What is a Groin Strain?
A strain is when a muscle or tendon is twisted, pulled, stretched, or torn.
A groin strain occurs in the adductor muscles (muscles on the inner side of the thigh) caused by tight hip flexors, hamstrings, and weakened gluteal muscles.
While this type of injury shares many of the same symptoms as a hernia, the biggest difference between them is that a hernia is the result of a muscle tear at the base of the abdomen, while a groin strain mostly affects the adductor muscles in the pelvic region and is felt with leg movement.
Groin strains are an extremely common injury, especially in sports such as soccer or hockey which involve kicking, jumping, or sudden twisting or turning to change direction.
Groin strains are usually the result of over-stressing the range of motion above the hip and within the lumbar (lower) spine.
What Causes a Groin Strain?
A strained groin is caused by imbalances in the pelvic region.
Oftentimes patients are athletes with tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings, and weak glutes paired with a weak core. With this type of tug-of-war, the muscles end up putting strain on the groin and hip flexors.
A strained groin muscle can also be the result of little to no activity at all. A sedentary lifestyle often leaves you sitting in a chair for extended periods of time. When this happens, the hip flexors begin to shorten and put a strain on the groin muscles.
Common causes and risk factors of groin strains include:
- Turing sharply or pivoting during sports
- Previous groin strain or injury
- Weak gluteal or adductor muscles
- Low range of motion in the hip joint
- Incorrect technique or training in sports including lack of strength training
- Falling or direct trauma to the groin
- Lifting heavy objects
- Overuse of the groin muscles
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Groin Strain?
Depending on the severity of your groin strain, you may feel a variety of symptoms, including:
- Pain in the front of your legs
- Pain in the groin region (inner thighs)
- Hip pain
- Abdominal discomfort
- Pain with leg movements
Strains can range from a grade 1 strain to a grade 3:
- Grade 1: The muscle is overstretched or torn slightly; though you may still be able to walk without pain, running, kicking or stretching might be painful
- Grade 2: The muscle fibres are partially torn, making movement painful
- Grade 3: The tear goes through most or all of the muscle or tendon, causing extreme pain, usually accompanied by swelling and bruising
Concerned about symptoms of a groin strain? Book a physiotherapy assessment at your local pt Health clinic today.
How is a Groin Strain Treated?
If your strain is mild, you can ease your symptoms at home using the RICE protocol:
- Rest your groin for 24-48 hours, avoiding activities that could further injure or aggravate it (you may need to use crutches for a few days)
- Ice your groin 3-4 times a day for 10-15 minutes at a time
- Compression is used to control swelling by applying a compression bandage
- Elevation of your groin above the level of your heart to help relieve swelling
You can also take anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help ease your pain.
If your groin strain symptoms do not improve with these at-home remedies, you may want to consult a pt Health physiotherapist for a custom treatment plan to address your unique concerns.
Treatment for more serious groin strains typically include:
- Surgery – while surgery is rare, if it is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for a Groin Strain
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that focuses on reducing pain and swelling, regaining strength, increasing mobility and function, and preventing recurrence.
At pt Health, you’ll receive a thorough assessment which addresses the source of your problem.
Depending on the severity of your groin strain and your individual needs, physiotherapy can include:
- Activity modification and functional retraining
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Range of motion and flexibility exercises
- Balance and control exercises
- Abdominal strengthening and core stability exercises
- Personalized exercise plan that you can do at home to encourage continuous improvement and progress
- Preventative strategies to help you manage lifestyle, work, and other risk factors
- Patient education including return to work or sport recommendations
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Can a Groin Strain Go Away On Its Own?
A grade 1 strain may get better on its own if treated properly, while grade 2 and 3 strains require physiotherapy treatment.
Most groin strains are a result of weak gluteal muscles, so it is important to learn proper muscle strengthening exercises to incorporate into your routine to minimize the chance of recurrence.
Treatment for a mild groin strain typically takes between six to eight weeks, while a grade 2 or 3 strain takes several months.
Patients can return to sports soon after their physiotherapy treatment with little to no change in their level of activity.
Can You Prevent a Groin Strain?
The best way to prevent a groin strain is to keep yourself in good physical condition.
Stretching and strengthening exercises should be done regularly as part of an overall fitness plan. If you play sports or have a desk job, speak to a physiotherapist about the best exercises for your activities.
Once you injure your groin, the chances of recurrence are significantly higher, so it is important to practice prevention, especially if you play sports like hockey, soccer, football, basketball, or tennis.
Other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the chance of straining your groin include:
- Warming up and stretching before exercise
- Cooling down and stretching after exercise
- Practicing good posture
- Practicing proper technique in sport including stretching and strengthening exercises for your adductor and gluteal muscles
- Wearing orthotics and properly supportive shoes for your activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight (which reduces pressure on the groin joint)
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for a Groin Strain Today
Concerned about symptoms of a groin strain? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.