Hip Flexor Strain: Injury Overview

Don't let a hip flexor strain hinder your mobility.

This article covers the essentials of hip flexor strains, including what it is, how to treat it, and more.


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For those who engage in athletic activity on a regular basis, hip flexor strain is a common injury. It affects athletes in a range of sports, from hockey to soccer to running and more. In any case, for the extent of its existence, it can be highly debilitating, sidelining an athlete for anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.

Are you dealing with pain in your hip flexor? Interested in learning more about the injury? You're in the right place.

Here is a full injury overview of the hip flexor strain.

What Are Hip Flexors?

Your hip flexors are the muscles that sit toward the front of your hip. There are five key hip flexors. These include the pectineus, iliacus, psoas, sartorius, and rectus femoris.

Hip flexors are what allow the hips to turn. They also enable you to bring your knee up toward your stomach.

What Is a Hip Flexor Strain?

A hip flexor strain is a tear that occurs in one or more of the hip flexor muscles. It generally presents as a sharp pain in the front of the hip, though it can also result in cramping.

A variety of factors, including overuse, overextension, weak muscles, and more, cause hip flexor strains. They're most common in athletes. However, elderly individuals are quite susceptible to hip flexor strains as well.

Symptoms of Hip Flexor Strain

Now, how can you tell the difference between hip flexor strain and a range of other injuries? By looking out for the right symptoms. You likely have a hip flexor strain if you have more than a few of these.

Pulling Sensation in the Front of the Hip

In addition to a sharp pain in the hip area that occurs while you're lifting your leg, you might also feel a pull in your hip while walking or simply sitting still. This is a duller and deeper pain. It literally feels like the muscle is being tugged on.

Cramping Around the Hip

You might also experience cramping around the hip. This is when the muscle contracts involuntarily, thus leading to deep pain. It can be highly debilitating while it's occurring and might even prevent you from standing up.

Reduced Mobility as a Result of Hip Pain

Having trouble lifting your leg up to climb steps? Not able to easily turn and grab something? If so, a hip flexor strain could be the culprit.

Hip flexors can result in severe pain, the likes of which can reduce your range of motion and make it difficult for you to achieve everyday tasks.

Bruising on the Hip

In some cases, there will be bruising on the hip. This will appear as a yellow, brown, purple, or blue spot, generally in the area where the hip flexor muscles exist.

Swelling of the Hip

You might also experience swelling in the affected hip. In other words, the area could balloon up and get bigger. This is due to a buildup of fluid and white blood cells in the affected area.

Hip Spasms

In some cases, the affected individual will experience spasms in the hip. These are involuntary contractions of the muscles. They present as a pulling sensation and can sometimes be accompanied by pain.

Hip Osteoarthritis

If hip flexor strain is allowed to persist and never treated, it can turn into hip osteoarthritis. This occurs when the cartilage around the hip joint deteriorates, thus resulting in bone-on-bone contact. It tends to worsen over time and can be debilitating in some cases.

Causes and Risk Factors for Hip Flexor Strain

Next, we'll discuss hip flexor strain causes and risk factors. What causes hip flexor strain is generally the following:

Weak Muscles

If your hip flexor muscles are weak, they're susceptible to damage. This is because they can't bear the stress that they would be able to bear if they possessed sufficient strength. Therefore, various activities have a heightened chance of causing them to tear.

Not Warming Up Your Muscles

When the hip flexor muscles are rigid, they're more susceptible to straining than they are when they're loose. This is because they have less give and are therefore more affected by the impact. As such, if you don't warm up your muscles prior to physical activity, you're at a heightened risk of hip flexor strain.

A Lack of Flexibility

Going hand in hand with warming up is flexibility. If you lack it, your muscles will be tight and, therefore, more susceptible to tearing.

Trauma to the Hip

In some cases, direct trauma to the hip area will result in a hip flexor strain. So, for instance, if you're hip-checked during a hockey game, you might incur a hip flexor strain.

Imbalances in the Muscles

It's not just weak muscles that can lead to hip flexor strain. Imbalanced muscles can lead to the same. If the muscles are imbalanced, they can change the way in which different joints move. This can put stress on the muscles, thus causing them to tear.

Regular Running

Do you like to run? If so, you're at a heightened risk for a hip flexor strain. Regular running puts regular stress on the hip flexors and thus increases the chance of a tear.

Regular Jumping

Maybe you like to play basketball? Perhaps you engage in gymnastics? This heightens your chances of incurring a hip flexor strain, as regular jumping is a risk factor.

Regular High Kicking

High kicking has the potential to lead to hip flexor strain as well. This is why soccer players commonly incur the injury.

Sitting Too Much

Sitting too much is also a risk factor for hip flexor strain. This is because sitting causes the hip flexor muscles to shorten. Over a prolonged period, this can cause them to tighten up and become more susceptible to tears.

