Groin Pains, Strains and Pulls

Learn the difference between a groin pull or strain and a hernia

Groin Pain
Should You Worry About Groin Pain. Simon Winnall/Taxi/Getty Images

Pain in the groin is often the result of a groin (adductor muscle) pull or strain. This is similar to any other type of pulled or strained a muscle, but it occurs when the adductors (muscles in the inner thigh) are stretched beyond their limits. This can result in small muscle tears that cause pain and swelling. The groin muscles include the adductor Magnus, adductor ​longus, adductor Brevis, pectineus, and gracilis.

The adductors are fan-like muscles in the upper thigh that pull the legs together when they contract. They also help stabilize the hip joint. The adductors attach from the pelvis to the femur (thigh bone).

The most common cause of groin pain is a muscle strain that causes localized pain in the inner thigh or groin. A severe tear can cause a sudden, acute pain and may be accompanied by swelling and bruising. They are painful to the touch, and pain increases with resistance movements, and stretching of the inner thigh and hamstrings.

These injuries often occur during a sudden change of direction while running and quick starts and stops. These injuries are especially common in field or court sports.

Is It a Groin Pull or a Hernia?

The symptoms of sports hernia are sometimes mistaken for a groin pull or strain. A dull aching pain that intensifies with exercise may be the only symptom of a sports hernia.

An inguinal hernia, however, typically creates a bulging protrusion in the lower abdomen or upper groin that is hard to miss. If you suspect a hernia, a visit to your physician is the next step.

Treating Groin Pain

Also See: Five Tips for Treating Groin Pain

For immediate relief of a groin pull, use the R.I.C.E.

treatment method. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation are the best immediate treatment for pulls and strains. Avoid aggravating activities for the first one to two weeks and gradually return to sports.

Taping the Groin

Some athletes find that taping the groin can reduce pain and help protect from further injury. Applying special precut groin tape, such as Scrip Spidertech Tape is one way to easily tape the groin area.

Scrip Spidertech Groin Tape

As you begin to increase your activity you may find it helpful to ice the area after exercise to control any swelling. After applying the ice, wrap the thigh to keep it compressed for 15-20 minutes.

An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory can also be helpful to reduce pain and inflammation for up to a week after the injury.

When inflammation subsides, you can start with gentle groin stretching and progress to a strengthening program of low-intensity exercises.

Running may be started during recovery, but it should be gentle, gradual and not include hill or sprint work. Pay attention to signs of pain or increased tenderness, and reduce exercise if any develops. Stretch gently and never force a stretch. A return to activity should be possible within two or three weeks.

Preventing a Groin Pull

Proper warm up and stretching are helpful to prevent groin pulls.

Recommended Groin and Hip Stretches

Additionally, gradually increasing time, and intensity of activity can prevent overuse and trauma to the working muscles. Muscle strength, and proper biomechanics during activity can also reduce the risk of muscle strains.


Nicholas SJ, Tyler TF. Adductor muscle strains in sport. Sports Med. 2002;32(5):339-44.

Macintyre J, Johson C, Schroeder EL., Groin pain in athletes. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2006 Dec;5(6):293-9. Review.

Lynch SA, Renstrom PA. Groin injuries in sport: treatment strategies. Sports Med. 1999 Aug;28(2):137-44.

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