Groin Strain

A groin strain (also called a groin pull) is an injury to the muscles or tendon on the upper inner part of the thigh. These muscles are called the adductor muscles or groin muscles. They are responsible for moving the leg across the body. A muscle strain occurs when a muscle is overstretched and some muscle fibers are torn. A groin strain can range from mild to severe depending on how many muscle fibers are affected and whether the muscle fibers are partially or completely torn.

Groin strains usually occur during exercise or participation in sports. The injury often happens when a sudden, violent force is placed on a muscle, stretching the muscle too far. A strain is more likely to occur when your muscles are not warmed up or if you are not properly conditioned. Depending on the severity of the groin strain, recovery time may vary from a few weeks to several weeks. Severe injuries often require 4–6 weeks for recovery. In these cases, complete healing can take 4–5 months.

CAUSES

  • Stretching the groin muscles too far or too suddenly, often during side-to-side motion with an abrupt change in direction.

  • Putting repeated stress on the groin muscles over a long period of time.

  • Performing vigorous activity without properly stretching the groin muscles beforehand.

SYMPTOMS

  • Pain and tenderness in the groin area. This begins as sharp pain and persists as a dull ache.

  • Popping or snapping feeling when the injury occurs (for severe strains).

  • Swelling or bruising.

  • Muscle spasms.

  • Weakness in the leg.

  • Stiffness in the groin area with decreased ability to move the affected muscles.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will perform a physical exam to diagnose a groin strain. You will be asked about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. X-rays are sometimes needed to rule out a broken bone or cartilage problems. Your caregiver may order a CT scan or MRI if a complete muscle tear is suspected.

TREATMENT

A groin strain will often heal on its own. Your caregiver may prescribe medicines to help manage pain and swelling (anti-inflammatory medicine). You may be told to use crutches for the first few days to minimize your pain.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Rest. Do not use the strained muscle if it causes pain.

  • Put ice on the injured area.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15–20 minutes, every 2–3 hours. Do this for the first 2 days after the injury. 

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Wrap the injured area with an elastic bandage as directed by your caregiver.

  • Keep the injured leg raised (elevated).

  • Walk, stretch, and perform range-of-motion exercises to improve blood flow to the injured area. Only perform these activities if you can do so without any pain.

To prevent muscle strains:

  • Warm up before exercise.

  • Develop proper conditioning and strength in the groin muscles.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have increased pain or swelling in the affected area.  

  • Your symptoms are not improving or are getting worse.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.