The 5 most common hip flexor pain causes (and 3 ways PT can help ease it)

There is a group of muscles located across the front of your upper thighs, called hip flexors. They help you lift your knees up toward your chest as well as flex your waist, which means they are used for everything from exercising to dancing. But even just taking a step utilizes your hip flexors, which can make walking difficult if you start to feel pain in the muscles.

Hip flexor pain can do more than just cause an ache as you walk. It can also reduce your range of motion, which can interfere with your ability to handle your everyday tasks.

Read on to learn about symptoms connected to possible hip flexor problems, what those potential problems are and physical therapy techniques that can help alleviate the pain.

Symptoms connected to a hip flexor issue

When you have a hip flexor issue, pain is usually the most prevalent symptom. But there are a few other signs of an issue that could be coupled with the ache. 

If you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you may have an issue with your hip flexor that needs to be treated.

Hip flexor issue symptoms include:

  • Mild to sharp pain.
  • Pulling at the front of your hip.
  • Cramping.
  • Walking with a limp.
  • Spasms.
  • Difficulty standing up from a chair.
  • Difficulty climbing stairs.
  • Bruising or swelling.

5 issues that can cause hip flexor pain

Hip flexor pain is common, especially in athletes who constantly lift their knees, such as dancers, runners and soccer players. In fact, hip injuries make up 5% to 28% of injuries within high-risk sport groups. 

There are a few potential issues that can result in hip flexor pain. Some stem from general wear and tear, while others are conditions that may need further medical assistance.

Five possible issues that can cause hip flexor pain include:

  • Poor posture — Your hips play a huge role in your posture, especially when you’re sitting. This is because incorrect posture often stems from your lower back, which is connected to your hip bones by a joint called the sacroiliac joint. An anterior pelvic tilt can also cause poor posture, which occurs when the hip flexors shorten, and the front of your pelvis drops in relation to the back of the pelvis.
  • Arthritis — Joint inflammation can occur in nearly every part of the body. Arthritis in the hip refers to the breakdown of cartilage in the hip joint, resulting in the bones rubbing together. Arthritis in the hip can cause flexor pain, and it can also cause stiffness as well as a clicking sound during movement.
  • Strains — Hip flexor strains are one of the most common types of injuries to the flexor muscles, especially for athletes. The flexors can become strained due to overuse of the muscles and tendons. It’s usually an indicator of a muscle tear, which can range from Grade I to Grade III, depending on the severity of the torn fibers.
  • Bursitis — In the hip, there are two main bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints and allow for smooth movement. One bursa is located on the bony point of the hip bone, while the other is on the groin side of the hip. If the bursae become inflamed, you could experience pain in the hip flexors, especially while going up stairs or getting up after sitting for a prolonged period of time.
  • Tendinitis — When the tendons around the hip are pulled due to overuse of the muscle, the tendons can become irritated. Tendinitis can cause pain in the hip as well as tenderness. You may also be able to feel, or even hear, a clicking or snapping sound in your hip as you walk.

3 physical therapy techniques to treat hip flexor pain

When you’re feeling hip flexor pain, physical therapy is one of the best treatment options to alleviate the ache. Not only can it help reduce the pain, but it can also help stretch and strengthen the hip flexor muscles to reduce the risk of pain or injury in the future. 

There are a few techniques that your physical therapist may try to treat your hip flexor pain, including:

  • Soft tissue mobilization — Your hip flexor pain often stems from the tissue surrounding your flexor muscles where the tension lives. Your therapist can use their hands in massagelike movements to loosen tight tissue and alleviate the pain.
  • Joint mobilization — As several of the potential hip flexor issues center on the joints, it’s important to tackle those to increase their range of motion. By using their hands to maneuver a joint around, a physical therapist can find the tissue that’s causing the restriction. When they loosen up the tissue, the joint can have improved mobility.
  • Exercises — It’s important to stretch and strengthen your hip flexor muscles and tendons; it can help to reduce the pain and increase your hip’s flexibility and stability to decrease the risk of future injuries, such as strains. Your physical therapist can walk you through how to safely and effectively execute hip flexor exercises.

Lattimore PT can help alleviate hip flexor pain

Pain in any part of your body can make it difficult to carry out your daily activities, but it’s especially frustrating when even walking is a painful experience. Our physical therapy treatments can help reduce your hip flexor pain to get you back to enjoying your afternoon walks, dancing with your friends and playing sports on the weekends.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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