A Complete Guide to Hip Flexor Treatment

Before you can treat an injury you must first identify the pain you are experiencing, and what Hip Flexor injury is causing it.

This article is based on the most up-to-date research and will attempt to guide you along the path of quickest recovery. I recommend that you briefly look over the main Hip Flexor muscles before proceeding.

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Hip Flexor Strain Treatment

While treatment is similar for all degrees of pulled Hip Flexors, if you are dealing with a severe tear your physician may opt for a surgical procedure if necessary. Ideally though, you’ll have a slow, but safe recovery without going under the knife.

There are basically three main steps of the muscle tear recovery process [1]:

1. Cells that are severely damaged undergo necrosis (cell death). There is a hematoma (blood pool) in the area between the torn muscle fibers, and inflammation to signal to begin the healing process.

2. Dead tissue is removed while scar tissue is quickly put in place. At the same time new myofibers (a key muscle cell) are produced.

3. Once a suitable structure has been formed, the muscle is remodelled to provide better function. Scar tissue is re-laid into a stronger and more functional orientation.

Our goals for treatment are to speed up the three phases of muscle recovery after a tear, and then deal with the unwanted results (scar tissue) afterwards.

Immediately Following the Injury (for 24-72 hours)

The correct way to treat muscle injuries in the short term is the RICE procedure [2], until immediate pain and inflammation is gone.

rice procedure for acute injuries

Rest: The reason you rest the injured muscle is because further contractions will only widen the gap between the main muscle fibers that have been torn. A wider gap means more scar tissue will be formed later on.

Ice: Applying ice to the injury (without overdoing it) will reduce the hematoma (pool of blood) and can speed up the start of the regeneration process (step 2 from above).

Compression: The science is still not conclusive on the effectiveness of compression [3], but it’s thought to help speed up the healing cycle along with ice. It also helps keep the muscle immobilized, preventing further damage.

Elevation: When the injury is in an elevated position (above your heart) it reduces the amount of fluid that can accumulate in the area.

Following RICE (After 3-5 days)

Once any swelling and most pain has subsided, you can move on to the next part of treatment.

There are two main concerns throughout your rehab process: muscle strength loss and muscle length loss.

Strengthening

hip-flexor-strengthening

The injured muscle isn’t the only muscle at risk of weakening, but the surrounding muscles as well if you don’t exercise them. If your muscles are weak after the injury heals you are likely to re-injure it.

Note that it’s extremely important to only do strengthening work when you do not feel pain. Any pain at all indicates the recovery process is not complete enough for the level of training you are attempting. Doing less is better than doing more here.

There are three types of training you can do:

1. Isometric training (Static): Where you resist varying loads in a fixed position.

2. Isotonic training: Where you resist a specified load in a range of motion

3. Isokinetic (Dynamic): Resisting a varying load over a range of motion

You should progress in that order slowly throughout the course of your recovery, and a thorough warm-up should be done before each session [4]. Here are some strengthening exercises for your Hip Flexors to get you started.

Lengthening

One concern with injuries is that when left unused for an extended time, the afflicted muscle can become shortened and tightened, leaving you vulnerable to re-injury.

To prevent this, you should stretch very gently, and never to the point that you feel pain. It is natural to lose a bit of flexibility while you are healing, you just want to minimize it without slowing down the recovery. Only stretch warm muscles (from massage or heat application), as they will have greater elasticity.

Snapping Hip Syndrome/Hip Flexor Tendonitis Treatment

As explained in the overview articles for these injuries, they are both overuse injuries. The result is inflammation of a tendon that either causes pain directly or when it comes into contact with other structures near your hip.

hip flexor inflammation

If you recognize the signs of snapping hip syndrome or tendonitis, you should immediately stop all activity, as even a little bit can irritate and worsen it. Stretching should also not be done while there is inflammation of any kind, as it will exacerbate the injury.

Following the RICE procedure outlined in the section of treatment for pulled hip flexors, in particular the icing and elevation parts, will help to reduce the inflammation.

Treating Hip Flexor tendonitis in most cases is quite simple, you just need to rest. After most of the inflammation is gone and you start to return to activity, it’s important to keep it very light. Most people have a tendency to return to activity prematurely and as soon as you start doing something strenuously it will come back.

Treating Bruises

Bruises are fairly easy to identify and pretty rare on the Hip Flexors due to the overall small size of the muscles. That being said, they do occur on occasion and look like any other bruise, that will cause pain when touched. There’s no special treatment for bruising other than rest, and unless it’s severe you can continue with normal activity as long as pain doesn’t worsen. A typical bruise heals completely in a few weeks.

Treating Minor Pain/Tightness

Sometimes you don’t have a major injury, but instead just have general discomfort or minor pain that quickly goes away. Most of the time this is due to tightness.

If you are someone who sits for the majority of the day, your hip Flexors are in a shortened, flexed position, which over time quickly affects their resting length. In that position you’ll have no problems, but then when you start walking or running and need that larger range of motion you will experience pain.

To fix this you need to be regularly stretching using these Hip Flexor stretches. On top of that you want to minimize the time spent sitting on anything. To do so either take more frequent breaks or invest in a standing desk, which has many other benefits as well.

If you have an other pain that needs treatment and wasn’t addressed here, I recommend seeking professional Hip Flexor treatment from your physician.