How to Treat and Prevent Groin Strains
A groin strain is a sprain or tear to any of the adductor muscles found in your thighs. The hip adductor muscles contribute to your overall balance and body alignment and function to move your legs toward the midline of your body. Martial arts practitioners, soccer and hockey players, skiers, and Olympic weightlifters are the most common types of athletes who experience groin strains; however, anyone is at risk of sustaining injuries.
There are five groin muscles in the human body; three are called the “short adductors,” and the other two are called the “long adductors.” Although muscle strains can occur randomly, there are still factors that can increase the likelihood of sustaining an injury. These factors include; failing to warm up properly, having weak or tight adductor muscles, previous injuries, lower back problems, and joint-related issues.
Groin Strain Symptoms
Depending on the severity of your injury, groin strains can range from mild discomfort to downright unbearable. The primary symptoms of a groin strain are a sudden sharp pain when closing your legs or lifting your knee, in addition to general tenderness and pain in the groin area, and a popping feeling at the time of injury that leads to pain right after. You may also see bruises form at the area of injury. Strains can occur while running, jumping, during a sudden change of direction, overworked muscles, underused muscles, and lifting heavy objects. As a result, you may experience swelling and bruising, as well as difficulty walking and, of course, overall weakening of the muscles.
Generally, groin strains are graded 1 to 3 based on their severity.
- 1st-degree strain: mild pain or discomfort but can still maintain your strength and movement
- 2nd-degree strain: moderate pain and discomfort, some tissue damage, and some loss of strength
- 3rd-degree strain: severe pain coupled with loss of movement and strength due to a complete (or almost complete) tear of the tissues
Treating a Groin Strain
Fear not! In most cases, groin strains can heal on their own. However, if you’re still experiencing groin muscle pain after taking some time off, there are measures you can take to help your body recover. But first, remember to always check with your doctor to make sure you know exactly what you’re treating! Sometimes, groin pain can be misdiagnosed and can stem from a hip injury such as a fracture, labral tear, or even a hernia!
Known as the Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation method. Typically this is your first response to sports-related injuries and cases where strained/pulled muscles are involved. It’s highly effective in relieving swelling and provides instant pain relief for sore groin muscles, especially when applied in the first 24-48 hours following the injury.
However, it’s still beneficial to make it part of your healing routine, even after some time has passed. In more severe or chronic cases of groin strains, you may require surgery to treat and prevent further injuries.
Rest: In most cases, a mild groin strain can take up to 1-2 weeks to heal with enough rest. Of course, this depends on your degree of injury, worst case taking up to 3-4 months! As a general guideline, take as many rest days as you need, but nothing shorter than a week.
Ice: Ice should be applied immediately after the injury occurs, if possible! It’s highly effective at minimizing swelling as it constricts the blood vessels and decreases circulation. It’s also a natural pain reliever as it helps numb the damaged tissues. Limit icing to 15-20 minutes per session, and never apply directly to your skin to prevent frostbite.
Compression: Compression can assist in healing your groin injury by stabilizing the injured area, providing support during movement while reducing pain. It also applies pressure which helps minimize swelling. If you’re in need of a groin wrap, check out our compression wrap here! Our design provides adjustable compression and targets sciatica pain as well.
Elevation: Now, this may be a little awkward to achieve with a pulled groin, but the idea is to elevate the injury so it rests above your heart to help reduce blood flow and drain the area of excess fluid, which will help speed the healing process.
If pain is more than you can bear, using anti-inflammatory painkillers can help temporarily manage your discomfort. Such over-the-counter drugs like Aleve, Advil, and Motrin can be effective in relieving symptoms. Just be sure to read the directions and take accordingly.
What preventative measures can you take?
Your doctor may have also prescribed a list of stretches you can do to help heal your damaged tissues. Many types of groin strains respond well to isolated stretches, as long as they are introduced slowly and never beyond your ability. It can help prevent scar tissue from forming and relax tight tendons!
Performing groin strain exercises and stretches are also highly beneficial at preventing injuries before and after your workout! Taking the time to stretch will help increase blood flow, easing tension in the tissues and joints. We found a list of groin stretches from Verywellfit that can help treat and prevent further injuries.
- Standing groin stretch
- Seated groin stretch (the butterfly stretch)
- Squatted groin stretch
- Hip opener stretch
You can perform these moves as static or dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are best done before a workout, as the controlled movement helps prepare your muscles for action, where static stretches are best to complete post-workout to cool down your muscles.
Stretching a couple of times a day in the early stages of recovery will help get you back on your feet in no time!
Strengthening your muscles is an essential part of the rehabilitation process. If the muscles on your thigh to leg lack the proper strength and flexibility, then you’re more prone to injury/aggravating your previous or existing injury. Strong muscles will help keep your body and joints aligned during movement or impact!
The primary goal of strength training to rehabilitate is to increase the weighted load gradually, beginning with virtually none until you recover your strength and mobility. It’s important not to overdo it too fast, for obvious reasons!
It’s best to start with isometric exercises or any strength training in which the joint angle and muscle length do not change during contraction. Isometric exercises are great to maintain strength rather than build it and help build your stabilization. After that, progress to dynamic exercises and eventually introduce a resistance band to build muscle!
Isometric exercises you can start with involve a medicine ball which you can place between your knees with legs bent (for short adductors) or down by your ankles with legs straight (long adductors) while you gently squeeze the ball and hold for 10 seconds. For a more detailed walkthrough, check out this article from Sportsmayoclinic.
Once you’ve mastered those without pain, it’s safe to proceed to the next step: dynamic exercises. Healthline published a handy article listing different moves (and how-tos) you can perform from home that builds strength and flexibility in your adductor muscles. Depending on how you’re feeling, you can easily throw in a resistance band to any of these exercises.
- Side leg raises
- Standing lateral leg raises
- Wide leg squat
- Low lunge
- Fire hydrants
If pain occurs during or after exercising, immediately stop and apply ice to the area. Never push yourself too hard!
So you’ve made a full recovery! Now what?
PACE YOURSELF. Feel free to go for a couple of walks to see if your groin is pain-free and happy. Return to your training regimen with a lighter weight than you were previously used to, and increase gradually. Running up hills is also a great way to work the groin muscles, build strength, and maintain flexibility.
Keep a sharp eye on signs of tenderness or pain, and ease up if you experience any familiar symptoms. Remember to warm up before training sessions, and listen to your body!
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