Hip Flexor Injury
Today I wanted to talk a little about hip flexor injury. This is a very common injury in sports,from soccer, football, and especially running. The injury is usually brought on by an explosive movements. This injury can be painful, can take a long time to heel , and can cause all kinds of other problems. Before you can treat your hip flexor injury you should have a basic grasp of the anatomy of the hip hip anatomy, and proper initial care, as well as focusing on improving your strength and flexibility. Here is a great video that goes over the complex hip anatomy
The Muscles of The Hip Flexors
The hip flexors are made up of three different muscles. The Rectus Femoris, Psoas Major, and Illiacus. These muscles work together to help flex the hip, and to provide stability for the lower extremity. The Rectus Femoris is one of the quadriceps muscles, and also helps with knee extension. The illiopsoas group runs from the lower spine and pelvis to the femur, its a deep muscle group, one of the strongest. It is this group that is most often tight with individuals who tend to sit most of their day. When any of the above muscles are strain it can greatly inhibit mobility of the hip. Unfortunately I have suffered from this injury too, and it not fun.
One of the most common cause of hip flexor injury is acute trauma. For me, I had experience one specific instance when I felt a pull in my hip flexors. It happened during one of my many 5k races towards the end when I was tired and I tried to break into a sprint, and BAM ugh did it hurt. I was on an extremely intense running regiment, and I was not stretch at all or taking any time of from running, so my leg muscles were extremely tight and I my flexibility was null. The major contributing factors for hip flexor injuries are tight muscle and poor flexibility. When muscles are tight, there is an increased amount of tension on the tissues, they just can not stretch as much with out tearing. So when increase tension is added to the muscle group, such as by an explosive movement, injury will likely occur.
Hip flexor strain can also be caused by compensation for other injuries, or weakness of other muscles. With this scenario the hip flexor start to take up some of the slack for the weaker muscles and become fatigued. This is common if you have core weakness. When the core muscles do not stabilize the pelvis, the hip flexor muscles will try to compensate for this weakness and become overworked.
The most common symptom of a hip flexor strain is pain. It occurs along the front of the hip and may radiate down the front of your thigh. The pain will increase with movement, especially trying to lift your knee toward your chest. So basically any sort of running, jumping or even walking can elicit extreme. For me, I only had pain when running was I do consider myself lucky. Some of my patients have pain even when they walk. There usually is not that much swelling, and if there is it is usually only a small amount. Muscle spasm and bruising may also occur, depending on how severe the injury is.
If you have suffered a hip flexor strain, your initial plan of action should be good old RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), however the most important part is REST. Icing is good in the first 24 to 48 hours, after that I would suggest some heat. Compression is good if there is swelling. You can start to do gentle stretches after 48 to 72 hours, but gentle is the key. It is important that you do not return to normal activity to early, as this can lead to a chronic issue. You must ease back into your normal activity. I jumped the gun when I had my injury and I suffered for over 6 months.
In order to prevent hip flexor injury you must focuses on good flexibility, something that I have hard time remembering. Also if you are a runner like me, you need to make sure that you warm up before you go full speed, again warm muscles are less likely to be injured. So take the time to warm up and start slowly before you go all out. A good flexibility program will also help to reduce the tension on the muscles, and reduce your likelihood for injury.
Have you ever experience a hip flexor injury? If you have, what did you do?