Diagnosing and Treating Groin Pulls (2022)

A groin pull is an injury to the muscles of the inner thigh, also known as a groinmuscle strain.The groin muscles, called the adductor muscle group, are made up of six muscles that run from the inner pelvis to the inner part of thefemur (thigh bone).

These muscles pull the legs togetherand move your hip in other ways.The adductor musclesare especially important to athletes like sprinters, swimmers, soccer players, and football players.

Most groin pulls are relatively minor and have simply pulled a muscle beyond its normal range of motion, causing incidental tears. On rare occasions, severe strains can tear the muscle in two.

This article describes the symptoms of pulled groin muscle as well as the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery times. It also outlines some simple stretches that can help prevent groin injury.

Diagnosing and Treating Groin Pulls (1)

Groin Pull Symptoms

A groin pullcan be quite painful, interfering with your ability to walk, navigate stairs, or even drive a car. In addition to pain, there may other symptoms around the injured groin, including:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Popping sound or a snapping sensation at the time of the injury

Groin pulls are sometimes accompanied by a stress fracture of the pubis (the forward-facing pelvic bones).

Groin pulls are graded by their severity and how much they impact mobility:

  • Grade 1:Mild discomfort but usually not enough to limit activity
  • Grade 2:Moderate discomfort with swelling or bruising that limits yourability to run or jump
  • Grade 3:Severe injury with significant swelling and bruising that can cause pain while walking along with muscle spasms

Severe groin pulls should be seen by a healthcare provider because the muscle may have ruptured or be close to rupturing. In such cases, you would need surgery to reattach the torn ends of the muscle.

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should see a healthcare provider as soon as possible if you experience signs of a severe groin strain, including:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Groin pain while sitting or at rest
  • Groin pain at night

1:41

Click Play to Learn About Treating a Pulled Groin

This video has been medically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MD.

(Video) Best Self-Treatment for A Groin Pull. Stretches, Exercises, & Massage (Updated)

Causes

Groin pulls are often experienced by athletes who play ice hockey and soccer because they have to rapidly change directions, often with their legs in a splayed position. This places excessive strain on the adductor muscles. The same may occur with people who play basketball, football, or rugby.

The risk of a groin muscle pull is greater in athletes who:

  • Have weaker hip abductor muscles (the muscles pull the legs apart)
  • Are not in peak physical condition
  • Have had a previous groin or hip injury

Groin pulls can also occur in non-athletes due to falls or engaging in extreme activities without the proper conditioning.

Diagnosis

A pulled groin muscle is usually self-apparent. Most athletes know what the injury is the moment it occurs. Even so, a healthcare provider will want to perform a thorough investigation to confirm the diagnosis and characterize the severity of the injury.

This typically involves:

  • A review of your medical history: This includes any previous injuries you've had and specifics about where and when your symptoms started.
  • Physical examination: This would involve palpating (lightly touching and pressing) the groin and manipulating the leg to get a better sense of where and how extensive the injury is.
  • Imaging studies: Typically, an ultrasound or X-ray will be ordered. If a muscle rupture or fracture is suspected, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan may be ordered as it is better able to visualize soft tissue injuries and stress fractures.

Differential Diagnosis

While a groin pull may seem obvious, there are certain conditions that can mimic it and require different treatments. These include:

  • Sports hernia: This is a type of inguinal hernia that occurs during sport. It causes a portion of the intestine to spontaneously pop through a weakened muscle in the groin.
  • Hip labral tear: This is a tear in the ring of cartilage, called the labrum, that encircles the outside rim of the hip joint socket
  • Osteoarthritis of the hip: This is the "wear-and-tear" form of arthritis that can manifest with pain in the groin.
  • Osteitis pubis:This is the inflammation of the pubic bone typically caused by the overuse of the hip and leg muscles.
  • Referred groin pain: This is nerve pain that originates in the lumbar spine, most often due to a pinched nerve, but registers in the groin.

Treatment

The treatment of a pulled groin muscle is typically conservative and includes rest, ice application, and gentle stretching when appropriate. If the pain is significant, you may be advised to use crutches to reduce pain and prevent further injury.

Over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) are commonly prescribed. If there is severe pain from a grade 3 injury, a prescription opioid drug like fentanyl or Oxycontin (oxycodone) may be used for a short period to help minimize pain.

Surgery is not usually necessary.

Recovery times can vary based on the severity of the injury and your physical condtion before the injury. Physical therapy is almost invariably a part of the treatment plan.

