The hip flexors are powerful muscles you use in every stride while walking, jogging and sprinting. Pain or injury to your hip flexor muscles can affect athletic performance and limit your ability to perform daily activities including squatting, kneeling and walking stairs. Running commonly triggers hip flexor pain.
The hip flexor muscles contract to move the hip forward and raise the thigh forward when you walk or run. The main hip flexor is the iliopsoas muscle, which attaches to the anterior aspect of the femur, the anterior hip and vertebra in the lumbar spine. When strained, this long, powerful muscle can limit hip motion and lead to pain in the upper thigh, hip and lower back.
A hip flexor strain can be the result of an overly forceful contraction, such as kicking or sprinting, but the most common cause of running-induced hip flexor pain is overuse. Over-training causes micro-trauma to the muscle because the athlete is doing too much and not getting adequate rest between training sessions. These micro-traumas accumulate and eventually result in muscle strain and pain.
Prevent hip flexor injuries by starting your exercise at an appropriate level for yourself and increasing in gradual increments. Pay close attention to how your body feels before, during and after training to help prevent over-training. Warm up thoroughly to prepare the body for running by boosting blood flow to the muscles and increasing joint motion. Cool down properly to lessen muscle tension and increase flexibility.
You can stretch the hip flexor muscles easily from a standing position. Bend one hip and knee backward, grab that ankle with the hand on same side, and slowly pull your heel toward your buttocks until you feel a comfortable stretch in the front of your hip. If you cannot reach your ankle, use a towel or rope for assistance. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. When finished, repeat with your uninjured leg. Next, perform this stretch using the opposite-side hand to target the muscles at a slightly different angle.
Ice the painful area for 20 to 25 minutes after training. Depending on the severity of your pain, you might need to take time off from running and substitute a cardiovascular exercise that doesn't aggravate the hip flexor pain. Implement a program of hip strengthening, stretching and balance training to rehabilitate your injury. Seek professional treatment from a doctor of chiropractic to maximize your body's healing capabilities through the restoration of proper nerve flow and the optimization of musclo-skeletal motion.
- Richard Stockton College Athletic Training: Hip Flexor Strain
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Hip Pain in Athletes
- "Journal of Chiropractic Medicine"; Effect of chiropractic treatment on hip extension ability and running velocity among young male running athletes; Jörgen Sandell et al.; June 2008
- Asha for Education: Bob and Jean Anderson's Top Ten Running Stretches
- "Stretching: 30th Anniversary Edition"; Bob Anderson; 2010