Injuries to the adductor musclesfrom microscopic ruptures to a major tearare commonly called groin pulls or groin strains, even though the groin, technically an area at the junction between the abdomen and thigh, is usually not affected by this injury.
The adductors are five muscles that start at the top of the thigh at the pubic bone and extend along the inner thigh to the inside of the knee. These muscles act to pull your legs in toward each other, so that you can straddle a horse or perform a frog kick while swimming. These same muscles also stabilize the leg when you are running or moving from side to side, help you kick sideways in soccer and karate, and cut quickly in racquet sports and basketball.
Symptoms of Groin Strain
- A sudden sharp pain in the upper inner thigh, typically after a quick, explosive movement or overexertion
- Extreme tenderness in the area of the strain
- Increase in pain and stiffness with movement or continued activity. In severe cases walking may be painful enough to warrant the use of crutches for several days.
- Feeling of weakness when a person tries to move the thigh muscle nearest to the affected area
What Causes Groin Strain?
The adductor muscles may be strained when you make a quick turn, or anytime you’re involved in explosive running, jumping, twisting, or kicking actions. Running on a slippery surface like wet grass can also result in a groin strain. It may also be caused by fatigue, cold weather, tight groin muscle and overexertion.
What If You Do Nothing?
A minor groin strain will heal itself within a few days. However, groin muscle pulls are not only painful but they tend to recur. Exercises to strengthen and stretch the inner thigh muscles can help safeguard against this.
Home Remedies for Groin Strain
- Stop the activity. As soon as you feel pain in the inner thigh, stop exercising.
- Apply ice. Massage the sore spot with ice for 10 minutes and repeat four times daily for the next two to three days.
- Support the muscle. Wrap the injured thigh with an elastic support bandage.
- Try over-the-counter NSAIDs for pain relief. Nonprescription NSAIDs—aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen—may be taken according to label directions to relieve pain and also counteract inflammation.
- Rehabilitate the muscles. A groin strain can become a nagging, recurrent injury unless proper rehabilitation and strengthening are carried out. Rehabilitation can last from two weeks to as long as two years, depending upon your age, previous adductor injury, and previous injury to the area. Begin with the exercises that are described below.
- Elevate your leg. For the first 24 hours, keep your affected leg higher than your heart as much as possible. This can help minimize swelling.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Eat foods that are rich in protein, such as poultry, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, and milk. Also increase fiber and fluid intake to prevent constipation due to decreased activity.
The best precaution against groin-muscle pulls is to make sure you are properly warmed up before beginning any exercise routine. Combining the following two strengthening exercises with some gentle stretching will also provide protective benefits. Don’t do these exercises, though, until you are free of pain.
- Butterfly stretch. Sit down on the floor with your back straight and knees bent. Place the soles of your feet together and pull the ankles inward toward your crotch. Resting your elbows on the insides of your knees, lean forward from the waist so your elbows push your knees toward the floor. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times.
- Hurdler stretch. Stand with the healthy leg bent at the knee, toes pointed forward. Stretch the injured leg straight out behind, flexing the foot so the toes point forward. Let your pelvis drop toward the floor as you bend the knee of the injured leg. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times.
Beyond Home Remedies: When To Call Your Doctor
If the pain is severe to the point that you have difficulty walking, contact your physician. Also, if the self-care measures described here fail to relieve the pain after several days, contact your physician. In rare cases an inguinal herniaa tender lump or bulge in the groinmay mimic groin pull symptoms; consult your physician to rule out this possibility.
What Your Doctor Will Do
A physical exam will be carried out. (X-rays are rarely useful.) If a groin strain is suspected, anti-inflammatory medication will be prescribed to relieve pain and a course of rehabilitation may be recommended.
The Complete Home Wellness Handbook
John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., Sheldon Margen, M.D., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter
Updated by Remedy Health Media