Recovery Times

With rest and proper treatment, most groin pulls will heal on their own within four to six weeks. Severe groin strains can take up to 12 weeks or longer if surgery is involved.

Benefits of Orthopedic Physical Therapy

Stretches to Prevent Groin Muscle Pulls

Proper conditioning is needed to prevent groin strain in athletes. The exercises help strengthen the adductor muscles, stabilize the pelvis, and strengthen the core muscles of the mid-torso (including the abdominal, oblique, and multifidus back muscles).

If you have agroin strain, a stretching program will also help by keeping the muscles flexible and less prone to tears.

When done correctly, stretches should cause a gentle pulling sensation but never pain. If there is pain, you are overdoing it and need to ease back.

There are four exercises that are especially good at preventing groin muscle pulls:

(Video) Best Self-Treatment for a Groin Pull- Including Stretches & Exercises.

Squatting Adductor Stretch

To do the squatting adductor stretch:

  1. Squat to the ground with one leg in front of your body.
  2. Allow your opposite leg to extend behind you.​
  3. Stretch your legs apart by gently pushing over your front knee.
  4. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, gradually increasing the time as your flexibility builds.

Standing Adductor Stretch

Thisadductorstretch is done while standing, as follows:

  1. Stretch one leg out to the side, keeping your other leg under your torso.
  2. Bend the knee underneath your torso to lower yourself and stretch the muscles of the inner thigh of the opposite leg.
  3. Your outstretched leg should have a straight knee, and you should feel the stretch on the inner thigh.
  4. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, gradually increasing the time as your flexibility builds.

Butterfly Stretch

The butterfly stretch is done in a sitting position, as follows:

  1. Sit with your feet together and knees bent.
  2. Grasp your feet with your hands.
  3. Stretch your knees down toward the ground.
  4. Do not bounce. Feel the stretch along your inner thigh.
  5. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, gradually increasing the time as your flexibility builds.

Cross-Leg Stretch

The cross-leg stretch is also done while sitting, as follows:

  1. While sitting, cross one leg over the other.
  2. Press the knee of the crossed leg across the body to open up the hip. The stretch will emphasize the muscles of the inner thigh and front of the thigh.
  3. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, gradually increasing the time as your flexibility builds.

Summary

A groin pull is an injury to an inner thigh muscle. Most of the time, these strains involve small tears to the muscles and can usually be treated with rest, gentle stretching, and over-the-counter pain medications.

Some groin pulls can be severe and cause a muscle to completely rupture. These tears have to be repaired with surgery. Recovery times can be extensive, lasting up to 12 weeks or more.

To prevent groin pulls, stretch regularly. You may also want to include exercises that strengthen your adductor, pelvic, and core muscles.

A Word From Verywell

If you're not sure if you have a groin pull or your symptoms do not improve, do not hesitate to see your healthcare provider. Other conditions can be confused with a groin pull, and they may need different treatments.

If your primary care provider cannot pinpoint the cause, ask for a referral to a sports medicine specialist or an orthopedist who specializes in diseases and disorders of the skeleton and muscles.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the groin muscles called?

    The groin muscles are called the adductor muscles. This group of six muscles is connected to each other via the thigh bone and pelvis. When they contract, they pull our legs inward. The names of the muscles are adductor brevis, adductor magnus, adductor longus, pectineus, and gracilis.

  • How do you know if you pulled a groin muscle?

    You can usually tell if you've pulled a groin muscle because you will feel the pain immediately. There may also be a popping sound or snapping sensation. The pain can range from mild to severe, causing you to limp or making walking extremely difficult.

  • Is walking good for groin strain?

    (Video) How to Fix A Groin Pull (Adductor Strain)

    There are some injuries you shouldn't try to "walk off." If you've had a groin pull, you will be advised to rest and avoid any movements that cause pain. Crutches may be needed.

  • What is the fastest way to heal a pulled groin muscle?

    There are no shortcuts to healing a pulled groin. Recovery involves an extended period of rest followed by physical therapy to help strengthen the muscles and ensure stability. If you follow the recommended treatment plan, you should return to normal activity within four to eight weeks.

