The hip flexors are a group of muscles that help you move, or flex, your leg and knee up towards your body.
A hip flexor strain occurs when one or more of the hip flexor muscles becomes stretched or torn.
More About Your Injury
Hip flexors allow you to bend your knee and flex your hip. Sudden movements, such as sprinting, kicking, and changing direction while running or moving, can stretch and tear the hip flexors.
Runners, people who do martial arts, and football, soccer, and hockey players are more likely to have this type of injury.
Other factors that can lead to hip flexor strain include:
- Weak muscles
- Not warming up
- Stiff muscles
- Trauma or falls
What to Expect
You will feel a hip flexor strain in the front area where your thigh meets your hip. Depending on how bad the strain is, you may notice:
- Mild pain and pulling in the front of the hip.
- Cramping and sharp pain. It may be hard to walk without limping.
- Severe pain, spasms, bruising, and swelling. The top of the thigh muscle may budge. It will be hard to walk. These are signs of a complete tear, which is less common. You may have some bruising down the front of your thigh a few days after injury.
You may need to use crutches for a severe strain.
Follow these steps for the first few days or weeks after your injury:
- Rest. Stop any activity that causes pain.
- Ice the area for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for 2 to 3 days. DO NOT apply ice directly to your skin. Wrap the ice in a clean cloth first.
- Take pain medicine if you need to. For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You can buy these pain medicines at the store.
Talk with your health care provider before using pain medicines if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or have had stomach ulcers or internal bleeding in the past. DO NOT take more than the amount recommended on the bottle or by your provider.
Your doctor may recommend exercises to help stretch and strengthen your hip flexors. While resting the area, you may want to do exercises that do not strain your hip flexors, such as swimming.
For a severe strain, you may want to see a physical therapist (PT). The therapist will work with you to:
- Stretch and strengthen your hip flexor muscles and other muscles that surround and support that area.
- Guide you in increasing your activity level so you can return to your former activities.
Self-care at Home
Follow your provider's recommendations for rest, ice, and pain relief medicines. If you are seeing a PT, be sure to do the exercises as directed. Following a care plan will help your muscles heal and help prevent future injury.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if you do not feel better in a few weeks with treatment.
Pulled hip flexor - aftercare; Hip flexor injury - aftercare; Hip flexor tear - aftercare; Iliopsoas strain - aftercare; Strained iliopsoas muscle - aftercare; Torn iliopsoas muscle - aftercare; Psoas strain - aftercare
McMillan S, Busconi B, Montano M. Hip and thigh contusions and strains. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 87.
Reider BC, Daview GJ, Provencher MT. Muscle strains about the hip and thigh. In: Reider BC, Daview GJ, Provencher MT. Orthopaedic Rehabilitation of the Athlete. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 24.
Update Date 5/9/2015
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, assistant professor, chief, sports medicine and shoulder service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.