Hip sprain

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What is hip sprain?

A hip sprain is caused by tearing or stretching the ligaments that surround the hip, joining one bone to another. This is different to a hip flexor strain, which is an injury to the muscles that you use to lift your knees, including the iliopsoas (iliacus and psoas muscles) and the rectus femoris, part of the quadriceps.

While hip strains can occur quite commonly, hip sprains are very rare. Most hip sprains will get better at home if you care for them correctly.

What causes a hip sprain?

Hip sprains are normally the result of a fall or a sudden twisting movement, which can happen during sports or as the result of an accident. People who participate in sports that involve running and suddenly changing direction, for example football, basketball or rugby, are at risk of hip sprains. Hip flexor strains are normally caused by over-using the hip flexor muscles and tendons, causing them to tear.

What are the symptoms of hip sprain?

Among the symptoms caused by a hip sprain are:

  • A sharp and sudden pain in the hip or pelvis, following trauma to the area
  • A cramping sensation in the muscles of the upper leg
  • Pain that is worse when you walk, run or stretch your hip muscles
  • Swelling or bruising in the hip or thigh
  • Loss of strength in the front of the groin, accompanied by a tugging sensation
  • Tenderness in the hip which increases when you lift your thigh
  • Limping

How is a hip sprain diagnosed?

The consultant will perform a physical examination, ask about your symptoms and may ask you to perform a variety of movements to help ascertain which muscles are injured. An X-ray may be used to rule out stress fractures of the hip, which may have similar symptoms. An MRI or CT scan may be used to build up a picture of any soft tissue damage.

How is a hip sprain treated?

If you have sprained your hip, you will normally be able to treat the injury with painkillers and anti-inflammatories to reduce the swelling and relieve pain. It is important to rest the hip to prevent any further damage and apply ice to the affected area following the injury to prevent tissue damage and reduce swelling. Use an ice pack and do not place ice against unprotected skin. You should use an ice pack several times a day for the first 48 hours after the injury.

Once the initial swelling has gone down, you may need to see a physiotherapist who will recommend exercises to prevent hip stiffness and improve movement. You will also be shown how to help prevent the risk of sprains in the future, including avoiding exercising when you are tired, wearing the correct footwear and protective equipment, and warming up properly before exercise.

If the sprain is severe you may require surgery to repair the ruptured muscle.