4 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Sedaghati P, Alizadeh MH, Shirzad E, Ardjmand A. Review of sport-induced groin injuries.Trauma Mon.2013 Dec;18(3):107–12. doi:10.5812/traumamon.12666

  2. Serner A, Weir A, Tol JL, et al. Return to sport after criteria-based rehabilitation of acute adductor injuries in male athletes: a prospective cohort study. Orthop J Sports Med.2020 Jan;8(1):2325967119897247. doi:10.1177/2325967119897247

  3. Lynch TS, Bedi A, Larson CM. Athletic hip injuries. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2017 Apr;25(4):269-79, doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-16-00171

    (Video) Injury clinic | Groin strain symptoms explained

  4. Suarez JC, Ely EE, Mutnal AB, et al. Comprehensive approach to the evaluation of groin pain. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2013 Sep;21(9):558-70. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-21-09-558

Diagnosing and Treating Groin Pulls (2)

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.

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FAQs

How do you diagnose a pulled groin muscle? ›

You may feel pain and tenderness that's worse when you squeeze your legs together. You may also have pain when you raise the knee of the injured side. There may be swelling or bruising in the groin area or inner thigh. If you have a bad strain, you may walk with a limp while it heals.

What is the treatment for a groin pull? ›

Rest the area and avoid activities that cause pain. For the first day or two, put an ice pack on the area 3–4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time. Put a towel between the ice and the skin to protect it from the cold. Use an elastic wrap to help support the groin and keep the swelling down.

What is the fastest way to heal a pulled groin? ›

Cryotherapy, or cold therapy, is a proven method for reducing pain and inflammation in the soft tissues. Cold reduces inflammation, which can help with pain and support a quicker recovery. In fact, the faster you can apply cold to the injured area, the quicker your groin strain recovery may be.

Do groin pulls ever heal? ›

With rest and proper treatment, most groin strains heal on their own in about 4–8 weeks. More severe groin strains can take longer. It is very important to let the strain heal fully and get the doctor's OK before going back to activities.

What does a groin pull feel like? ›

Tenderness and pain on the inside of the thigh and groin area. Pain when bringing your legs together. Pain when raising your knee. A snapping or popping feeling at the time of injury that results in severe pain.

Is walking good for groin strain? ›

Immediately following your consultation, your physical therapist may advise you to: Rest the area by avoiding walking or any activity that causes pain. Crutches may be recommended to reduce further strain on the muscles when walking. Apply ice packs to the area for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 hours.

What is the best medication for groin pain? ›

Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas, wrapped in a protective layer such as a towel, on the sore area for 20 to 30 minutes two to four times a day.

How do I know if my groin pain is serious? ›

Schedule a doctor's visit if you have:

A lump or swelling in or around a testicle. Intermittent intense pain along the lower side of your abdomen (flank) that may radiate along your groin and into your testicle. Blood in your urine.

Where is groin pain located? ›

Definition. Groin pain refers to discomfort in the area where the abdomen ends and the legs begin.

Should you massage a pulled groin muscle? ›

During the rehab of both acute and chronic groin strain, physical therapy is integral to optimal recovery. Remedial massage releases tension in the muscle, reduces swelling, relaxes muscle spasms, stimulates blood circulation and realigns the muscle fibres to promote healing.

How do I know if I have a hernia or groin strain? ›

Feelings of dull aching and pain in the groin area are common for both a muscle strain and a hernia. A key indicator that you may have a hernia, however, is if you have a small bulge, lump, or bump on one side of the groin. This is the result of an area of tissue or organ pushing through the groin or abdominal muscle.

How should I sleep with groin pain? ›

If on the other hand you are experiencing hip and/or groin pain then you may choose to sleep with a pillow beneath your thighs in side laying to allow your hip to remain aligned during your sleep and reduce the amount of load on the outer thigh and hip.

Why do I keep getting groin strain? ›

Groin strains usually occur in activities which include sudden changes of direction whilst playing sports, but can also occur by simply slipping on a wet surface or during day to day activity.

How do you strengthen your groin muscles? ›

Strengthening Exercises for Groin Strain Rehabilitation - YouTube

How long should you rest a groin strain? ›

Stop all exercise

Initially, resting the leg and keeping it elevated on a stool, for example, is often advised so as to avoid the injury getting worse. After about 48 hours, gentle movement is encouraged. Painkillers or anti-inflammatories may be of help, for example paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Should you ice or heat a groin strain? ›

Put ice or a cold pack on your groin area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. After 2 or 3 days, if your swelling is gone, apply heat.

Is Deep heat good for groin strain? ›

After the initial swelling and inflammation has subsided, some people like to apply therapeutic heat. This can help loosen up stiff muscles and increase range of motion. Massage is another popular method for reducing tension in the groin muscles while recovering from a pull or tear.

