Hip Flexors: Anatomy, Functions, Injury Treatment, and More

Hip flexors are a group of muscles that connect your trunk and legs in flexion. These muscles allow you to move your knee or leg up towards your torso and bend your hips forward at the hip. Through sudden movements and falls, you can cause injury or strain to your hip flexor muscles. This article will discuss hip flexor muscles. This article explains the anatomy, function, and care of your hip flexor muscles.

Hip Flexor Anatomy and Function

Flexion is a movement that reduces the angle between two parts of your body. Flexion is when a flexor muscle contracts and draws two bones together. It often bends at a joint. The hip flexors are responsible for bringing together the bones in the hip and spine at the hip joint. These muscles won’t work if the hip is already flexed (e.g. when you sit down).

Sedentary lifestyles can cause tight and weak hip flexors. They are often in a shorter position. Tight hip flexors can cause limited mobility, poor posture, hip pain, injuries, and lower back pain. Standing and performing movements like squatting, running, climbing stairs or riding a bike, your hip flexors are working hard.

Hip Flexor Muscles

The hip flexor muscles include:

  • Psoas Major: The psoas muscle is a deep muscle connecting your spine and your leg. It’s the only muscle capable of doing so. It runs down your lower back, through your pelvis, and then to your front hip, where it connects to the top of the femur (which is your thigh bone).
  • Iliacus: The iliacus, a flat triangular muscle located deep in your pelvis, is called the iliacus. It attaches to your pelvis and your femur (thigh bone). Its primary function is to rotate and flex your thigh.
  • Rectus Femoris: This quadriceps muscle attaches your pelvis to your patellar tendon. The rectus femoris can be exercised by lunges or squats.
  • Pectineus: This flat, quadrangular, muscle lies at the top of your inner thigh. It is also known as your groin muscles. It is responsible for hip flexion, and rotation of your thigh and adducts. This means that it pulls your legs together as the muscles contract.
  • Sartorius: The long, thin muscle of the sartorius runs from your pelvis down to your knee. It is the longest muscle in our body, and it helps us flex our knees and legs.

Symptoms of Hip Flexor Injury

A strained or torn hipflexor is characterized by pain in the hip area where it meets your thigh. You may experience:

  • Mild pulling and pain
  • Cramping, sharp pain, and/or severe discomfort
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Muscle spasms in the event of a complete tear

When you get up from a squat, or when you stand after sitting down, you may feel pain or a pulling sensation. It can be difficult to walk if you have a complete tear. This isn’t nearly as common as a strain.

Causes of Hip Flexor Pain

When you perform sudden movements, such as running or kicking, it is possible to strain or tear your hip flexors. This is more likely in sports and athletic activities such as running, football, soccer, and martial arts. When you fall or slip, your hip flexor can be strained.

If you have had a hip flexor injury in the past, if your muscles aren’t properly warmed up before you engage in any athletic activity, or if your muscles are weak or tight from overuse, then you are more likely to sustain one. You can also risk a hip flexor injury if you do too many things at once or for too long.

Diagnostics for Hip Flexor Problems

Current efforts to improve muscle injury grading and classification systems are underway. They will be better able to provide more accurate diagnostics. The traditional grading system can still be used.

  • Grade I (Mild)
    Grade I injuries are mildly painful muscle tears that may cause tenderness and swelling. You can continue to do your normal activities, including sports. It might take several weeks for your body to fully recover.
  • Grade II (Moderate)
    Grade II injuries are larger tears in the muscles that make it more difficult to move. They can also cause moderate pain when you try to move the affected muscles. A loss of function may cause you to be unable to walk or feel tired. Until the tear heals completely, you can’t return to sports activities. It can take several weeks for these injuries to heal depending on the severity.
  • Grade III (Severe)
    A complete tear in your muscle can cause severe pain and swelling. It is difficult to walk if you can’t support your weight. Your muscle function has also been reduced by more than half. These types of injuries are rarer and may require surgery to repair the muscle. It can take up to six months for them to fully heal.

