HIP MUSCLE STRAINS
The hip and thigh play a crucial role in the function of walking, sitting, standing and bending. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket, weight-bearing joint that allows the leg to move and rotate while keeping the body stable and balanced. A hip muscle strain can occur instantly, or over time from the deterioration of the muscles and tendons within the hip. Although many hip strains improve with home treatment, severe strains may need physical therapy and possibly even surgery.
The thigh bone (femur) and the pelvis, the large bones that make up the hip joints, serve as anchors for several muscles. Some move across the abdomen or the buttocks (hip flexors, gluteals), while others move down the thigh to the knee (adductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors).
Hip strains frequently occur near the point where the muscle joins with the tendons—fibrous, tough tissues that connect bones to muscles. The strain may be a simple stretch in your muscle or tendon; however, it could also be a partial or complete tear of muscle fibers, or of the muscle and tendon combination.
A hip strain occurs when one of the muscles supporting the hip joint is stretched beyond its limit or is torn. Anyone can experience a hip strain from just daily tasks, but most strains occur during sports activities. A hip strain can be an acute injury, meaning it happens suddenly. For example, a fall or a direct blow during contact sports could result in a hip strain and immediate pain. Overuse of the hip muscles can cause the muscle or tendon to slowly become weak over time due to repetitive movement, potentially resulting in a hip strain. Factors that give you a higher chance of experiencing a hip strain include:
- Prior injury in the same area
- Muscle tightness
- Failure to warm up properly before exercising
- Attempting to do too much, too quickly, when you exercise
Once the muscle is injured, it becomes vulnerable to re-injury. Repeated strains in muscles around the hip region may result in a sports hernia, also known as athletic pubalgia.
A hip muscle strain causes pain and tenderness in the injured area. Other symptoms may include an increased pain while using the injured muscle, swelling, limited range of motion, and muscle weakness.
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, then you may have sprained your hip muscle. Before seeking an official diagnosis, it is beneficial to do the non-surgical treatments listed below. If pain persists, your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician will conduct a physical examination, as well as X-rays to determine what part of the hip is injured, if there are any other injuries and if surgery will be necessary.
Many hip strains will improve with home treatment alone. More severe cases will need to be treated surgically by a medical professional. Your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician will help determine the right treatment plan for you based on the severity of your injury.
Mild strains can be treated with the R.I.C.E. protocol:
- Rest. Avoid activities that put weight on the hip for the first few days after the injury.
- Ice. Apply ice immediately after the injury to keep the swelling down. Use cold packs for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin.
- Compression. Lightly wrap the area in a soft bandage or wear compression shorts to prevent additional swelling.
- Elevation. Rest with your leg raised up higher than your heart as often as possible.
In addition to R.I.C.E., your Florida Orthopaedic Institute physician may recommend using crutches to limit weight on your hip for several days. Other recommendations include:
- Heat therapy. 72 hours after the injury occurs, alternating ice with heat therapy—which may consist of soaking in a hot bath or using a heat lamp or heating pad—may help relieve pain and improve range of motion.
- Home exercise program. Specific exercises can strengthen the muscles supporting the hip and help to improve muscle flexibility and endurance.
- Physical therapy. If pain continues after a few weeks of home exercise, your physician may recommend formal physical rehabilitation, which can provide you with an individualized exercise program to improve flexibility and strength.
- Medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) and Aleve (naproxen) can help reduce swelling and relieve pain as well.
If the muscle fibers are completely torn, surgery may be required to regain normal function and movement in the hip. Typically, surgery involves stitching the torn pieces of muscle back together.
In most cases, you should avoid the activity that caused your injury for 10-14 days. The more severe the damage, the longer your recovery period should be. If you begin to feel pain when you restart strenuous activity, go back to doing activities that do not cause pain.
The following precautions can be taken to help avoid future hip muscle strains:
- Condition your muscles with a regular exercise program suited for your age and activity level.
- Warm up before any exercise session or sports activity, including practice.
- Wear or use appropriate protective gear for your sport.
- Take time to cool down after exercise. Give your muscles a chance to cool down and relax after exercising.
- Allow your muscles the time needed to heal fully and properly before you return to sports. Do not return to preinjury activity until your muscle strength and flexibility are back to normal.
If you still have hip pain after following the above treatments, then book an appointment to see one of the physicians at Florida Orthopaedic Institute.