Ever since I started up my soccer season and completed a grand total of 2 games, my left hip flexor has been bothering me. I’ve started to notice a slightly alarming, yet recurring pattern with this problem, and I’ve managed to conclude that the pain in my left hip flexor is possibly due to the fact that I have a career in which 90 percent of my work day is spent sitting in front of computer. Combine that with the quick, sudden movements involved in kicking a ball and sprinting on a soccer field and voila!
Hip flexor issues.
I’ve been doing a little research on how to *hopefully rectify my hip flexor issues, and I figured I’d share some of my findings below.
What are your hip flexors?
Your hip flexors consist of a group of skeletal muscles that allow your hip to bend and flex. This group of muscles are often referred to as the following:
Iliopsoas (Inner hip muscles):
- Psoas major
- Psoas minor
- Iliacus muscle
Anteriror (outer thigh):
- Rectus femoris
- Tensor fasciae latae (gluteal muscle)
Medial (middle thigh):
- Adductor longus
- Adductor brevis
Causes of injury
Contrary to popular belief, most problems that occur with your hip flexors aren’t due to a lack of strength but are due, instead, to a lack of flexibility (which is definitely a problem for me). For example, if you have a desk job in which you are sitting for hours on end, day after day, your hip flexors will begin to shorten and shrink, limiting your ability to fully extend your hip. The result is an increase in pressure on the joints of your lower spine, which can lead to all sorts of other problems in the long term. Other everyday examples of things that might cause you to injure or strain your hip flexors include (but are not limited to):
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Desk job and/or too much prolonged sitting
- Explosive movement (i.e. sprinting, kicking a ball, etc.)
The most common symptoms associated with hip flexor strains is a sort of shooting pain that starts in the front of your hip and may travel down the front of your thigh. It will hurt or feel incredibly uncomfortable to try to lift your knee to your chest, run, jump or possibly walk. In some cases, you may experience a small amount of swelling, depending on the severity of your strain.
Depending on how awful you feel, it may be a wise decision to make an appointment with your doctor just to make sure that you haven’t caused further injury to the area. However, most care that you do yourself will involve REST, ICE, and FLEXIBILITY.
Hip flexor strains are often a problem for athletes, especially soccer players (unfortunately for me) because there are a lot of forceful contractions during the course of just one game. Between powerful kicks associated with crossing passes, corner kicks and shots on goal, these kinds of explosive movements can cause “micro traumas”, which are tiny tears in your muscle that accumulate over time and can eventually result in strain and pain- especially if you’ve returned to a sport or activity too soon and/or have failed to address flexibility problems. By the way, did I mention that I returned to my first game of the soccer season after having (literally) just gotten back from a 12 hour drive from New York the day before; and also after I had just taken like 2 weeks off from working out?
The best solution to hip flexor strain is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This is done through improved flexibility.
Take the time to warm up your muscles before you engage in any physical activity, and if you haven’t done so already, try to have a routine of stretches that you perform before any exercise as this will help reduce your risk for injury. If you work long hours at a desk, schedule “breaks” in which you get up, walk around and maybe perform a couple of stretches. You may also want to look into a more ergonomic chair or accessories to help your posture while working.
In the meantime, below is a demonstration of three different types of hip flexor stretches that, if performed consistently, will aid you in improving flexibility in your hips, thus preventing injury.