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.
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.
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.
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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