Swollen Hip Flexor? Here’s Why and What to Do

A swollen Hip Flexor can cause a significant amount of pain and irritation. The most common cause of swollen muscles are inflammation or fluid buildup, but this article will look at the more common of the two – inflammation.

The Hip Flexor is central to pretty much any movement you do, which puts it at risk for injury very often, especially if you are active. Any injury to one of the muscles in this group can cause damage that triggers inflammation and results in swelling.

Reasons for Long Term Swelling

If you have had swelling in any part of your Hip Flexors for more than 24-48 hours, you should see a doctor. There could be fluid buildup or you could have a bad case of Hip Flexor tendonitis or Snapping Hip Syndrome. These need to be treated by a professional with care or they will continue to plague you for a long time to come.

How a Hip Flexor Becomes Swollen from an Injury

The other situation is that you were doing some sort of activity, typically a sport, and were the victim of a blunt trauma to your Hip or you strained your Hip Flexor. Many common injuries will cause swelling because of the inflammatory response. What is the inflammatory response? You’re about to find out.

Inflammatory Response 101: Simple Science

While the actual process is very complicated, I’m going to break the process down into a short simple process the best I can.

  1. It all starts with an initial injury, or muscle damage, that signals an inflammatory response [1].

  2. Within the first two hours, there is a flood of white blood cells (neutrophils in particular) to the site of damage [2]. Depending on the severity of the injury, the level of white blood cells will stay elevated for 24-48 hours.

  3. Neutrophils begin to repair the damage by quickly forming temporary tissue, while another type of organism, macrophages, starts to engulf any dead or injured muscle tissue and remove it.

  4. While it’s not known with 100 percent certainty, studies show that the concentration of neutrophils is correlated with the amount of inflammation [3].

The Consequences of Inflammation

hip flexor inflammationAs you’ve seen first hand, a swollen Hip Flexor is painful. However, there’s a bigger consequence you should be aware of. During this initial inflammatory response, there is secondary damage occurring. Those macrophages have a tendency to release oxygen free radicals while consuming damaged tissue, and these free radicals can damage the existing healthy tissue [4].

How to Treat a Hip Flexor Injury

Here’s the part that you actually care about, but you needed to know that other stuff first. Treating swelling with anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen is a controversial method. While it will relieve pain, it may serve to slow down the healing process from the inflammatory response. What researchers are currently looking to do is to inhibit the production of those damaging oxygen free radicals, which will allow the white blood cells to clean up the injury site as fast as possible and limit secondary damage.

So what should you do? If it’s a major injury go see a doctor immediately. If it’s minor swelling, you have the choice to do nothing and let the inflammatory response do it’s healing process or to take common anti-inflammatories or ice the injury, which might slow down healing but will be less painful. Either way, the more rest you can get in the first few days of the injury, the better off you will be.