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What Is a Hip Flexor Strain and How Is It Treated?

Hip flexor strains are most often caused by “overdoing it.” While not usually serious, this injury can be quite painful if left untreated. Understanding what a hip flexor strain is and its symptoms can help you get the right treatment for this common orthopedic condition.

What Are Hip Flexors?

Hip flexors are the flexible muscle tissues located near the top of your thigh and pelvic region. They allow you to flex your hips and bend your knees. Overuse or overstretching of these muscles may result in a hip flexor strain, which can significantly limit your activity and mobility.

This orthopedic injury typically occurs when the hip flexor muscles and tendons are used too much, causing stretching or tearing. Some people are more prone to hip flexor strains than others due to their activity type and level. Active individuals who may be at a higher risk for this condition include:

  • Cyclists
  • Dancers
  • Football players (especially kickers)
  • Martial artists
  • Soccer players

Hip flexor strains typically occur when the muscles are stretched or torn. This condition is classified into three grades depending on its severity:

  • Grade I tear: A minor tear in which a few fibers are damaged. The hip still functions normally.
  • Grade II tear: Several muscle fibers are damaged. There is a moderate loss of hip flexor function causing the hip to occasionally give out while standing or walking.
  • Grade III: The muscle is completely torn. The hip can no longer bear weight.

Most hip strain injuries begin as a microscopic tear that gradually increases in size with repetitive hip movement. Addressing a minor tear early on is the best way to prevent the condition from worsening.

Symptoms of Hip Flexor Strain

The primary symptom of a hip flexor strain is pain where your thigh meets your hip. However, there are several other symptoms associated with this orthopedic condition:

  • Sharp pain in the hip or pelvis
  • Cramping in the upper leg muscles
  • The upper leg feels tender or sore
  • Tugging sensation in the front of the groin
  • Difficulty kicking, jumping or sprinting
  • Tightness or stiffness after being stationary
  • Pain or tenderness when walking up the stairs

While sports are one of the more common causes of hip flexor strains, other factors can contribute to this injury. Overuse, poor posture or walking habits, and arthritis are among some of the non-sports related causes.

A hip specialist will be able to confirm your diagnosis with an exam. They will discuss your symptoms as well as the activity that may have caused your hip pain and create a treatment plan for you.

Hip Flexor Strain Treatment

Most hip flexor injuries can be treated at home and don’t require prescription medications or invasive procedures. Your doctor may suggest applying ice to the affected area in 10- to 15-minute increments. They will also recommend you avoid activities that will overuse your hip flexors. Additionally, gentle stretching exercises can help reduce muscle tension and decrease the likelihood of future injury.

If your injury is the result of a larger muscle tear, your hip specialist may recommend physical therapy. Occasionally, surgery to repair the ruptured muscle may be recommended—however, this is very rare.

Recovery time often depends on the severity of the injury. Mild strains may take a few weeks to heal while severe strains, on the other hand, can take up to six weeks or more to recover fully. Failing to rest appropriately typically results in greater pain and worsening of the injury.

Nagging hip pain can bring your day to a grinding halt. Knowing what a hip flexor strain is and how our “Centers of Excellence” can help you regain mobility in your hip once again can get you on the road to recovery faster. Make an appointment today with one of our NY Orthopedics locations in New York City to start your healing journey.

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