Diagnosing a Hip Flexor Strain

Diagnosing a hip flexor strain involves a combination of self-assessment, physician assessment, and medical testing. It's important to be diagnosed formally, as doing so enables you to determine what level of treatment is required.

The first part of the process is identifying the pain. What does a strained hip flexor feel like? It generally presents as a shooting or pulling pain in the front part of the hip. You should see your physician if this pain persists for ten days or longer.

Your physician will first speak to you about the injury while asking you questions and discussing your medical history. After this, they're likely to administer an ultrasound.

An ultrasound is an imaging test
wherein sound waves are used to capture live images of the muscles, tendons, and organs. It can be used to find tears in the hip flexors.

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is an imaging technique that can detect and assess the body's processes. It can help find blood clots and internal bleeding, both of which can occur with severe hip flexor strains.

After assessment and testing, your physician will diagnose you with 1 of 3 grades of hip flexor strain. We'll discuss these in detail now.

Grade 1 (Mild)

These are the least severe strains. They include the damage of only a few muscle fibers and heal on their own over time.

Grade 2 (Moderate)

Grade 2 strains include a moderate amount of muscle damage. They can be debilitating and will generally greatly impact one's performance athletically.

Grade 3 (Severe)

The most severe hip flexor strain is a grade 3. This is when muscle fibers are torn completely. Grade 3 strains generally require physical therapy and sometimes require surgery.

Treating a Hip Flexor Strain

Now, how do you go about treating a hip flexor strain? That depends on the extent of the strain. Generally speaking, you'll have to do one or more of the following:

Treating a Hip Flexor Strain: Stretch


In mild cases, stretching alone can help to heal a hip flexor strain. Lunge stretches, in particular, can be beneficial. Do these 2 to 3 times throughout the day, and with time, your symptoms should subside.

Treating a Hip Flexor Strain: Hot/Cold Packs

Apply Hot/Cold Packs

Pain and swelling are common with hip flexor strains. You can reduce both of these with the help of hot and cold packs. Whereas hot packs improve blood flow in the affected area (thus expediting healing), cold packs reduce pain and swelling.

Apply each of these for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day.

Treating a Hip Flexor Strain: Medications

Take Medications

If there's pain associated with the injury, you might benefit from taking over-the-counter pain medications. These include ibuprofen and acetaminophen, specifically. Both can be integral in the realm of pain treatment and pain management.

Treating a Hip Flexor Strain: Physical Therapy

Engage in Physical Therapy

Physical therapy might be needed in more severe cases of a hip flexor strain. Throughout your physical therapy sessions, you'll perform a range of stretches and exercises, all of which will help to combat the issue over time.

Treating a Hip Flexor Strain: Surgery

Undergo Surgery

If the hip flexor is torn severely, surgery will be needed. Note, however, that this is rare.

Preventing Hip Flexor Strain

Though there's no surefire way to prevent hip flexor strains, there are several things you can do to prevent them from happening. These include the following:

Stretch Regularly

Stretching regularly is integral to preventing hip flexor strains. This is because it keeps the muscles from tightening up. When the muscles tighten up, they're much more likely to be stretched out, and thus result in a strain.

There are a number of stretches you can do to keep the hip flexors stretched out. These include the standing lunge stretch, the basic bridge, the reclined hip stretch, and more. You can learn about these and more stretches by clicking this link.

You should perform these stretches at least once daily, ideally in the morning. If you can perform them twice or three times a day, that would be even better.

Improve Hip Flexor Strength

Not only does stretching help prevent hip flexor strains, but so does strengthening the muscles comprising hip flexors. The stronger these are, the greater the load they can bear and the less likely they are to tear.

Now, what exercises help to strengthen the hip flexors? These run the gamut from mountain climbers to lunges, straight leg raises, squats, and more. Learn about these exercises, and more, now!

Refrain from Doing High Knee Kicks

High knee kicks put a great deal of strain on the hip flexors. This is why hip flexor strains are so common among soccer players. Therefore, if you want to avoid hip flexor strains, you have to avoid high knee kicks.

This is particularly true if you're elderly. Stretching your knee too high to, say, step up on something will put tremendous stress on your hip flexors. This could very well result in an injury.

So, in essence, do what you can to keep your knees close to the ground.

Wear Appropriate Medical Gear

There are a number of medical aids you can use to assist with a strained hip flexor. You're going to want to choose gear that provides support to the protected area.

For instance, you might use a hip brace. On the other hand, you could make do with kinesiology tape. Both of these offer support without greatly impairing the range of motion of the hip flexors. They also improve blood circulation in the affected areas, allowing for faster healing.

Need Products to Help Treat Hip Flexor Strain?

Are you dealing with hip flexor strain? Need products to help with the treatment of the condition? If so, you're in the right place; Carex has you covered.

We offer a wide variety of medical products, from hot and cold wraps to canes to walkers and more. Regardless of the nature of your condition, we have a medical entity that can assist you.

Check out our selection of hip injury-related products now!

About the Author

Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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