Hip flexion pain: what causes it?

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Hip flexors provide flexibility and stability for the leg, but sudden movements during sports can cause pain and injury. The rectus femoris, iliacus, and psoas major muscles make up the hip flexors, and strains or compensation for other injuries can cause pain. Recovery involves time, home care, and exercise plans.

The hip flexors help provide flexibility in the hip and stability for the leg. Hip flexion pain is often associated with sudden movement and injury during sporting events. Some of the causes of pain when moving the hip include sharp trauma, strains, and compensation for other injuries.
Three muscles make up the hip flexors: the rectus femoris, illiacus, and psoas major. In addition to providing hip motion, the rectus femoris, a quadriceps muscle, also helps extend the knee. The iliacus muscle, which originates from the lower spine, and the psoas major muscle run through the pelvis to the head of the femur. Injury to any of these muscles can cause pain when the leg is moved at the hip, and discomfort typically occurs along the front of the hip and thigh. In addition to pain, patients may also notice movement difficulties and muscle spasms.

Injuries, such as those caused by an accident, fall, or sudden movement, can cause damage to the hip flexors and cause pain. This can occur when an athlete makes a quick or sudden movement in one direction, such as when a soccer player makes a sharp cut with the ball in the opposite direction. The action can cause the hip flexors to pull or strain, resulting in injury and pain.

Strains in these muscles can cause pain when the foot is lifted and/or the knee is pulled towards the chest, as if taking a step. These strains can range from first to third degree. First-degree strains are typically minor, second-degree strains can cause a muscle tear, and third-degree strains cause a complete tear of one of the hip flexor muscles. Athletes or others may often try to continue their normal activity even with a first-degree strain, which can cause further damage.

Offsetting for other injuries or lack of strength can also cause damage to the hip flexors, leading to pain with hip flexion. This includes strains due to lack of strength in the back and abdominal muscles that help stabilize the hip. Injuries to the quadriceps, especially the rectus femoris muscle, can also lead to extra strain on the hip muscles.

Recovering from hip flexor injury and pain usually only takes time and home care. Ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help with pain and any swelling. Qualified physical therapists, athletic trainers, or strength and conditioning coaches can also help develop an exercise and stretching plan to help recover from a hip flexor injury and reduce the chances of it recurring.

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