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What is Hip Flexor Pain?

Hip flexor pain is a distressing feeling or discomfort noted in the hip and/or groin region that can make everyday activities, such as going up and down the stairs or lifting your leg to tie a shoe extremely difficult and painful and can severely limit your activity and mobility.

Hip flexors are a group of muscles located around the upper and inner thighs and pelvic region. They are instrumental in bending your knee and flexing your hip, as well as lifting the knee towards your chest and bending at the waist. Hip flexor pain occurs when one or more of the hip flexor muscles becomes stretched or torn during sudden movements, such as changing direction while moving or running, kicking, and sprinting. Athletes, especially soccer players, runners, and martial artists, are particularly susceptible to hip flexor pain. 

Causes of Hip Flexor Pain

Some of the causes of hip flexor pain include:

  • Overuse or overstretching of the hip flexors
  • Weakness or stiffness of the hip flexor muscles
  • Falls or direct trauma to the hip
  • Poor posture or walking habits
  • Chronic inflammation of the hip flexors
  • Hip impingement
  • Hip flexor strain or tear
  • Iliopsoas bursitis
  • Hip flexor tendinopathy
  • Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout

Signs and Symptoms of Hip Flexor Pain

Some of the signs and symptoms of hip flexor pain include:

  • Pain in the lower back, upper leg, or pelvic area
  • Pain, tenderness, and weakness when walking or climbing stairs
  • Muscle spasms in the thighs or hips
  • Discomfort and decreased mobility while moving
  • Bruising, inflammation, or swelling around the thigh, hip, or pelvic area
  • Stiffness or tightness after not moving for a long time
  • Difficulty getting up from a chair or rising up from a squat
  • Pulling sensation in front of the hip or groin area
  • A visible limp or muscle deformity

Diagnosis of Hip Flexor Pain

Your doctor will assess your symptoms, take your medical history, and perform a thorough physical examination of areas involving the hip flexor muscles. During the examination, your physician will maneuver your upper leg, hips, or groin area to check for the exact source of pain and evaluate range of motion and strength. X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs may be ordered if hip flexor strain or ruptures are suspected for detailed evaluation of soft tissue injury and its severity. 

Treatment for Hip Flexor Pain

Some of the common treatment methods employed to mitigate hip flexor pain include:

  • Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that trigger symptoms and changing one’s habits
  • Ice: Application of ice packs on the injured hip flexor muscles to decrease swelling and pain
  • Physical Therapy: Regular exercise regimen to improve range of motion and strengthen hip flexor muscles
  • Rest: Providing ample rest to the injured muscles to facilitate self-healing
  • Compression: Compressing the affected area with elastic bandages to reduce pain and swelling
  • Elevation: Keeping the leg elevated helps to decrease any possible swelling
  • Anti-inflammatory Medication: Use of medications like naproxen and ibuprofen to relieve inflammation and pain
  • Surgery: Surgical intervention may be required to treat severe rupture or torn muscles and tendons