Five Steps for Treating Groin Pain in Athletes

Proper Treatment of Groin Pain Can Speed Up Your Recovery

Groin pain or injury is generally the result of an adductor muscle pull or strain (groin strain). If these muscles are stretched beyond their limits, it may cause small (or large)  muscle tears that cause pain and swelling. These tips can help you treat and recover from a groin injury.

Stop Exercise and Let It Rest

mature woman resting after competitive runningrace
Paul Viant/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. If you have pain during exercise, stop. In most cases, a groin pull or strain is quite obvious and debilitating, but for some, there are subtle warning signs leading up to a full-on groin injury.

If you experience nagging aches or soreness in the groin while exercising, back off and let it rest. If you have any acute pain, stop all activity, sit down and follow the R.I.C.E. injury treatment steps. Rest, ice, compression and elevation are the best immediate treatment for pulls and strains.

You should see a doctor for a groin injury if you can not walk or bear weight, you have pain at rest, or wake up during the night because of pain.

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Apply Ice as Needed

Ice Groin Injury
Ice Groin Injury. photo (c) Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Applying ice to a groin injury will reduce swelling and prevent further damage. As soon as possible, apply ice to the groin area. Use a bag of frozen peas, a cold pack or ice in a plastic baggie and apply to the injured area. (Just wrap whatever you use in fabric or paper towels -- don't apply cold plastic directly to skin).

Ice provides short-term pain relief and reduces blood flow to the injured area, which limits swelling. Don't leave ice on an injury for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, and don't apply it directly to the skin or you could wind up with frostbite. A good rule of thumb is to ice the injured area for 15 minutes each every hour for the first day. After that, use ice as needed to control swelling. If you have swelling after 3 days, it's time to see a physician to determine the extent of your injury.

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Use a Compression Wrap

Groin Taping
Groin Taping. photo courtesy of Pricegrabber

Applying an elastic compression wrap to the groin can reduce pain from inflammation and keep the swelling down. After applying the ice to the injured area, wrap the thigh to keep it compressed during the ice application. Compression wraps also help reduce pain and re-injury as you return to activity in a week or two (when pain decreases enough to allow a return to activity).

You can try a special precut groin tape, like Scrip Spidertech Groin Tape, or Kinesio Tape to easily compress the groin which helps prevent additional injury and protects against inflammation during exercise.

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Perform Gentle Groin Stretching

Groin and Inner Thigh Stretch
Groin and Inner Thigh Stretch. photo (c) Ryan McVay / Getty Images

Gentle stretching can be started once the swelling has subsided, and pain is controlled. Start very slowly and gently increase range of motion in the hip and inner thigh. Be careful in the initial stages to avoid forcing a stretch, or you risk re-injury to the area. Keep in mind that a stretch should never cause pain. Follow this groin stretching series as you progress.

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Return to Sports Slowly

Work with a trainer
Work with a trainer. photo (c) Rana Faure/Getty Images

After a groin injury, it's important to take your time returning to sports. Starting back too soon can increase your risk of re-injury or developing a chronic groin pain.  Visiting a therapist or trainer who specializes in athletic injury is the safest way to guage your return to sports. Some general guidelines include:

  • You should be pain free, have no swelling, and have full range-of-motion in the hip.
  • You should have full or close to full strength, and are able to fully bear weight without limping.  
  • Even if you feel 100 percent you may have deficits in strength, joint stability, flexibility or skill. 
  • Take extra care with the injured part for several months.

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