What causes groin pain in the elderly? ›

Prostatitis may be the cause of inguinal pain in an elderly patient but is more common in young to middle-aged men. Interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS) is another possible urologic cause of inguinal pain in the elderly population. While it is seen more often in women, men are sometimes affected.

What helps hip and groin pain? ›

At-home treatments for groin and hip pain
  1. Rest. Use the injured or painful area as little as possible for several weeks, allowing it to heal.
  2. NSAIDs. Try over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as naproxen or ibuprofen. ...
  3. Ice. ...
  4. Stretching.
30 Aug 2021

Will a muscle relaxer help a pulled groin? ›

The treatment of groin pain is complex and individual, as its causes may vary from patient to patient. Gradual physical therapy combined with pharmacotherapy should be effective in most cases. The latter includes nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants.

Can I put Voltaren on my groin? ›

Good thing someone invented Voltaren. Its perfectly safe to apply to the groin area without the fear of lava on your bits. This product is a straight 10/10.”

Does a groin pull hurt all the time? ›

A grade 3 groin strain is a tear that goes through most or all of the muscle or tendon. This usually causes a sudden, severe pain at the time it happens. Using the injured muscle at all will be painful. There's usually significant swelling and bruising.

Can sitting Make groin pain worse? ›

Ryan Nunley, MD, Washington University orthopedist, explains, “Groin pain that comes from the hip typically develops slowly over time – without a specific injury or trauma. It is worse when the hip is flexed, for example, while sitting in a low chair or driving.

Can sitting too much cause groin pain? ›

And if you're sitting for 2-3 hours at a time this may lead to a bit of stiffness when you eventually do stand up and go for a walk, or may even lead to some pinching in the groin or hip when you go outside for a longer walk.

What causes groin pain without injury? ›

Groin pain can have many potential causes, including muscle strain, inguinal hernia, and kidney stones. Many causes are related to hip injuries or osteoarthritis. Less commonly, the pain may be the result of nerve injury, tumors, or a testicle infection.

Can bowel problems cause groin pain? ›

Chronic constipation can cause additional groin pain by causing a hernia or tearing muscles with a difficult bowel movement.

How do you give yourself a groin massage? ›

Groin Self Massage - YouTube

Can you use ibuprofen gel on groin? ›

Athletes with one or more groin injuries often respond well to over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (for example, Advil or Motrin) which both relieve pain and reduce inflammation at the injury site. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can also provide pain relief. Severe injuries may require prescription pain relievers.

Can a woman pull a groin muscle? ›

Most common cause of groin pain for females

A “groin strain” usually refers to torn or overstretched adductor muscles, which are located on the inside of the thigh. These types of groin injuries are usually the result of overuse or overexertion and are common among physically active people.

What can be mistaken for groin hernia? ›

What else can be mistaken for a hernia? While a hernia is the cause for most people who experience lumps in their abdomen, there are several other possibilities such as a hematoma, lipoma, a gynecological issue in women, or an undescended testicle in newborn boys. In rare cases, a lump may indicate a tumor.

What does inguinal ligament pain feel like? ›

A lump or bulge in the groin area. Pain in the groin, especially when you lift, bend, strain or cough.

What is Gilmore's groin? ›

Groin disruption (Gilmore's Groin) is a severe musculo-tendinous injury of the groin, which can be successfully treated by the surgical restoration of normal anatomy. It is (nearly always) a sports related injury with a well-recognised set of symptoms and signs.

Why does groin pain get worse at night? ›

Groin pain that is worse at night may be caused by osteoarthritis or tendonitis of the hip joints. If you are noticing it more when you are laying down to sleep, you may have an uncomfortable mattress or you may be sleeping in an unusual position.

What does it mean when your groin hurts when you walk? ›

Groin pain when walking is often caused by strained muscles, ligaments, or tendons in your lower abdominal area. Cartilage tears, hip impingement, an inguinal hernia, and osteoarthritis are also common culprits. If your groin pain is caused by muscle strain, rest and ice therapy can help the injury to heal.

Is cycling good for groin strain? ›

People trying to maintain fitness following a groin strain can usually manage training by cycling or swimming, but breaststroke should be avoided as the movements involved place stress on the groin area. Running on a treadmill or along flat paths also works well.

What is a Grade 1 groin strain? ›

The three degrees of groin strains: Grade 1: Overstretched or torn muscle, damaging up to 5 percent of muscle fibers. It's possible to walk without pain but running, jumping, stretching and other "football activities" are truer tests of the injury.

