Pulled Groin Muscle Symptoms and Treatment

All About a Pulled Groin Muscle

groin strain
A pulled groin is a common sports injury. Richard Boll/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

A groin pull is an injury to the muscles of the inner thigh. The groin muscles, called the adductor muscle group, consists of six muscles that span the distance from the inner pelvis to the inner part of the femur (thigh bone). These muscles pull the legs together, and help with other movements of the hip-joint. The adductor muscles are important to many types of athletes including sprinters, swimmers, soccer players, and football players.

A groin pull is an injury to the adductor muscles called a muscle strain. When a muscle is strained, the muscle is stretched too far. Less severe strains pull the muscle beyond their normal excursion. More severe strains tear the muscle fibers, and can even cause a complete tear of the muscle. Most commonly, groin pulls are minor tears of some muscle fibers, but the bulk of the muscle tissue remains intact.

Symptoms of a Groin Strain

An acute groin pull can be quite painful, depending on how severe the injury is. Groin pulls are usually graded as follows:

  • Grade I Groin Strain: Mild discomfort, often no disability. Usually does not limit activity.
  • Grade II Groin Strain: Moderate discomfort, can limit the ability to perform activities such as running and jumping. May have moderate swelling and bruising associated.
  • Grade III Groin Strain: Severe injury that can cause pain with walking. Often patients complain of muscle spasm, swelling, and significant bruising.

    Groin pulls are often seen in athletes who participate in sports such as ice hockey and soccer. The injury appears to be related to factors including hip muscle strength, preseason conditioning, and previous injury. Because of this, proper conditioning is of utmost importance to prevent groin strain injury.

    Athletes, especially hockey and soccer players, should incorporate adductor strengthening, pelvic stabilization, and core strengthening exercises into their workouts to prevent injury.

    A pulled groin is usually a clear diagnosis. Most athletes know what the injury is before they seek medical attention. However, other conditions can mimic the symptoms of a groin strain. One condition that was previously not well-recognized is called a sports hernia. Sports hernias have been found in patients who were diagnosed with chronic groin strains. The sports hernia is a condition similar to a regular inguinal hernia, and is due to a weakening of the muscles that form the abdominal wall. The symptoms of a sports hernia are often nearly identical to those of a groin strain.

    Other conditions that may mimic the symptoms of a groin strain include osteitis pubis (inflammation of the pubic bone), hip-joint problems (including early arthritis, labral tears, and other conditions), and low back problems (pinched nerves).

    See a Doctor?

    If you have symptoms of a severe groin pull, you should be evaluated for proper treatment. Some signs of a severe groin strain include:

    • Difficulty walking
    • Pain while sitting or at rest
    • Pain at night

    Severe groin pulls should be evaluated because, in some very rare situations of complete muscle rupture, surgery may be necessary to reattach the torn ends of the muscle. This is rarely needed, even in patients with Grade III groin strain injuries, as these patients can usually undergo successful non-operative treatment.

    If you are unsure if you have a groin pull or the symptoms do not quickly resolve, then you should be seen by your doctor. As described above, other conditions can be confused with a groin pull, and these should be considered if your symptoms do not resolve.

    Treatment of a Groin Strain

    Once a strain is diagnosed, you can begin treatment for your groin pull.  Most often, treatment can be accomplished with some simple steps.  These include rest, stretching, and some oral medications.  Rarely is more invasive treatment necessary.

    Sources:

    Noonan TJ, and Garrett WE, "Muscle strain injury: diagnosis and treatment" J. Am. Acad. Ortho. Surg., Jul 1999; 7: 262 - 269.

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

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