Your hip flexor is a group of muscles used to lift your leg. They are used every time you walk or run. Therefore, running often or running quickly can leave you susceptible to a hip flexor injury. Treat any hip flexor injury properly, and do not return to running until it heals. This usually takes several weeks.
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The Hip Flexor
The hip flexor is a group of muscles that originate near the hip and run down to your femur, or thighbone. As the name implies, the function of your hip flexor muscles are to flex your hip joint. Flexion occurs when you bring your thigh upward toward your abdomen, reducing the angle of your hip joint. The most common injuries to hip flexors are strains. Strains occur when muscles begin to tear. Your hip flexors are used when you run, so running is a common cause of strains. Strains can develop gradually from running consistently over time or can occur suddenly from rapid acceleration.
Hip flexor strains are classified by grades, from one to three. A grade one strain is characterized by a small number of muscle fibers being torn. This results in minor pain, but full muscle function should remain. Grade two strains occur when a larger number of fibers tear, causing some function loss. Grade three is a complete tear of the muscle resulting in major loss of function and usually extreme pain.
The first step of treatment is rest. Avoid running or participating in athletics until the pain has subsided. Applying ice to the injury can help reduce pain and inflammation. Use ice for 20 minutes every two hours for at least the first two or three days. You can also take pain medication and, if necessary, use crutches to assist in walking. Depending on the severity of your injury, physical therapy may be needed. Your program should include graduated stretching exercises to restore flexibility in your hip. Eventually, you can begin strengthening work to help rebuild your hip flexor muscles.
Return to Running
The last step in your physical therapy will be a running program to ensure your hip flexor is healed and you are suitable to return to physical activity. How long this take varies depending on the severity of your injury. If you suffer a minor injury, you should be able to return in one to three weeks. More serious injuries can take up to eight weeks to fully heal. Do not return to running too early. Resuming strenuous activity too soon can prevent the muscles from fully healing and cause another injury.