Hip Flexor Strain

No matter what caliber of athlete you are, pain from the hip flexors is common and can be debilitating. The hip flexors are a group of muscles that allow the thigh to be drawn upward during activity. The forward motion allows running, hiking and cycling. Forceful kicking during swimming and running exerts a significant amount of force on these muscles and can cause a hip flexor strain. The resulting inflammation and pain can be relieved by a variety of remedies.

Causes and Symptoms of Hip Flexor Strain


  • Repetitive activity and overuse are the most common causes of hip flexor strains.
  • Acute trauma from a fall or even from forcefully kicking a ball can strain these muscles. The pain is often felt as an ache or burning sensation in the groin region.
  • Muscle imbalance and weakness are often at the heart of these types of injuries.
  • Sedentary jobs and poor posture allows muscle imbalance and weakness to develop. With the hips flexed due to sitting for hours at a time, the hip flexors become tight and are further prone to stretching and injury. For this reason, stand-up desks can facilitate a healthier workplace and improve hip flexor mobility and strength.
  • image001Weakness of other core muscles such as the abdominals and gluteal muscles contribute to the problem.


  • Pain is often the first symptom and can be felt in the hip, thigh and along the front of the upper leg.
  • Motions that raise the knee and flex the thigh towards the chest cause the most pain.
  • Side-to-side movements aggravate more severe cases.

Remedies for Hip Flexor Strain

1. Ice bag compress

Ice is a natural potent anti-inflammatory and applying ice for 20 minutes several times a day will provide pain relief. Continue using ice for 2-3 days until the discomfort subsides.

2. Anti-inflammatory medications

NSAIDs over the counter such as ibuprofen or Aleve can provide effective relief. If you doctor prescribed medication, be sure to take it as directed. Most pain relievers are best taken with food to minimize stomach upset and nausea.

3. Rest

Injuries need time to recover. This is often the most difficult part of the healing process. Most of us want to keep active and often rush back into overdoing physical activity before we are fully healed. Light walking is generally fine, but avoid activities and sports that aggravate your injury. Skip this step and an acute injury can turn into a nagging and chronic problem.

4. Rehabilitation and strengthening exercises

Rehabilitate an injury by active recovery and starting a stretching and strengthening program. As pain subsides and the hip flexor injury heals, focusing on building core strength and increasing hip flexor stamina can prevent future injuries.

Watch this excellent video to see the proper way to perform the top 3 exercises for hip flexor strain rehabilitation, then read on for more exercise options:

  • Straight leg raises

Lie on your back with your knees bent. Straighten the leg on one side and hold the leg extended by tightening the quadriceps muscles. Then raise the leg slowly two feet off the floor. Keep the back straight and in contact with the ground. Try to hold for a 5 to 10 seconds and lower back to the floor. Repeat with the goal of 10 repetitions per side. Be cautious with the injured side and stop if experiencing pain in the hip flexor region.

  • Supine scissor kicks

Lie on your back with hands supporting buttocks. Keep your low back in contact with the ground. Extend both legs straight along the floor and then alternate raising each leg to simulate a kicking motion. Repeat for a total of 20 repetitions. Ensure that the hips do not rock forward and keep the low back firmly pressed into the floor.

  • Standing knee raises

This exercise will increase mobility while strengthening the hip flexors. Either stand supported by grasping a chair back or use a wall to provide extra balance and stability. Raise the knee to hip level slowly but avoid going higher. Slowly lower and repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Be sure to complete this exercise on both sides to ensure balance and symmetric core strength.

  • Hip abduction

Lie down comfortably on your back. Extend both legs flat on the floor straight. Move the injured leg out to the side of your body by sliding it along the ground. When it is as far out as possible hold this position for 10 seconds and feel the contraction of your hip and gluteal muscles. Relax and then repeat for a total of 10 repetitions. Repeat on the opposite uninjured side.

  • Hip flexor stretch

Start by kneeling comfortably on the floor. Bring the uninjured foot forward so that the knee is bent approximately 90 degrees. Place your hand on the injured hip and lean back slightly. This will place a gentle stretch on the injured hip flexor. Hold for 10 seconds and then ease off the tension. Switch to the other leg and repeat. You can increase the stretch to 30 seconds as you feel more comfortable.

  • Quadriceps stretch

Lie on your back with both legs relaxed comfortably. Bring the injured foot towards your buttocks by bending the knee. Grasp your ankle and gently pull towards your buttocks. Hold this for 10-30 seconds and release. Repeat on the opposite side. Another option is to support yourself by holding the back of a chair. Bend the knee and bring your foot towards your buttocks and grasp the ankle. Gently pull and stretch your quadriceps. Be sure to repeat on for the other leg.

  • Heel slide

This helps regain full range of motion. Start by lying on your back with both legs extended and relaxed. Slowly slide one heel towards the buttocks. Keep the low back engaged with the ground and continue bending the knee until it becomes a little uncomfortable. Hold this for about 5-10 seconds and then slowly slide your heel back to starting position. Do 10 repetitions on each side.


Recovery from any injury always depends on the severity of the injury and how easy your body heals. Younger persons simply heal faster as do those in optimum health. Plan on a few weeks at a minimum for recovery. More severe injuries can take up to 6 to 8 weeks and having a physician or physical therapist guide you is a good plan. Always warm up and begin stretches and strengthening exercises slowly when dealing with an injury. As the pain subsides, you can ease back into normal exercise and activities.

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