A torn hip tendon can be a serious injury, with lengthy recovery. This type of injury can cause pain and swelling in the hip and restrict movement, influencing your normal daily life.
The hip is a large joint in the body, and the tendons that connect the hip to the bones are strong and tough. However, they can be damaged by overuse or injury, or age.
But tearing your tendon is a whole other world of pain, so it’s best to take the necessary precautions to try and prevent this from happening.
Let’s take a look!
Torn tendon in the hip: recovery time
For a minor glute or hip flexor tendon tear without surgery, recovery is a minimum of 6 weeks with rest and reduced activity. With surgery, recovery time is 6 to 12 weeks, however in more serious cases, recovery may take several months, as with severe hip flexor tears. Physical therapy is necessary to aid healing, and regain strength and range of motion.
What is a hip tendon?
Your tendons are thick, inelastic cords that attach your muscles to your bones. Your hip tendons create hip and leg movements. Due to the constant movement of your legs, even with the simple act of walking, your hip tendons are constantly being used and put under pressure.
People who have irritated tendons may feel discomfort, soreness, and little swelling close to the afflicted joint. This tendon may get inflamed and lead to hip tendonitis if the muscle is overworked as a result of excessive exercise. This can eventually lead to the tearing of your tendon.
Athletes who engage in high-intensity sports or exercise programs, such as running, biking, swimming, gymnastics, or dancing, are more likely to sustain hip injuries.
But it’s not only sports players at risk. As you get older your body will change, and your tendons become less flexible, muscles tighten and instead of the tendons and muscles working together, they start to work against one another.
Different types of hip tendon tears
Numerous muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the hip joint, and provide strength and stability. They are anchored by the pelvic girdle and hip. Hip mobility is controlled by muscle tendons that are connected to the thigh and pelvis.
Hip injuries can happen suddenly, as in a single incident, but the most common cause of hip tendonitis is repetitive movements or overuse. They can also come on over time, due to the effects of aging on our soft tissues.
Hip injuries are broken down into three categories:
Grade 1 injury – this is when the tendon has been stretched past its normal capacity. This is the least serious injury, and it is usually managed with the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
Grade 2 injury – this level of injury is when the tendon suffers a moderate tear but remains intact. Hip pain is evident, and you’ll notice inflammation and swelling around the injured area. (With this injury, you need to rest, and if conservative treatments don’t work, your doctor may recommend surgery).
Grade 3 injury – this is when the tendon completely ruptures and you will require surgery. The range of motion is reduced depending on which tendon is torn and surgery will be required to re-attach the tendon to the muscle and/ or bone.
Sometimes, if the gluteus medius tendon swells, it can tear, and this is known as a gluteal tendon tear. If the gluteus medius tendon is completely torn and causes disability, you are going to be wheeled off to surgery.
If it is not possible to rejoin the tendon to the trochanter (or hip), the gluteus maximus will be manipulated and stretched around to be attached to the trochanter.
Symptoms of a torn hip tendon
- Pain surrounding the lateral hip area and into the trochanter (bony outer part)
- Pain extending from buttocks through to the groin area
- Noticing you’re walking with a limp, and it’s painful
- No matter what you do, your pain isn’t improving or flares-up easily
This goes for active people, sports fans, as well as the elderly. Repetitive motions over long periods, such as dancing, running, or kicking a ball during soccer, are highly likely to cause tears.
A doctor will do a physical examination and search for indications of soreness or pain close to the hip’s location. Further testing may be required to determine the cause of the pain – these examinations could include an MRI scan, bone scan, or an x-ray.
Seeking medical assistance
If the pain lasts longer than a couple of days, you cannot bear weight on it, you heard a popping sound, or there’s a lot of swelling, then you need to seek medical attention. Groin pain that is not normal to you should be taken care of sooner rather than later.
Your doctor will work with you to choose a course of action for your hip tendonitis, tendinopathy, or abductor tears. If your injury is minor, rest, ice, and medication can be all you need to recover it.
