in the hip flexor region, doctors should recommend a course of conservative treatment. In addition to the basic care discussed above, patients can pursue physical therapy and rehabilitation and lifestyle changes among other options.
Physical therapy can help to improve function and stability in the hip joint through a combination of manual therapy, therapeutic exercises and other interventions such as trigger point therapy. The goal is to strengthen the hip flexor muscle group while fixing muscle imbalances and increasing range of motion. This can help with both the healing process and helping decrease risk of reinjury.
Patients with hip flexor strains, especially if they become recurrent or chronic, may be advised to make lifestyle changes that can help promote optimal hip joint health. For example, since the hips are major load-bearing joints, patients who are overweight or obese may be advised to begin a weight management program to take extra weight off the hips and and hip flexors. Eating a healthy diet full of nutrient-rich anti-inflammatory foods can also be beneficial to the healing process and overall health of your muscles, soft tissue and bones.
Finally, identifying and addressing specific movements, or equipment that contributes to your injury is also important. A large number of people have biomechanical issues that start in the foot and cause a chain reaction all the way to the hips. In some cases, orthopedic inserts or specialized footwear deliver improvements.
If a hip flexor strain or sprain is present alongside a joint disease such as arthritis or bursitis, therapeutic injections can be administered to help reduce pain and inflammation in the hip for a period of weeks or longer. This helps many patients regain the ability to perform exercise and physical therapy to address the causes of hip flexor injuries that may otherwise have not been possible.
Is Surgery Ever Needed for a Hip Flexor Injury?
Surgery is usually not indicated for hip flexor injuries unless there is a very severe tear or rupture to any of the muscles or tendons in this muscle group. If surgery is needed, an orthopedic surgeon can access the hip and repair or reattach the damaged muscle.
Repeated hip flexor injury over a long-term basis can potentially be associated with hip joint damage caused by post-traumatic arthritis. If age and/or injury has led to severe joint damage in the hips, a hip replacement procedure may be recommended. This involves removing the damaged joint surface and replacing it with an artificial implant.
Thanks to advancements in medical technology and surgical technique, many hip procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis at an ambulatory surgery center leading to a reduction in recovery time and other benefits.
Learn About Hip Pain Relief Today
At Outpatient Joint Replacement Center of America (OJRCA), our compassionate and highly experienced treatment team helps patients with a wide range of hip problems and stages of treatment find relief. From therapeutic injections to outpatient hip replacement surgery, we can help you develop a personalized and cost-effective treatment plan to get you back to the quality of life you deserve.
Contact us today to learn more.