What is a Grade 2 groin strain? ›

Adductor strains are graded as a first-degree strain if there is pain but minimal loss of strength and minimal restriction of motion. A second-degree strain is defined as tissue damage that compromises the strength of the muscle but does not include complete loss of strength and function.

How long does groin strain take to heal? ›

If the tear is high on the adductor tendon, recovery can be significantly slower and take approximately 12-16 weeks. A tear to the mid-belly of the muscle will typically take between 4 and 12 weeks to heal depending on the severity of the tear.

How do I know if my groin pain is serious? ›

Schedule a doctor's visit if you have:

A lump or swelling in or around a testicle. Intermittent intense pain along the lower side of your abdomen (flank) that may radiate along your groin and into your testicle. Blood in your urine.

Where is groin pain located? ›

Definition. Groin pain refers to discomfort in the area where the abdomen ends and the legs begin.

How do I know if I have a hernia or groin strain? ›

Feelings of dull aching and pain in the groin area are common for both a muscle strain and a hernia. A key indicator that you may have a hernia, however, is if you have a small bulge, lump, or bump on one side of the groin. This is the result of an area of tissue or organ pushing through the groin or abdominal muscle.

Should you massage a pulled groin muscle? ›

During the rehab of both acute and chronic groin strain, physical therapy is integral to optimal recovery. Remedial massage releases tension in the muscle, reduces swelling, relaxes muscle spasms, stimulates blood circulation and realigns the muscle fibres to promote healing.

Should you ice or heat a groin strain? ›

Put ice or a cold pack on your groin area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. After 2 or 3 days, if your swelling is gone, apply heat.

How do you strengthen your groin muscles? ›

Strengthening Exercises for Groin Strain Rehabilitation - YouTube

Does a groin pull hurt all the time? ›

A grade 3 groin strain is a tear that goes through most or all of the muscle or tendon. This usually causes a sudden, severe pain at the time it happens. Using the injured muscle at all will be painful. There's usually significant swelling and bruising.

Can sitting Make groin pain worse? ›

Ryan Nunley, MD, Washington University orthopedist, explains, “Groin pain that comes from the hip typically develops slowly over time – without a specific injury or trauma. It is worse when the hip is flexed, for example, while sitting in a low chair or driving.

What kind of doctor treats groin pain? ›

Make an urgent appointment with your family doctor or urologist. With the right medication, you'll feel much better within a few days. If the symptoms don't get better or if they return, see your doctor promptly. There are a few other, less common causes of pain or swelling in a testicle.

Can your hip Make your groin hurt? ›

Hip tendinitis can occur when the tendon attaching the iliopsoas muscle in the hip to your upper thigh becomes inflamed. The pain can also start in your hip and radiate to your groin when inflammation occurs in the tendons that attach the groin muscle to the hip bone.

What causes groin pain without injury? ›

Groin pain can have many potential causes, including muscle strain, inguinal hernia, and kidney stones. Many causes are related to hip injuries or osteoarthritis. Less commonly, the pain may be the result of nerve injury, tumors, or a testicle infection.

What can be mistaken for groin hernia? ›

What else can be mistaken for a hernia? While a hernia is the cause for most people who experience lumps in their abdomen, there are several other possibilities such as a hematoma, lipoma, a gynecological issue in women, or an undescended testicle in newborn boys. In rare cases, a lump may indicate a tumor.

What does inguinal ligament pain feel like? ›

A lump or bulge in the groin area. Pain in the groin, especially when you lift, bend, strain or cough.

Can a groin hernia heal itself? ›

The hernia won't heal on its own. If your hernia does not bother you, most likely you can wait to have surgery. Your hernia may get worse, but it may not. Over time, hernias tend to get bigger as the muscle wall of the belly gets weaker and more tissue bulges through.

Videos

1. 7 Signs You May Have A Groin Injury & How to Wrap It
(Bob & Brad)
2. Fix Your Groin Strain On Your Own!
(Dr. Kristie Ennis)
3. How to Treat Groin Injuries in Runners
(Sports Injury Physio)
4. 7 Groin Strain Stretches & Exercises - Ask Doctor Jo
(AskDoctorJo)
5. Groin Pain, Symptoms, Types, Prevention, Treatments, & Return to Play - Dr Adam Weir
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6. Airrosti Injury Spotlight: Groin Pull (Adductor Strain)
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