Groin strain: why does it occur?

A groin strain is a partial tear of the small fibers of the adductor muscles that are located on the inner side of the thigh. It can be mild or severe, but with rest and proper treatment it is usually completely cured.

This pathology is included within the group of problems and injuries of the groin, produced during recreational activities related to exercise, jobs that require a lot of effort and accidents with vehicles, among many other events. If you want to know more about groin strain and how to deal with it, keep reading.

Why can a groin strain occur?

As indicated by the portal Kidshealth, groin strain occurs when one of the muscles on the inner thigh is stretched, is injured or torn. These muscles are 5 and receive the following names: pectineus, adductor minus and adductor medius – they go from the pelvis to the femur – and gracilis and adductor magnus – they go from the pelvis to the knee.

The medical page shows us the most common causes for which this event can occur. Among them we find the following:

  • Playing sports that require sprinting for short periods of time or requiring sudden changes of direction.
  • Stiff muscles, especially if you have not done the necessary warm-up before doing a demanding exercise.
  • Poor physical preparation or fatigue when doing an activity that requires a lot of muscle demand.
  • Resuming activity too soon after a previous injury.

This pathology is usually related to the practice of exercise, but this is not always the case. In general, any overly aggressive stretching of the muscles or a direct hard blow are events that lead to the onset of groin strain.

The appearance of pain in the thigh and groin when doing physical activity should be an alert to stop.

To know more: Hip adductor tendinopathy, what is it and what are its symptoms?

Symptoms of a groin strain

The portal Radychildrens, belonging to the San Diego hospital (California), shows us that there are 3 degrees of groin distention. As you will see below, each one of them presents its own symptoms:

  • First grade: mild pain that may go unnoticed until the patient finishes exercising. Once the activity is over, the athlete feels stiffness and local sensitivity.
  • Second grade: moderate pain and stiffness in the groin, along with minor bruising and swelling. Gait can be impaired and running is a bit difficult.
  • Third degree: severe pain, swelling, bruising, and inability to cross the legs. Walking is very difficult.

In general, we can summarize the symptoms of groin strain in the following clinical signs: swelling and bruising in the groin area, muscle spasms, weakness in the affected leg, and certain problems with walking.


First, the medical professional will ask you what you were doing before experiencing the pain that led to the consultation. In general, the diagnosis is differential, that is, a physical examination is carried out to rule out other pathologies – such as an athlete's hernia.

If the injury is first degree, less than 10% of the muscle fibers involved are injured. In grade 2 events, 10 to 90% of the fibers are injured, while in grade 3 the muscle is almost totally torn or ruptured. On some occasions, an MRI can be used to quantify the extent of the tear.

Treatment of groin strain

Treatment will depend on the degree of injury. In milder cases, the problem is solved with a 2-week rest, while a complete tear may require up to 3 months of recovery. Medical records indicate some of the guidelines that must be followed to obtain rapid improvement:

  • Repose: not do any activity that causes pain during the recovery process.
  • Cold: Applying ice with a cold pack to the groin area for 15 minutes about 4 times a day is a good option to soothe pain and inflammation. Remember that ice should never be applied directly to the skin.
  • Medicines: There are over-the-counter medications to manage mild or moderate pain, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Compression: Compression bandages can be applied to the affected area to prevent inflammation. Consult with your physiotherapist which is the most viable option.
  • Elevation, elongation and strengthening: a series of exercises and postures that will favor the recovery of the affected muscle. Again, check out these techniques and how to do them with a professional.
  • Hot: This should be applied only when it is intended to resume physical activity.

In general, the treatment is based on a period of rest so that the muscle recovers, but without stopping to carry out certain stretches so that it does not atrophy too much due to disuse. The entire recovery process must be mediated by a professional.

A professional approach to distension is necessary to ensure a recovery that does not end in complications.

Tips to help you prevent a groin strain

Sometimes it is difficult to prevent this type of injury from appearing, especially if you are a professional athlete. Up to 16% of all injured footballers go to the doctor for a groin strain. It is also very common during activities such as hockey, tennis, and basketball.

Therefore, the only thing we can tell you is that you stretch before exercising and do not overexert yourself. If you notice pain in the groin area, stop playing sports for a few days and take care of the affected area. The best treatment for groin strain is, without a doubt, to prevent its onset.

You may be interested in: Muscle imbalance, why does it occur and how to correct it?

Consciously prevent its appearance

As you may have observed, groin strain is a fairly common pathology, the result of overloading the pelvic muscles during physical activity. With a good planning of exercise, previous stretching and the cessation of it before pain you can avoid its appearance.