Hip Flexor Treatment

You should be able to treat your hip flexor tear or strain at home as long as it is not severe. Here are some suggestions:

  • Protection: Keep your injury from getting worse. You can wrap your injury with a bandage or brace.
  • Rest: Avoid activities that can cause pain and stay off your hips for the first few days.
  • Ice: Ice or a reusable pack of ice can be used to reduce swelling and pain. For the next two to three weeks, apply the ice immediately after the injury has occurred.
  • Compression: Wrap the area in a bandage to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Lift your leg so that it is higher than your heart. This reduces swelling and inflammation. This can be difficult to do if you have a hip injury. Ask your healthcare provider or physical therapist for specific protocols.

To reduce pain and swelling, you can also use over-the-counter medications such as Advil (ibuprofen), Motrin (naproxen), or Advil (ibuprofen). Tylenol (acetaminophen) works to relieve pain but does not treat inflammation or swelling.

Before you take any medication, consult your healthcare provider if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, ulcers, or experienced internal bleeding.

When Should You See a Healthcare Provider?

If you don’t feel better within a few weeks, or if your hips and legs aren’t moving well, it is time to visit your healthcare provider. You may need other treatments or your injury may not be related to hip flexors.

Physical Therapy

You might be offered exercises that you can do at home such as hip flexor stretching. You may need to visit a physical therapist if your strain is not improving or if it’s severe. You may need to use crutches to get your muscles back together after a complete tear.

Soft tissue release techniques, trigger point therapy, and trigger point therapy are also options. Both of these therapies can be used to relieve and treat pain. Soft tissue release, a form of advanced massage therapy that targets damaged or tangled muscle fibers and helps strengthen them, is an advanced type of massage therapy.

Trigger point therapy is a form of trigger point therapy that focuses on trigger spots. These are areas that can cause pain when they become compressed. It can relieve pain by applying pressure to these trigger points. This can be achieved with dry needling or chiropractic care.

How to Prevent Hip Flexor Problems

These tips will help you avoid hip flexor injuries:

  • Warm up before you begin any exercise or other physical activity.
  • Do a cool-down after any activity. Slowly stretch each muscle and keep it for a few seconds.
  • Regular exercise is a good way to keep your muscles strong. Bridges, lunges, and straight leg raises are all good exercises to strengthen and stretch your hip flexors. These shouldn’t be too difficult to do.
  • Strengthen your core muscles and glutes. These muscles are essential for balance and stability, and they also help you to move around in everyday life and exercise. If one of these muscles is weak or tight, it can cause injury to another. So make sure that you pay equal attention.
  • Be sure to fully heal your injury before you return to regular sports or exercise. Also, make sure your muscles are as strong and flexible as they were before the injury. You can reinjure yourself if you don’t allow enough time for healing.

Important Facts

  • The primary muscle responsible for flexing the hip is the pectineus. The psoas minor, iliacus, and rectus femoris are all hip flexors. Each one has its own role.
  • Tight or weak hip flexors can cause limited motion, pain in the lower back, hips, and poor posture.
  • Hip flexors are located mainly in and around the pelvis. The muscles attach to the thigh bone or spine from where they originate. Some muscles, such as the rectus femoris, reach down to the knee joint.
  • Hip flexor pain occurs where the hip meets the pelvis in your upper groin. It can be felt in the front or back of the hips, the inner thigh, the front of your thighs, and the top of your head. Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause tight hip flexors.
  • It can be helpful to stretch your hip flexors prior to and/or after exercise or when they feel tight. This will help reduce pain and increase the range of motion. Use your judgment. The stretch should feel either mildly sore or good.
  • Don’t force your hip flexors to stretch if it causes you pain. You can over-stretch the hip flexors, which can make your pain worse. You may have tried stretches to alleviate hip flexor pain but failed. Take a break from stretching for a couple of days to see if it helps.
  • You can relieve sore hip flexors with moist heat, ice, and over-the counter NSAID pain relievers such as Aleve (naproxen) or Advil (ibuprofen). For pain relief and tightening of the hip flexors, hip flexor exercises can be used.
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