Injuries to the hip flexor muscles are fairly common among athletes like runners and soccer players. The hip flexors are comprised of three muscles: the rectus femoris, psoas major and iliacus. These are the muscles used to move the leg forward when running and walking. When any of these muscles are strained, you'll experience anterior hip and leg pain and compromised stability.
Who It Affects
Explosive movements like sprinting and kicking are often the cause of hip flexor strain. Soccer players are among the most vulnerable to this injury, followed by runners and martial artists who employ a lot of kicking. Sometimes the injury is brought on by overuse rather than a singular event.
Where It Hurts
Whether the injury is a minor pull or a complete tear, the pain will be felt in the front of the hip or upper thigh. It may even shoot down along the front of the leg. Occasionally hip flexor strains are accompanied by swelling, muscle spasms and bruising. Pain will occur when you move your leg forward or pull it upward.
A Good Test
A good way to determine if you've strained the hip flexor muscles is to bring your knee up toward your chest while standing on the opposite leg. Have someone apply moderate pressure to pull your knee down, while you resist. If you feel pain in the hip flexor muscles during this exercise, you have probably strained these muscles.
Hip flexor injuries are broken into three categories. First degree strains are minor tears to the muscle or tendon and can be recovered from quickly. Second degree strains are partial tears and will require up to a few weeks of rest, followed by rehabilitation. Third degree strains are complete tears that require more significant rest and physical therapy. Third degree strains are rare.
Once you're been diagnosed, treat the area with rest, ice and your preferred prescription, herbal or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. If you're prone to a recurrence of this injury, seek advice from a sports doctor on the types of stretches and therapy you should do to prevent a repeat injury.
Be sure to let the area heal before resuming your normal activity. By trying to play through the pain, you could turn a first degree injury with a quick recovery period into a second degree injury and be out for weeks.
Flexibility will go a long way in preventing hip flexor injuries. A good stretch is to get into a lunge position with your right leg positioned deeply in front of your left. Let both knees bend slightly, especially the rear knee, as you flex your hips forward. You'll feel this in the hip flexor muscles.
Hip flexor injuries can be the result of weaknesses in other parts of the body. Calf muscles and Achilles tendinitis can be culprits. Weak core muscles also can contribute to hip flexor injuries. Hip flexors are attached to the spine. If the core muscles are weak, the flexors will compensate and become overworked, possibly leading to injury.