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Hip Flexor Pain - Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Running

Updated on January 8, 2014

What is Hip Flexor Pain?

This is a medical condition that happens when you overuse your hip muscles. Your hip flexor muscles are the muscles that help in the movement of your hip going forward when you are walking or running. These muscles are the ones that have to deal with the stress when you kick, jump, or sprint and give stability to your legs.

There are three muscles in this group, which include:

  • Rectus femoris - this is one of the four quad muscles and is the only one that crosses your hip joint, flexing the hip and extending your knee.
  • Psoas major - this is a long thick thigh muscle and contributes to the external and flexion in your hip joint.
  • Iliacus - this is a triangular flat muscle that is situated in the area of your groin and acts in conjunction with psoas major muscle to help flex your thigh.

These are the muscles that are responsible for drawing your knee to your chest. Hip flexor pain can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, or race.

Symptoms

When you strain your flexor muscles the most noticeable and common symptom is pain. When you have pain it usually occurs along the front of your hip and could also radiate down towards the front of your thigh or to the lower part of your back. If you lift your knee toward your chest you could aggravate your pain, causing the pain to be severe. It can also become painful if you walk, jump, or run. Some people may have swelling but this is a symptom that is not commonly seen. You may also have a chance of bruising and muscle spasms but it all depends on how severe the injury is. The pain can range from being an annoying little twinge to an injury that is debilitating.

Causes

The main cause is overusing any of those three muscles. Other causes may include:

  • Acute trauma such as from a fall or accident.
  • Overusing the muscles, especially in people who engage in sports that require repetitive kicking and jumping or any activity that continually brings your knee towards your chest. These repetitive movements can cause the muscles or tendons to become sore and inflamed.
  • Forceful movement such as in soccer, sprinting, basketball or any sports that require quick stop and start movements. They can forcefully pull on your hip flexor muscles, causing an injury. If you have a direct blow or hit to this area can also cause hip flexor pain.
  • Hip replacement surgery - in some patients that have had to replace the hip joint with prosthesis but to have this pain is rare.
  • Muscle strain, muscle tear, or muscle pull.

Hip Flexor Pain and Running

Another common trigger of hip flexor pain is running by overusing these muscles. People who engage in the sport of running, whether for healthy reasons or competition, if you over-train it can cause micro-trauma to the muscle because you are doing too much and not getting the right amount of rest between sessions of training. Eventually these micro-traumas will accumulate and can result in hip flexor pain and muscle strain.

To help prevent hip flexor pain when you are training or running you need to start your exercises at the right level for you and slowly increase how much you do. For example, if you are just starting out running you should start with a half mile and work your way up. You do not want to start out running five, ten, or more miles in a day. You also need to make sure that you are warming up before you start running by doing stretches. You also need to make sure that you are cooling down the right way after your run to help increase your flexibility and lessen tension in your muscles.

When stretching you can do it from a standing position by bending one hip and knee backward, grab your ankle with hand on that side and pull the hell toward the buttocks. You should do this until you feel a stretch that is comfortable in the front of the hip. You should try to hold this stretch for thirty seconds.

Treatment

When you feel hip flexor pain you should start treatment by using ice bags on the painful areas for twenty to twenty-five minutes at a time. You should use the ice treatment for two to three days. You can also take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or pain medications to help with the pain. If the pain is severe you may need to see your physician and be referred to a rehabilitation center for rehab exercises that relate to hip flexor pain. You may also need physical therapy.

You should also stop whichever sports activity that caused the hip flexor pain or made it worse. To help increase your flexibility of the flexor muscles go swimming. This activity will work your hip joint but dose not cause a lot of stress. How long it will take to recover from the injury will depend on the severity along with how healthy you are and your age. It could take up to six weeks if the injury is severe.

It is important to also make sure that you rest the muscles and when the healing has begun this is when you need to start exercising and stretching these muscles. You need to make sure that you treat hip flexor pain because if the muscles are injured it is going to make it difficult to do any simple activity like standing, walking, sleeping, or sitting.

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    • profile image

      Rakhi 2 years ago

      Hey Anton, its shawn from LYP. cool blog. Do you still use your email from CSU? Got some questions for you and some stuff to show you? shawn

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      John R Wilsdon 3 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      It is so refreshing to see professional medical practitioners sharing information for which the public is starving. It provides so much help in the quest for making intelligent choices and decisions about sought advice for direction. Thank you for a good hub. Voted up.

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      Kevin W 3 years ago from Texas

      Very nice, informative hub medicalcontent. Voted up on your hub.