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Groin Strain

What can you do about a groin strain?

A groin strain is a muscle injury that can be painful and needs time to heal and can severely affect an athlete’s performance. In this article we will find out what is groin strain, how groin strains happen, what are the symptoms of groin strain and how to help recover and prevent further injury.


What is groin strain?

Groin strain happens when any one of the group of muscles at the top of the thigh is partially or completely torn which can cause considerable pain and discomfort. Groin strain is when the adductor muscle- the major muscles on the inside of the thigh- are stretched or torn beyond their normal range of motion.

Usually the pain of a groin strain is sharp, the onset is abrupt and the cause of the pain is clear such as stretching for a football kick or sliding into tackle an opponent in soccer. In addition to pain, a person may develop inner thigh muscle spasms and leg weakness from the strain. A groin strain typically occurs as a result of an athletic injury or awkward movement of the hip joint, which leads to stretching or tearing of these inner thigh muscles. Groin strains are common in footballers, soccer players, runners or any activities such as kicking, changing direction or sprinting.

To determine the cause of your groin pain, it is important to refer to a physical therapist such as your doctor or Physiotherapist who will perform a comprehensive physical examination. Once diagnosed, your treatment plan may range from something as simple as rest and ice to something more involved, like physical therapy and your return to a full range of movements should be done gradually.

Intense physical activity may need to be avoided for weeks or months and recovery time will depend on the seriousness of the groin strain. It is important to note that immediately treating a groin strain can prevent it worsening and may help it to heal. 


Groin strain is usually caused by a tear in the adductor longus muscle. 


 The main symptoms of groin strain are pain and tenderness in the area. Other symptoms include:

  • bruising or swelling of the inner thigh
  • pain when a person raises their knee
  • pain when a person closes or opens their legs
  • muscles feel weak or tight
  • limping or difficulty moving the leg


Groin strain grades

Muscles located on the insides of your limbs ie.leg or arm that move the limb towards the centre of the body are known as adductor muscles. Groin strain affects the adductor muscles in the inner thigh.

Groin strains are graded with numbers 1 to 3, depending on how serious the injury is:

  • Grade 1 causes some pain and tenderness, but the stretch or muscle tear is minor.
  • Grade 2 causes pain, tenderness, weakness and sometimes bruising.
  • Grade 3 is a severe tear of the muscle, causing bruising and a lot of pain.

How did I strain my groin?

  • In practice, this often happens during sports where the leg is rotated or moved quickly upwards or sideways. Some examples of activities that could cause a groin strain include jumping, twisting the leg, forceful kicking, changing direction suddenly when running or even lifting something heavy.



How is it diagnosed?

  • Groin strain can be diagnosed by a doctor or a physical therapist. When the injury happened you may have heard a popping sound and noticed swelling after the injury and felt feel pain when moving your leg.

In some cases, more tests may be needed. These could include an X-ray or MRI scan to check that there is no other damage to the leg or pelvis.

Treatment options


Your physical therapist or doctor may treat groin pain with simple exercises.

Groin strain should be treated quickly, ideally in the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury. This is to reduce swelling and bleeding and to ease pain in the area. Rest is often prescribed and the application of ice packs to the area is recommended (but not applied directly on your skin, as it can cause ice burns).  An ice pack should be held on the area for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 hours.

Tying a bandage reasonably tightly around the top of the thigh may help. This is known as compression and should be done by a trained first responder if possible. Compression shorts or leggings can be worn to help mobilise the area as well as promote blood flow and stabilize the pelvis to help prevent further injury.

Over-the-counter painkillers may also relieve any discomfort.

A physical therapist can put together a treatment program to help with your recovery. This usually includes exercises that will restore movement to your leg. Massage may help the soft tissue in the leg to recover.


Five simple exercises to help you recover and prevent further groin strain:

You should avoid moving your leg too much in the first 48 hours after the injury. After this, some simple exercises can help you to get back to a normal level of activity.

  1. Floor stretch
  • lie on the floor face up
  • legs should be outstretched and straight
  • slowly move the right leg out to the side of the body
  • return the leg to a central position
  • repeat with the left leg


  1. Chair lift
  • sit on a chair
  • keeping the knee bent, lift the right foot to just below hip level
  • hold for a few seconds
  • return foot to the floor
  • repeat with the left leg


  1. Side lift
  • lie on the right side of the body
  • support the body by leaning on the right elbow
  • place left hand in front of the body for balance
  • keeping the left leg straight, gently lift upwards
  • swap to lie on the left side of the body and repeat the exercise


  1. Knee squeeze
  • sit on a chair
  • place a soft ball or rolled towel between the knees
  • gently squeeze the ball or towel for a few seconds
  • repeat a few times


  1. Knee bend
  • lie on the floor face up
  • legs should be outstretched and straight
  • keeping the foot on the floor, bend the right leg
  • repeat with the left leg

If the exercises are causing you more pain, stop doing them and seek medical advice.

What are the main causes?



Groin strain is not always preventable, but there are some things that can help you avoid this type of injury.

Warming up your muscles with stretches or light exercise before sport or physical activity can help avoid damage to your body.

Keep to the same amount of exercise, rather than taking part in intense activity now and then. Professional athletes usually train throughout the year to maintain their fitness.

If you do not exercise regularly, or are just starting to exercise for the first time, go slow. Know your limits and increase intensity gradually.


Grade 1 strains will take 1 to 2 weeks of rest before a person can return to exercise. Normal movement, such as walking, should be possible within a few days.

Grade 2 strains may take 3 to 6 weeks to heal fully.

Grade 3 strains happen when most or all of the muscle is torn. The muscle can take 3 to 4 months to repair completely.

A doctor or physical therapist will be able to advise on whether your muscle has fully healed. You will also notice improvement in your normal leg movement, you may no longer feeling pain and you will have regained full strength in your leg.

Keeping your leg muscles strong should help to prevent another groin strain in future.

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