Your hip flexors are responsible for bringing your knee up towards your chest. They also play a role in rotating your thigh and trunk together and stabilizing the pelvis. If you overuse or strain them, you may experience pain in the front of your hip or thigh and reduced hip flexor function.
In this post, we’ll cover hip flexor rehab to help you heal faster. As always, seek appropriate medical attention in the event of injury.
What is a Hip Flexor Strain?
A hip flexor strain is an injury to the hip flexor muscles. These muscles are located on the front of the hip and allow you to lift your leg. A hip flexor strain can occur when you suddenly stretch or contract these muscles. It’s more common if you have tight hip flexors, which cause limited hip mobility. Hip flexor wounds can often be associated with hamstring strains.
What Causes a Hip Flexor Injury?
This kind of injury is usually caused by a sudden movement that overstretches the hip flexor muscles, which include the iliacus, psoas major, psoas minor (also all known as iliopsoas), and rectus femoris.
It causes a soft tissue injury, damaging muscle tissue and reducing mobility in the hips and low back.
It can happen when you make a quick change in direction while running or sprinting, or when you lift your leg suddenly without warming up first. A hip flexor strain is a common injury in athletes, particularly runners, soccer players, and football players.
Symptoms of Hip Flexor Strain
Symptoms of a hip flexor strain include:
- Pain in the hip or groin area, sometimes in the lower back.
- Stiffness and weakness in the hip muscles
- Bruising or swelling in the affected area
- Difficulty walking without limping
- Muscle spams
Treatment for a hip flexor strain includes ice, rest, and physical therapy. A severe strain or hip flexor tear may require surgery, especially if conservative therapy fails.
Hip Rehab Protocol
Most hip flexor strains can be treated as minor injuries and can be treated at home with RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
You can use over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling throughout recovery.
Rest your hip and avoid intense exercise. Limit physical activity until you’re feeling better. Follow the prescribed physical therapy program and medical advice as recommended by your healthcare professional.
Hip Flexor Exercises
The following hip-strengthening exercises will target the group of muscles in and surrounding your hips. These exercises will stretch, strengthen, and improve your range of motion – ultimately helping with pain relief and hopefully helping improve your quality of life.
Hip Flexor Stretch
- Kneel down on your left knee.
- Put your left arm up and back slightly.
- Maintain the pose for 30 seconds, then release.
- Perform the stretch three times, then switch sides and repeat.
You can also perform a similar stretch by letting your legs hang off the edge of a table and bringing your knee up to your chest.
Hip Flexor Stretch Kneeling
- To begin, kneel on the ground with one knee bent and your feet flat.
- Put your hands on your hips. Slowly lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the front of your thigh of the back leg.
- Maintain this position for 30 seconds before returning to your starting position.
- Repeat this stretch two to three times.
- Lie on your back in the supine position (face up) with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, about hip-width apart.
- Put your arms at your sides with your hands’ palms down.
- As you inhale, press into your feet and lift your hips, buttocks, and lower back off the ground, extending your thighs, so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Keep your abs engaged and breathe deeply as you hold this pose for up to one minute.
- Release by exhaling as you slowly lower your hips back to the starting position.
- Repeat two to three times.
- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a big step forward with your right leg, and lower your body down into a lunge position, keeping your left leg straight behind you. Be sure to keep your torso upright and your front knee lined up directly over your ankle.
- Press through your right heel to standing, and bring your left leg forward to meet your right.
- Repeat on the other side. Perform at least 10 reps, or as many as you can comfortably complete.
- Step forward with your left leg, keeping your right foot planted firmly behind you.
- Lean your torso forward, hinging at your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your right thigh.
- Keeping your abs engaged, exhale, and drive your left knee up toward your chest.
- Slowly lower your leg back to your starting position.
- Perform 12-15 reps on one side before switching sides.
If you need an extra challenge, try adding a resistance band.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
- Lie on your back. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat.
- Lift your hips to form a straight line with your body from your shoulders to your knees.
- Stop at the top, hold for a few seconds, then lower your hips back to the floor.
- Lie flat on your back. Put your hands by your side or under your glutes.
- With your legs straight out in front, start twisting them in and out like a pair of scissors. Engage your core as you move, and keep your lower back flat on the ground.
- Your back should remain flat on the mat while you move.
- Work for 30 seconds, then rest. Repeat three more times.
- Get on the ground in a tabletop position (on all fours).
- Extend your right leg out and bend at 90 degrees.
- Kick your leg straight up, keeping your core activated.
- Repeat each side as fast or slow as you’re comfortable with.
- Hold your leg in a straight position and then a bent position as you kick out, so you shift your weight. Be sure to keep your back straight.
- Return to the starting position. Repeat the other side.
Recovery from a Hip Flexor Strain or Tear
A mild strain can heal within about three weeks. If you have a more significant tear, expect to rehab for about six weeks. The most severe tears will require up to eight weeks to heal, with consistent hip flexor rehab.
As a sports medicine doctor, I see hip flexor injuries and muscle strains pretty often. These exercises are an amazing way to start your journey to recovery. Just be sure to reach out to your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.