Hip Sprain/Strain

A hip sprain or strain involves an injury to the soft tissues of the hip area.    Sprains involve injury to ligaments (the bands of tissue that connect bones together) within the joint and strains refer to injuries of muscles and tendons.  The bones of the hip anchor muscles that travel down the leg, across the abdomen and into the buttocks and when sprains and strains occur in the hip area, they can lead to symptoms in other locations as well.


What causes a Hip Sprain/Strain?

Most hip sprains or strains occur from an accident or traumatic impact to the hip, such as a fall or direct and forceful contact (a contusion), or overuse or overstretching of the muscles or ligaments in the hip.   The result can be small tears in the muscle fibers, tendons or ligaments, which may be mild, moderate or severe in nature (grades I, II, and III).  Sprains and strains are more likely to occur in individuals that have had previous injuries in the area, that do “too much, too soon”, that engage in the same physical activities on a regular basis (repetitive overuse), or that do not warm up sufficiently prior to activity.


What are the symptoms of a Hip Sprain/Strain?

The most common symptom of a hip sprain or strain is pain felt directly over the injured muscle or ligament that increases with activity.  Depending on the severity of the injury, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, muscle spasm or bruising may occur, and there may be a partial or full loss of muscle strength or joint flexibility.  More severe injuries may make it difficult or extremely painful to walk.


How is a Hip Sprain/Strain diagnosed?

A medical professional will perform a physical exam and will ask questions related to when the symptoms began, what activities caused the symptoms, what worsens or relieves symptoms, and the relative severity of symptoms.  Pressure will be placed on the areas of suspected injury to identify swelling, tenderness, bruising and pain.  Patients may be asked to perform certain movements to determine range of motion limitations, stability of the joint, muscle strength, and to identify what increases or decreases pain.  X-rays may be ordered to rule out stress fractures, which exhibit similar symptoms.  Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can provide a better view of the ligaments, tendons and muscles within the hip to gain more information about the location and extent of the injury, but are not always needed.


When should I seek care for a Hip Sprain/Strain?

If you fall on or receive a direct impact to the hip area that causes continued pain and swelling, or if you have pain, swelling, tenderness, stiffness, muscle spasm or limited mobility following any activity that does not improve with home treatments (rest, ice, over the counter medications), you should seek the advice of a medical professional.  If the injury is severe, is accompanied by a loss of function of the joint or muscle, or you suspect that a bone fracture or dislocation may have occurred, you should seek immediate medical attention.


What will the treatment for a Hip Sprain/Strain consist of?

Treatment for mild and moderate hip sprains and strains (grades I and II) begins with rest, application of ice, compression, elevation, and avoidance of activities that exacerbate pain.  Nonsteridal anti-inflammatory medications can be taken to reduce pain and swelling.  In order to completely rest the hip for the first couple of days following the injury, crutches may be used.  For more moderate sprains and strains, physical therapy is recommended and may include massage, therapeutic ultrasound and heat therapy, followed by stretching, range of motion and strengthening exercises as the injury improves.  Activity should be returned to gradually once symptoms diminish.  More severe sprains and strains (grade III) involve a complete tearing of the ligament, tendon or muscle and typically require surgery followed by a rehabilitation program to regain strength and flexibility.


Which muscle groups/joints are commonly affected by a Hip Sprain/Strain?

Hip sprains and strains affect the ligaments, tendons and muscles in and around the hip joint.  Since the hip joint anchors a number of major muscles in the body that extend to the legs, abdomen and buttocks, symptoms may be evident in those areas as well.


What type of results should I expect from the treatment of a Hip Sprain/Strain?

Most patients with mild or moderate hip sprains and strains (grades I and II) will completely heal with conservative treatments (or no treatment other than temporary rest of the area) within a few weeks to a couple of months.  For more severe injuries, surgery may be required, but is generally successful as long as the proper course of rehabilitation is followed after surgery.  If injuries are not allowed to heal completely before resuming regular activities, there is a risk of re-injury.  If the injury is due to repetitive overuse, a modification may need to be made in regular activities to avoid additional overuse of the area so that injury does not recur.

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