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How To Treat a Hip Flexor Injury from Running

How To Treat a Hip Flexor Injury from Running

Your hip flexor muscles are a group of muscles that help to propel you while you’re running. Pain or injury to this group of muscles can negatively affect your running and can even limit your ability to perform otherwise simple tasks such as squatting, kneeling, and climbing stairs. 

Anatomy of the Hip Flexors 

The hip flexor muscles move the thigh forward and up by contracting when you walk or run. There are a number of hip flexor muscles, including the iliopsoas, iliacus, sartorius, and the rectus femoris. When you suffer a hip flexor strain, it’s quite common to have multiple muscle groups affected. If the hip flexors are strained, the range of motion of your hip can be limited and you may also experience pain in the upper thigh, hip, and/or lower back. 

Causes of a Hip Flexor Injury

The most common cause of hip flexor injury from running is overuse that is typically caused by poor posture or faulty biomechanics. However, it can also be caused by a traumatic injury that involves an overly forceful contraction of the muscles. This can occur with tripping, kicking, or sprinting type of activities. 

Overuse of the muscle occurs when you’re using the muscle too much and it’s not getting enough rest in between runs. This overuse results in micro-trauma to the muscle, which can eventually accumulate and lead to muscle strain, and ultimately pain. 

Symptoms of a Hip Flexor Injury  

Hip flexor injuries can present with a variety of symptoms including:

  • Sudden, sharp pain or deep achy pain that is felt in the front of the hip
  • Muscle spasms around the hip
  • Hip weakness
  • Gait pattern changes (i.e. limp, shorter stride length)
  • Pain with flexing the hip that is worse with resistance
  • Pain and stiffness that is especially noticeable after prolonged rest or sitting 

In the case of a an overuse injury due to running, you will notice that your hip flexor pain will worsen as your activity level increases. Pain that is initially felt at the beginning of a run may partially subside during the middle of your run. However, the pain will slowly increase as your run progresses past the half way point, and worsen the longer and farther your run. 

Treatment for a Hip Flexor Injury  

Depending on the severity of your injury, you might have to take a bit of time off from running. You can instead participate in an activity that doesn’t aggravate your pain, such as cycling, elliptical training, rowing, and/or swimming. 

If you’re able to continue running with your hip flexor injury, you’ll want to cut back on training by 25% to 50% and avoid hill and speed work. After each training session, ice the area for 10 to 15 minutes to help minimize inflammation and pain. 

Additionally, start a stretching program for the hip muscles and a strengthening program for the hip and core muscles, as well as balance training. This will help speed up healing and prevent re-injury. 

Another important aspect of treatment is to have your gait pattern analyzed while you’re running. A trained physical therapist is the best person to do this for you. They can identify and address any biomechanical or posture abnormalities that may be contributing to your hip flexor pain and make the necessary corrections. 

Prevention of Hip Flexor Injury  

In some cases, you can prevent a hip flexor injury from happening. Some things that you can try to minimize your risk include:

  • Warm up prior to running to increase blood flow to the hip flexor muscles and increase hip joint range of motion
  • Run at an appropriate level and gradually increase frequency and intensity of training
  • Cool down properly after each run to relieve muscle tension
  • Pay attention to your body signals before, during, and after each run – small changes in the way your body feels may indicate that you need to reduce training or take a break 

If you’re suffering from hip flexor pain that is persistent or worsening, a consult with one of the physical therapists in Braintree at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation can help. Our physical therapist in Braintree, Plymouth, Wymouth, and Boston will evaluate your condition and get you appropriate treatment to help reduce your pain and get you back to your normal training schedule.