The groin, perhaps because of proximity, isn’t a region that is mentioned often in polite conversation. In fact, although it is likely we can all refer to its general location, we have probably never tried to pinpoint it or define it.
However, it’s a challenge we’ll take up here, because the groin is an area of the body that is prone to injury – groin strains are common, but before we can treat them, we must be clear about what we’re discussing.
Where is your Groin?
Let’s take a look at groin anatomy. The groin, also called the inguinal region, is the area of the body between the abdomen and the thigh on each side of the pubic bone. It contains the adductor muscles of the hip.
Usually, groin strains, which are muscle tears, take place in the upper groin area near the pubic bone or at the front of the leg. Depending on their seriousness, groin strains are classified by grade.
A Grade 1 strain is a minor tear to the muscle that causes some pain or tenderness; a Grade 2 strain is the tearing of a larger percentage of your muscle fibres that causes tenderness, pain, weakness and, possibly, some bruising; while a Grade 3 strain is a severe tear that results in a lot of pain and bruising.
Causes of Groin Pain
A groin injury can occur when there is any forceful leg movement: changing directions while running, jumping or kicking, for example. A direct blow to the area, a fall or any movement that moves the groin at an unusual angle may cause a strain.
Athletes are always at risk for groin strains, which can occur while skating, kicking a ball or playing basketball. A groin strain may also result when you are pushing, pulling or lifting heavy objects. It may also result from overuse of your muscles or from exercising without warming up.
Groin Strain Symptoms
When you strain your groin, you will generally feel a sudden pain accompanied by a snapping sound when you move your leg or your hip. Swelling and bruising will probably follow quickly. You may also have spasms and feel sharp pain if you try to lift your leg or bring your legs together.
With a Grade 1 sprain, you’ll be able to walk normally and the use of your leg won’t be impaired. A Grade 2 sprain will commonly lead to a limp and restricted use of your leg. With a Grade 3 strain, it will be very painful to put any weight on your leg and you will have difficulty using it. There may even be a dent in the muscle that is visible under the skin at the tear site.
How to treat a Groin Injury
Once you experience groin pain and realize you have sustained a groin injury, you’ll want to begin the standard RICE treatment — rest, ice, compression and elevation – and continue it for the first 24 to 48 hours. Try not to put weight on your leg and apply ice to the area for 15 to 20 minutes every two hours. Apply an elastic bandage to the area for compression and ensure it is cushioned by pillows to elevate it.
To get relief from the pain in your groin area, you can take an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Your physician, after diagnosing the injury, should refer you to a physiotherapist for treatment. In assessing your injury, the physiotherapist will ask you questions about how the groin injury occurred and what you felt at the time.
They will test your muscle strength, move your leg away from your body and gently touch you to determine exactly where the tear has occurred. He or she may also do additional testing to ensure that your hip or your back aren’t injured, too.
Following the assessment, your physiotherapist will design a program of rehabilitation and recovery for you to allow you to heal quickly and return to normal activity as soon as possible. Your program will include exercises and stretches for groin pain that will improve strength, improve motion and hasten your recovery.
Prevention of Groin Injuries
You can certainly take steps to prevent a groin injury, although there are no guarantees, especially if you are involved in sports. Warm up your muscles by stretching or doing light exercise before participating in a game or more intense exercise.
If you don’t exercise regularly, take things slowly. You don’t want to exceed your comfort level or injury can result. Try to keep your level of exercise consistent, rather than doing some intense exercise on Monday and not exercising at all for three or four days. Take a hint from professional athletes who generally train year-round.
If you keep your leg muscles strong, you’re less likely to experience a groin injury.