DEAR DOCTOR K:
I’ve strained a muscle where my hip meets my pelvis. What can I do to relieve the discomfort?
It sounds like you’ve strained your hip flexor. That’s a group of muscles that runs from your lower back to the front of your thigh. These muscles help flex your hip when you lift your leg to the front. A hip flexor strain can lead to pain where your thigh meets your pelvis, as well as pain or pinching when you pull your knee to your chest or when you climb stairs.
Many activities can cause a hip flexor strain. Possible culprits include heavy lifting or pushing, biking (especially if your seat isn’t high enough), martial arts, or running with knees lifted high.
When you first strain your hip, rest it and apply ice. Pain medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen can help ease discomfort. If the pain is severe, use crutches to take weight off the area.
After swelling improves, usually in several days, do some gentle stretches. Then begin strength exercises aimed at rebuilding muscles.
I’ll describe two hip-strengthening exercises below:
Other good hip exercises include walking in chest-high water, low-resistance biking, using an elliptical trainer and walking on level ground.
A reader recently wrote me with this question: “How is it that you can answer so many different questions in different fields? How do you learn all that?”
I wish I could tell you that I carry around all the answers in my brain. But there are so many different fields and specialties in medicine that no one person can possibly master all of them.
A hundred years ago, medical science was in its infancy. There were some doctors who really did “know it all.” That is, they knew everything that was known. The problem was that practically nothing was known. There weren’t cures for most diseases.
In writing this column, I frequently consult with my colleagues at Harvard Medical School who are experts on the questions readers ask. I’m happy that I came of age as a doctor at a time when medical science had made enormous advances. If I don’t know the answer that might help you, I know where I can find it.