What to do For a Pulled or Strained Hip Flexor or Groin Muscle

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If you’re suffering with a strained or pulled hip flexor or groin muscle, this post is for YOU – find out why they happen and more importantly what to do about it.

Unlike other common strains, this area doesn’t follow my typical theory on strains being a symptom of reciprocal inhibition issues between two opposing muscle groups. This injury happens (in my opinion) due to the upper and lower thigh muscles working at odds with each other. Let me explain.

We have a LOT of muscles that flex the hip:

The psoas and iliacus (or iliopsoas), rectus femoris (a quadriceps muscle), sartorius, tensor fascia latae, pectiuneus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus and gracilis.

MOST of these muscles perform other actions as well, such as adduction, abduction (TFL) and knee extension.

A strained or pulled hip flexor most often occurs in dancers, martial artists, runners (especially sprinters or mountain runners who do a lot of uphill work) and soccer, football and hockey players.

What all of these sports have in common:

A LOT of quad dominance! It’s also likely during these sports that you’re asking those muscles of the thigh to both flex the hip AND extend the knee, sometimes at the same time or one after the other with a lot of power (think of kicking a soccer ball, or a jump kick in martial arts).

Of course you can absolutely experience a pulled or strained hip flexor without being one of these athletes, and the cause/solution will likely still be the same.

NO injury, unless traumatic or due to a fall or sudden impact, occurs in isolation or is due to ONE thing you do. Even if the pain comes on suddenly, in all likelihood there’s been a slow build-up of something that has made an injury likely to occur.

It is my opinion that in this case, that something is overworked and fascially restricted lower quad tissue – where the rectus femoris fascia gets stuck to the fascia of vastus intermedius and vastus medialis (two other quad muscles), and starts to pull the adductors, sartorius and gracilis towards the quads – making these muscles less able to do their job without straining to do so.

The strain or pulled muscle occurs when we ask the hip flexors and knee extensors to work simultaneously or in rapid succession. And here is where reciprocal inhibition does come into play for a moment – in order to “cock” or wind up the hip flexor and knee extensor muscles, they need to lengthen or stretch (like stretching a bow back before letting the arrow loose).

Since there is so much fascia and muscle restriction within the quads, including the quadriceps tendon which attaches to the knee joint, the brain detects the possibility of a tear happening, and in the few split seconds it takes to wind those muscles up (aka stretch them) your body starts to enact a stretch reflex by pulling the hip flexor muscles back, and since you’re already getting ready to contract them powerfully – BAM! When you do = major muscle contraction, major strain, major pain.

This scenario is different than a typical strain because it occurs within the muscle group that IS the problem, rather than its opposite.

What’s the solution?

Release that lower quad restriction!

EVERY single person I’ve worked on since 2008 that has had this issue (which includes a LOT of Jiu Jitsu people, soccer and dance athletes) has had a huge knot of restricted fascia here.

The picture on right shows the area you’re looking to target – rectus femoris and where that quad muscle meets the vastus medialis (and intermedius, which is under rectus femoris).

The video above shows you what to look for, what to do and how to do it.

Next steps:

  1. If going after the lower quad doesn’t get you the desired result, especially if you have a pulled GROIN muscle (vs high/top of the quad area), then your next best bet is to go after your low adductor fascia. You’ll also be looking for a knot there. Click here to go to my post and video for this technique.
  2. If that doesn’t get it to 100%, try releasing your TFL. Click here for that post and video.

How to get the BEST and fastest results:

  • Chances are high that if you’re experiencing this injury your low to mid quad fascia has a giant knot in it. Spend as much time as necessary hunting around to either rule this in or out. If you’ve found a giant knot, then…
  • Spend 20-40 seconds on EACH SPOT (start on the LOWEST SPOT and move up but do NOT go past your mid thigh), moving your lower leg back and forth to “shear” the fascia and release it.
  • There will likely be 2-3 spots within this low to mid quad area. More than likely it’s the same “knot” or adhesion, you’re just attacking it from every possible angle.
  • If this is an acute injury (meaning it JUST happened within a few days of you finding your way here), I would do this once a day for a week.
  • If you click to the other blog posts, PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE POST but especially the “How to get the most out of this technique” section at the bottom.
  • DO NOT USE A KNOBBY FOAM ROLLER FOR THIS! You will likely bruise your tissue and it will suck so much you may never want to use a foam roller again! I generally advocate using a soft or standard black foam roller. If you need help figuring out which foam roller is right for you, click here.

And THAT is it folks! Grab your foam roller and give this a try. Please comment with your experience or questions!

 

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Quad and Hip Flexor Release – This ONE Technique Relieves Piriformis, Glute and Tailbone Pain, Pulled Hamstrings and Groin Pain

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Possible SIDE EFFECTS of using the above technique:

  1. Feeling more FREEDOM and space in your legs
  2. More efficient/better running, cycling, hiking, dancing, Oly lifting (etc)
  3. Reduced low back pain
  4. Freed up hamstrings
  5. Relief from piriformis /glute pain and inhibited glutes
  6. Relief from pulled or tight hip flexor muscles
  7. Relief from groin pain
  8. Relief from hip pain
  9. Less knee pain
  10. A freed up and more balanced PELVIS (which can lead to less mid back and neck pain and a more even walking or running gait, not to mention better DANCE MOVES! And who doesn’t want that!?)
  11. and MORE!

To get the MOST out of this technique PLEASE READ THE FULL POST (better results if you do!)

If there was ONE area of the body I would have everyone dedicate time to, regardless of issue and even if you don’t have ANY pain, it would be the quads.

You can probably guess why…

We are a HUGELY quad dominant society (in western culture). We sit at desks all day starting in 1st grade all the way through college and most jobs in America are desk jobs. All this sitting sets us up to have tight fascia in our quads no matter how active or inactive we are.

On top of that, most of our sports are quad dominant: soccer, football, gymnastics (that was me), cycling, dancing, running (unless you know how to run using your hamstrings and glutes, and if you do – congratulations!)

One of the MOST powerful tools in the fascia release arsenal: Knowing How to Release the Quads

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Foam Rolling and The IT Band (Hint: It’s NOT the Enemy!)

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“I have an IT Band issue.”

I can’t tell you how many times I hear this from new clients who believe the IT Band is at the root of all their problems, from knee pain to back pain.

Google “foam rolling” and you’ll see more videos for how to roll the IT band than any other muscle in the body. I see people in the gym every day foam rolling the crap out of their IT band the way it’s been traditionally taught and I want to yell: STOP!

The IT Band is NOT your enemy.

The main job of the IT band is to stabilize us from knee to hip (or hip to knee). It needs to have a high degree of tension (tightness) in the direction of knee to hip to do that job.

Notice the picture on the right: the IT band is white, whereas the other major muscles are shown in red. This isn’t a mistake. While all muscles have a lot of fascia holding them together, the IT band is special in that it is mostly made of connective tissue (fascia) and almost looks like a giant tendon or ligament rather than a muscle.

Don’t make the mistake of rolling your IT band out like pizza dough!

Foam rolling as it is traditionally taught targets muscles (not fascia), and the method is typically an attempt to force the muscle to change via manipulation from the outside.

To actually stretch fascia and effect change, we need to pin it in place and then get the tissue to change itself through movement.

Watch the second video (below) to learn how I roll the IT band by

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