The hip flexors are a group of muscles toward the front of the hip. They help you move or flex your leg and knee up toward 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 flex your hip and bend your knee. 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.
- Difficulty getting out of a chair or coming up from a squat.
- Difficulty with climbing stairs or walking up or down sloped surfaces.
- 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.
- Gentle stretching to extend your hip can help with recovery.
- 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.
You can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) to reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) helps with pain, but not with swelling. 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 provider may recommend that as you rest the area, you do exercises that don't strain the hip flexors, such as swimming.
For a severe strain, you may want to see a physical therapist (PT). The PT 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 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 likely prevent future injury.
When to Call the Doctor
Contact your 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
Huntoon E, Louise K, Caldwell M. Lower limb pain and dysfunction. In: Cifu DX, ed. Braddom's Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 36.
Obrock BR, Bankhead CP, Richter D. Hip and thigh contusions and strains. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee, Drez, & Miller's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 87.
Review Date 4/24/2023
Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.