You Have Just Strained Your Hip Flexor. Here’s What to do.

This will resonate with both goalies and skaters. It can happen on the ice or during your off-ice training. You make a move and ‘zoink’ you feel that pain in the front of your hip. You don’t feel pain at rest, but when you try to extend your hip – like when you walk and your leg goes behind you – you feel pain in the front.

You can walk (if you cannot walk, then you better be phoning your sport med doc ASAP), but you feel that pulling pain in the front with each step. Now what?

Step One:

If it is a practice, league game or off-ice session the key is to stop.

The very best way to make an injury heal faster is to not make it worse.

Sounds like common sense doesn’t it? But you would be amazed at how many players take an injury that might have been completely resolved in two days and put themselves out for 3-6 weeks because they didn’t just stop.

Step Two:

Resist the temptation to keep stretching it or ‘testing’ it. It hurt the last 15 times you stretched on it, it is going to hurt the 16th time. Leave it alone.

Step Three:

Put some ice on it. I know there have been some articles written about NOT icing injuries, but I am still a believer in the early stages of an injury (first 48-hours). Put the ice on for 10-minutes and you can re-apply once the skin is warm to the touch again.

Icing Tip…when you are icing an area, wrap the ice pack or ice bag in a damp cloth. This prevents the ice from freezing your skin.

Step Four:

Rest it. Lay low, stay home. Find a comfortable position.

The next day…

It is likely going to feel stiff and sore in the morning as soon as you get up. That is normal.

Does it feel a little better as you get up and move around? Yes? This is a good sign.

Does it feel even worse as you get up and move around and even worse than it did yesterday? If you are serious about getting back on the ice ASAP, then I would be phoning my sport physiotherapist.

In my opinion, that is a better call than your family doctor, unless they are very good with sports injuries. Most family doctors will give you some sort of anti-inflammatory and prescribe rest (or physio).

The physio will be able to assess the degree of injury and provide some modalities such as ultrasound or ‘stim’ (the electrodes) to help reduce pain and increase blood flow to the area. Then they will be able to guide your return to play.

If the hip is feeling better as you move around…

You are lucky; this might be a very minor tweak. Now you could try some gentle stretching of that hip flexor, but just to the onset of a stretch, which will likely be less than your normal range of movement.

Do not push a little farther, just to see how far you can go before it hurts. This is like pulling a scab off your scraped elbow to see if it is all better yet.

Again, resist the temptation to hit the ice and just ‘try it out’. For today keep icing and go with the gentle stretching. You can do as much of that as you want as long as it is not getting sore.

On The Third Day…

If you wake up this morning and have no pain at all, you can walk without pain, go into a stretch position without pain, this is awesome.

You could get on the ice and try some skating, begin with just normal skating forward, backward, cross overs each way. Then you can do some medium intensity stops and starts. If there is no pain there, then get a puck and take a few shots from a stationary stance, if that is good then practice some shots while skating.

If that all feels perfect, I would still suggest that you step off the ice after about 30-minutes just to see how it will feel later in the day or the next morning.

On The Fourth Day…

If you still feel 100% after the skate yesterday, then I would return to practice and just watch for any return of symptoms.

I would still consider seeing a sport physio just to see if there is something putting you at risk or hip flexor strains (especially if you have had a few of these before).

So that is what to do if you get a minor hip flexor strain. I can’t stress enough that this is a progression for a minor strain that is feeling better every single day. If you have a severe strain (where it is difficult to walk) then I would seek medical care from a sport medicine physician or a sport physiotherapist as soon as possible.


PS – not all injuries can be prevented, but proper training can help you drastically reduce the risk.  This one will help goalies and this one is for skaters.