If your condition is more serious, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, electrical therapy, dry needling, heel lifts, or physical therapy. The majority of patients with hip pain or injury do not require surgery like hip arthroscopy, but if non-surgical measures have failed to provide relief, you may be a candidate.
Prevention is better than Cure
If you notice niggles, pain, and inflammation in the front of your hip especially, have it checked out by your doctor. Even if it is tendonitis, it is better to catch it early and rectify the issue than to leave it to the point of needing a surgeon.
You’ll need to rule out whether you might actually have hip impingement, or an issue with your hip abductors, for a start. Hoping that a complete hip tear will heal itself rarely works!
A guide to keeping hip tendons in top shape:
- Warm up before, and stretch after exercises or a workout, and if necessary, stop during your session and mobilize your joints, muscles and tendons
- Regularly do exercises to strengthen your hips, buttocks (especially gluteus medius and maximus – see below), thighs, and lower back
- Doing slower, controlled exercises like yoga or callisthenics can help stretch and strengthen your hip flexors
Tendonitis is a common type of inflammation that can be caused by overuse, repetitive motion, or direct trauma to the tendon. If chronic, muscle atrophy (wasting) can occur.
The inflammation can lead to a partial tear of the tendon, especially if an explosive movement is made, like during sport. If left untreated, tendonitis can progress, and lead to degeneration of the tendon tissue. This may lead to a complete tear of the tendon.
Hip tear surgery
Severe cases that require surgery will be operated on by an orthopedic surgeon through minimally invasive methods. The suture anchors attach and hold the tendon to the hip bone.
Your surgeon will usually make one or two small incisions over the affected area and stitch the tendon back together. Sometimes a small camera is inserted into one incision (arthroscopy) while the surgeon operates through the second incision.
Tendon repair surgery is more common than you think! Tendon repairs can be performed as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia, and you can go home after the surgery, confident of a good recovery with few complications.
Physiotherapy: torn hip tendon treatment
Physiotherapy is an effective treatment option for those suffering from a torn hip tendon. Through a combination of exercises and stretches, strength work and home care, physiotherapy will improve your range of motion, flexibility, and hip strength.
In some cases, physiotherapy may also be used in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgery, to provide the most effective care possible.
Physical therapists are experts in movement and can assist you by setting you up with a home exercise program. By providing direct care, educating patients, and setting out a recovery plan through physical activity, they can assist their patients to enhance their quality of life.
If you have torn your hip tendon during a sport or while exercising, you will need to stop that sport for a while until you are feeling better and then slowly return.
Physiotherapy stages for a torn tendon in the hip
Stage 1: The goal of this phase is to lessen the discomfort by minimizing the harmful stresses placed on a tendon. Stretching and other painful actions that make the discomfort worse should be avoided. Exercises with sustained holds known as isometrics are started to help with pain reduction.
Stage 2: At this stage, the tendon or muscle can be strengthened while still being protected from harmful stresses. Exercises for strengthening should be done slowly and with moderately heavy loads, depending on the acuteness of your tendonitis.
Stage 3: This stage focuses on power-building activities that strengthen the tendon’s ability to store energy or its capacity to absorb the load. Typically, they involve faster workouts like skipping and hopping.
Stage 4: This stage focuses on the tendon’s elastic properties and sports-specific needs (ie. the ability to work in a lengthened position).
Follow the directions of your medical team and listen to your body. You can return to more strenuous activities safely once your pain, strength, and range of motion have improved, and to be your old self again could take up to 12 months.
Your physical therapist will design a treatment plan including a series of exercises to teach you how to use and move your body better, based on your mobility evaluation and objectives. To preserve your hip, your therapist will explain the particular postures and motions that you should avoid or alter.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise to regain hip strength, as your hips are the source of movement for your legs. You might need to start recovery by walking slowly with a crutch or a walker.
Increase your activity level as your strength returns, while constant movement will reduce the risk of blood clots and will help your muscles to regain strength.
Not all hip tendon tears are repairable, even with soft tissue release. The healing process from a torn hip tendon takes time, so take it easy, listen to your medical team but most importantly, listen to your body.
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