The iliopsoas muscle is a primary hip flexor that assists in the femur’s external rotation and maintains the hip joint’s strength and integrity. It also helps to stabilize the lumbar spine and pelvis. Athletes often overuse these muscles with all the sprinting, jumping, kicking, and changing directions when running, causing strains and/or tears. Repetitive hip flexion can result in chronic degenerative tendon changes. Chiropractic care and physical therapy can assist in the early phases of healing, safely transitioning to rehabilitation, and returning to physical activities.
The hip flexors are the group of muscles, including the iliacus and psoas major muscles/iliopsoas and the rectus femoris/quadriceps. One of the largest and thickest muscles in the body, the psoas, extends from the lumbar vertebrae, crosses in front of each hip, and attaches to the inside top of the thigh bone. The muscle works by flexing the hip joint and lifting the upper leg towards the body. These fibers can tear if tension is more than the muscle can bear. An iliopsoas strain occurs when one or more of these hip flexor muscles become overly stretched or begin to tear.
The injury can occur from sports or everyday physical activities. This leads to inflammation, pain, and scar tissue formation. An iliopsoas injury is commonly caused by sudden movements, including sprinting, kicking, and changing direction fast while running. Individuals participating in any sports, especially cycling, running, dance, tennis, martial arts, and soccer, are more likely to experience this injury. Other contributing factors include:
- Muscle tightness
- Joint stiffness
- Muscle weakness
- Inadequate core stability
- Not warming up correctly
- Improper biomechanics
- Decreased fitness and conditioning
Individuals will feel a sudden stinging pain or pulling sensation, usually on the front of the hip, groin, or abdominal area. Other symptoms include:
- Stiffness after resting.
- Bruising around the area.
- Anterior hip pain and/or burning sensation.
- Groin discomfort sensations.
- Hip snapping or a catching sensation.
- Discomfort when flexing the leg.
- Walking problems and discomfort.
- Lower stomach and/or back symptoms.
Healing and recovery depend on the severity of the injury. A minor iliopsoas muscle injury can take around three weeks to recover fully. More serious strains and tears take six to eight weeks before returning to activity, as the tissue needs time to repair before starting rehabilitation.
Chiropractic Rehabilitation and Recovery
The first steps when dealing with this injury should be P.R.I.C.E. protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. It is important to rest and seek treatment immediately; if left untreated, the condition could worsen, lead to a chronic condition, and require surgery. A chiropractic treatment and rehabilitation plan will consist of the following:
- Soft tissue massage
- Joint mobilization
- A chiropractor may recommend crutches to keep the weight off the hip.
- A brace can help compress and stabilize the hip flexor to expedite healing.
- A flexibility and strengthening program will be implemented to target the muscles around the hip.
- Core strengthening exercises will improve the stability of the pelvis area to prevent any further overuse problems.
- Wearing compression clothing could also be recommended, as the clothing helps maintain muscle temperature.
Dydyk AM, Sapra A. Psoas Syndrome. [Updated 2022 Oct 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (F.L.): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551701/
Lifshitz, Liran BPt, MSc, PT; Bar Sela, Shlomo BPt MPE; Gal, Noga BPt, MSc; Martin, RobRoy PhD, PT; Fleitman Klar, Michal BPt. Iliopsoas the Hidden Muscle: Anatomy, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Current Sports Medicine Reports 19(6):p 235-243, June 2020. | DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000723
Rauseo, Carla. “THE REHABILITATION OF A RUNNER WITH ILIOPSOAS TENDINOPATHY USING AN ECCENTRIC-BIASED EXERCISE-A CASE REPORT.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 12,7 (2017): 1150-1162. doi:10.26603/ijspt20171150
Rubio, Manolo, et al. “Spontaneous Iliopsoas Tendon Tear: A Rare Cause of Hip Pain in the Elderly.” Geriatric orthopedic surgery & rehabilitation vol. 7,1 (2016): 30-2. doi:10.1177/2151458515627309
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