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Your Health

Groin Strain

Definition

A groin strain is a partial or complete tear of the small fibers of the adductor muscles. The adductors are a group of muscles located on the inner side of the thigh. They start in the groin area and run down the inner thigh to attach to the inner side of the knee.

Groin strain is a common sports-related injury. Treatment depends on the severity of the strain.

Muscles of the Groin
Groin muscle
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Causes

A groin strain can be caused by:

  • Stretching the adductor muscles beyond the amount of tension they can withstand
  • Suddenly putting stress on the adductor muscles when they are not ready for stress
  • Overusing the adductor muscles over time
  • Getting a direct blow to the adductor muscles

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of developing a groin strain include:

  • Participation in sports that require bursts of speed. This includes track sports like running, hurdles, or long jump. Other sports include basketball, soccer, football, or rugby.
  • Previous strain or injury to the area.
  • Muscle fatigue or weakness.
  • Tight groin muscles.
  • Poor conditioning.
  • Imbalance of musculature
  • Abnornality of bone structure

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain and tenderness in the groin area
  • Stiffness in the groin area
  • Weakness of the adductor muscles
  • Bruising in the groin area if blood vessels are broken
  • Popping or snapping sensation as the muscle tears

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Most groin strains can be diagnosed with a physical exam. Your doctor may want images of the area if severe damage is suspected. Images may be taken with MRI .

Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:

  • Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of muscle fibers.
  • Grade 2—Partial tearing of muscle fibers.
  • Grade 3—Complete tearing of muscle fibers. This may also be called a rupture or avulsion.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depending on the grade of your injury. Treatment steps may include:

Acute Care

Rest

Your muscle will need time to heal. Avoid activities that place extra stress on these muscles:

  • Do not do activities that cause pain. This includes running, jumping, and weight lifting using the leg muscles.
  • If normal walking hurts, shorten your stride.
  • Do not play sports until your doctor has said it is safe to do so.
Cold

Apply an ice or a cold pack to the area for 15-20 minutes, four times a day, for several days after the injury. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel.

Pain Relief Medications

To manage pain, your doctor may recommend:

  • Over-the-counter medication, such as aspirin , ibuprofen , or acetaminophen
  • Topical pain medication—creams or patches that are applied to the skin
  • Prescription pain relievers

Recovery Steps

Heat

Use heat only when you are returning to physical activity. Heat may then be used before stretching or getting ready to play sports to help loosen the muscle.

Stretching

When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching as recommended. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds and repeat six times. Stretch several times a day.

Strengthening

Begin strengthening exercises for your muscles as recommended.

If you are diagnosed with a groin strain, follow your doctor's instructions .

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting a groin strain, take the following steps:

  • Keep your adductor muscles strong to absorb the energy of sudden physical stress
  • Learn the proper technique for exercises and sports
  • Warm up your muscles slowly and stretch them properly

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor

    http://www.aafp.org

  • American Council on Exercise

    http://www.acefitness.org

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index-eng.php

  • Canadian Physiotherapy Association

    http://www.physiotherapy.ca

  • Muscle strains in the thigh. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00366 . Update August 2007. Accessed April 25, 2013.

  • Sports-related groin pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated January 20, 2010. Accessed April 25, 2013.

  • O'Kane JW. Anterior hip pain. Am Fam Physician . 1999;60:1687-1696.

  • 1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2010;(6):CD007402.