Muscle strains (IT band, groin, hip flexor)

Overview

A muscle strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon (the tissue that connects a muscle to a bone) and can range from a minor stretch injury to a partial or complete tear of the muscle fibers or tendon. The injury often happens at the junction where the muscle and tendon meet (musculotendinous junction). Common places for muscle strains in the hip and thigh include the hip flexors, lower abdomen/groin, adductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings.  

A muscle strain in the hip or thigh can be related to an acute injury or from chronic repetitive overuse injuries. You might feel a “popping” or “tearing” sensation when the injury happens. Risk factors include participating in sports and fitness activities or working in a physically demanding job. A history of a prior muscle strain or injury may increase your risk for having an injury to that same area again, especially if the previous injury was not adequately treated. Other risk factors may include muscle tightness, muscle imbalances, and inadequate conditioning.    

The symptoms of a hip/thigh muscle strain include pain, bruising, swelling, reduced motion, weakness, and difficulty walking. For a hamstring injury, you may have pain with sitting. Using the injured muscle or tendon will cause increased pain.

The diagnosis is often achieved through a careful history and physical examination. Imaging may be recommended to evaluate the severity of the injury. Diagnostic ultrasound or MRI are excellent imaging modalities for evaluating soft tissue injuries such as muscle strains.

The initial treatment of a muscle strain includes rest/activity modification, ice, compression, and elevation. If the injury is severe and you are having a hard time walking, protected weight-bearing with crutches or a cane may be recommended initially. Over-the-counter pain relievers may be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Your provider may recommend using a brace for certain injuries.

Physical therapy is often recommended, including strengthening and stabilization exercises, as well as aiding in return to activity.

While most hip/thigh strains are successfully treated without surgery, surgical intervention may be considered if there is a severe injury with a complete tear of the muscle/tendon.  

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