Movement in humans is brought about by contraction and relaxation of combination of various kinds of muscles. The two bones at the joint are brought near to one another when the angle between them decreases and it is done by the contraction of muscles in that area. This kind of bending is called flexion. The muscles involved in such an activity are called flexors. The flexors involved in the movement of hip are called hip flexors. The important muscles of hip flexors are iliopsoas and rectus femoris.
Hip flexors help in the hip movement particularly when the knee is moved towards the body and bending movement of waist. In sitting posture, the hip flexors do not have any work. In many people whose nature of job involves sitting in the same place and doing the work always have their hip flexors contracted and they become tight and also gradually become weak.
Hip Flexors Pull
People who have a sedentary work or sedentary lifestyle, the hip flexors are always in tightened position and leads to straining of the hip region1. This continuous contraction may also lead to poor posture, movement to a very little range, pain and pull. The pull or the injury may also occur during changing the directions suddenly while kicking the ball or running. The sportsmen who play soccer, hockey and football have the risk of suffering from hip flexor injury2,3. Even the dancers and martial artists have the chances of getting injury to the hip flexors. The injury can be classified in three grades on the basis of its severity.
The person is able to manage and do the regular works when he/she has a mild injury. Though tenderness and swelling is found, it would be to a smaller extent. This is the first grade of injury in which person recovers within one or two weeks.
In the second stage of injury the person is unable to perform the regular functions. Even the pain, tenderness, swelling and difficulty in moving hip muscles would be more compared to the first grade. The extent of injury would be at a higher level. Sometimes if the injury is almost up to 50% the person starts limping. Of course the recovery period also extends up to several months. Recovery period depends upon the extent of hurt and how fast the person gets medical care.
The swelling and the pain would be so severe in the third grade that the person is not able to bear the body weight on the affected leg. Of course the third grade of injury is not so common. In most of the cases where the hurt is severe, the muscle repair is done only by doing the surgery.
How Do You Know If You Pulled Your Hip Flexor?
The following symptoms are experienced by the person who experienced a pull in the hip flexor:
- Sudden pain
- Muscle cramps
- Sensation of pull
- Difficulty in walking
- Unable to stretch the hip muscles.
In case, you experience any of these symptoms, just know that it might be that you experienced a hip flexor pull and seek help immediately.
Diagnosis of Hip Flexor Injury
The physician diagnoses the injury based on the signs and symptoms. The physical examination is the first way to detect the problem. It may involve Thomas’ test also in which both the knees are pulled up to chest one after the other. Some other tests like ultrasound and MRI’s are also used by the doctors to get to know the exact place of injury and to what extent it is torn.
Treatment for Hip Flexor Pulls
There would be different levels of treatments for different grades of hip flexor pulls. Some of them are listed below:
Taking enough rest when the person feels even a mild pain in the hip region would avoid more suffering.
There are some specific exercises for the patients who have hip flexor pull. They can be performed even at home. In case if the tear is so severe that the patient is unable to carry out the exercises on their own, they can take the assistance of a physiotherapist or a person who have a good knowledge of exercises or about muscles may help in this condition.
- Keeping ice pack on the area where the hip flexor is pulled helps to reduce the swelling and pain4.
- Treating the area with hot water or keeping hot wet patches can also be chosen. Some physiotherapists opt for one more method where the ice and hot packs alternate with each other.
- Compression shorts are also available to facilitate the patient to manage the pain. These makes the stretched muscles to compress for some time and thus minimize the symptoms.
- Inflammation and swelling can also be reduced by keeping the leg at a higher level than the heart4.
In case the person is unable to take immediate physiotherapy or any other medical treatment due to any reason and if the patient has unbearable pain, some OTC medicines are also available which would support to get rid of the symptoms for a short period. However, it is always better to consult a doctor before going for self medication.
Some kinds of injuries can be treated by just massaging with massaging oil or pain relieving oils. Here the soft tissues are the target points which are also called trigger points. By applying a little pressure on these points, the pain can be minimized.
There are many more methods like acupuncture (inserting the dry needles at the affected areas and also to the trigger points) and chiropractic care which would be useful.
Muscle tone of hip flexor can be maintained if the person takes some precautions. Even in case of sedentary jobs, the person should stand up; do some simple exercises which involve hip flexors. Sitting more than one hour may increase the risk of muscle strain. Performing exercises on a regular basis and doing warm up exercises just before commencing strenuous exercises can strengthen the muscles and also increases the flexibility.
- Nevin F, Delahunt E. Adductor squeeze test values and hip joint range of motion in Gaelic football athletes with longstanding groin pain. J Sci Med Sport. 2013
- Taylor CJ, Pizzari T, Ames N, Orchard JW, Gabbe BJ, Cook JL. Groin pain and hip range of motion is different in Indigenous compared to non‐indigenous young Australian football players. J Sci Med Sport. 2011;14(4):283–286
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