How to Treat a Groin Strain

How to Treat a Groin Strain

Groin strain occurs due to muscles in the groin or thigh being tensed and stretched too suddenly. Players of football, rugby, hockey, and other running sports are at risk of a groin strain.

Groin strain can be painful and could put you out of action for weeks or even months. Make sure you know how to treat a groin strain to give your body what it needs to heal properly and help you return to sport faster.

What is a groin strain?

Groin strain occurs when the ligaments in the groin area are stretched too much or torn. It is most commonly caused by sudden, intense, or unusual movement in the legs that forces the groin muscles to stretch too quickly, too much, or in an odd direction.

Groin muscle strain usually affects the adductor longus muscle which can be seen in this diagram.

Pulled Adductor Longus Muscle diagram

Whilst experiencing a groin strain you could find lots of movements painful or uncomfortable and depending on the severity of the strain your mobility could be temporarily affected. Treating a groin strain as early as possible helps the body to recover more quickly.

Groin Strain Symptoms

So, what does a groin strain feel like? A groin strain will be accompanied by pain, discomfort and swelling. Other symptoms include:

  • Bruising and swelling of the inner thigh
  • Pain when the knee is raised or the legs are opened and closed
  • Weak or tight sensation in the muscles in the area
  • Muscles that feel ‘hot’, or the area feels hot to the touch

Sometimes there is a question of whether the injury is a groin strain or hernia. This is because hernias can affect the same area and cause similar pain. Usually, a hernia can be distinguished by a lump that can be felt or seen beneath the skin.

You can carry out a groin strain test to check whether you can determine your injury at a groin strain. If you pull your knee up to your chest and feel pain in your groin it is likely to be a groin strain. You may also hear or feel a ‘popping’ sensation that is indicative of a groin strain.

Visiting your doctor can help to confirm a groin strain and rule out other problems if you are concerned. Your doctor will perform a physical examination and may even give you an x-ray.

Groin strain is graded in a similar way to an ankle sprain to describe the severity of the injury.

Grade Symptoms Recovery Duration
Grade 1 groin strain Light pain, overstretched muscle. 1–2 weeks
Grade 2 groin strain Moderate pain, bruising, and some weakness. Overstretched muscle and minor tearing are present. 3–6 weeks
Grade 3 groin strain Severe pain and bruising, difficulting moving the area. A severe muscle tear is present. 3–4 months

Groin Strain Treatment

Man with Groin Pain

Groin strain rehab can be self-administered in most cases. For how to treat a groin strain, follow these steps:

  1. Cease physical activity and give the area time to rest and recover.
  2. Use an ice pack to ice the area for 20 minutes every two or three hours and repeat for the first two days after the injury.
  3. Compress the area with a wrap or sports tape.
  4. Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine temporarily to ease the pain and swelling such as ibuprofen.

Icing a Groin Strain

We want all athletes and sports players to be prepared for an injury. Carrying a first aid kit means you can deliver critical first aid in the moments after an injury, significantly increasing the chance of a full, problem-free recovery.

When you’re on the pitch, court, or just out and about playing sports, you won’t be able to just grab an ice pack. That’s why we include an instant ice pack in our sports first aid kit. You only need to squeeze and shake the pack to activate its cooling effect meaning you’ll always be ready to ice a strained groin muscle.

Wrapping a Groin Strain

The aim of wrapping a groin muscle is to provide support to the muscles in the joint, reduce swelling, and decrease pain and discomfort. Compressing the area immediately after injury will help the natural healing process.

You’ll need:

  1. Have the injured person stand up as straight as they can with their legs slightly apart. The effects of taping will work better on bare skin so pull up clothing or have them wear a thin garment if they are comfortable doing so. Gather everything you need to wrap the area.
  2. Start by wrapping the tape around the lower thigh a couple of times. The tape should be taught so that the area is wrapped firmly but take care not to wrap it too tightly, this could risk cutting off circulation to the area which is dangerous. Ask the person if the wrap feels too tight.
  3. Gradually wind the tape around the leg moving closer to the groin area.
  4. At the inner top of the leg, continue around the back to the outer side of the leg, then wrap the tape around the top of the opposite hip bone.
  5. Wrap the tape around both hips and then bring it down, between the legs, around the injured leg once more. Repeat this step a couple of times.
  6. Finish by wrapping the tape around the hips to secure it. Our zinc oxide tape is self-adhesive to make it easier to secure but otherwise, you could use microporous tape or safety pins.

Zinc oxide tape is ideal for wrapping a groin strain because it is non-stretchy, highly tensile, and capable of immobilising the area to protect it.

Chronic groin strain treatment may require professional attention if your groin strain is very severe. Your doctor will advise you on what to do for groin strain of grade 2 or 3 and may recommend exercises to help with rehabilitation.

How to Treat a Groin Strain Quickly

Groin strain can put you out of action for weeks and this is bad news if you’re an athlete training for an event such as a marathon. It’s no wonder we hear a lot of people asking how to heal a groin strain quickly.

Unfortunately, there’s no way of speeding up the body’s natural healing process. But as long as you know what to do for groin strain immediately following the injury and then for the days afterwards you’ll be able to help your body recover.

Rest, ice, compression, and gentle exercises once the muscles are well on the way to healing are the very best home remedies for groin strain.

How to Treat a Groin Strain in a Child

Your child might complain of pain in the lower abdomen, upper legs, or groin area after playing sports. Have them carry out the groin strain test above to see if you can self-diagnose it. If the pain is severe or doesn’t get better after a few days they should be seen by a doctor.

If you’re wondering how to treat a groin strain injury in children it’s exactly the same as for adults. Rest, ice, and compression are the best ways to help reduce the pain and swelling of their injury. You could also give your child some NSAIDs like ibuprofen but be sure to read the instructions on the medicine to confirm it is appropriate for your child’s age.

What exercise can I do with a groin strain?

Woman Hamstring Stretch

Groin strain exercises are important as they allow the affected area to bend and stretch new muscle tissue and build back strength. You could aim to start carrying out light groin strain stretches as soon as you feel comfortable moving the area. Start with gentle exercises that don’t put too much pressure on your groin, such as:

  • Hamstring stretches against the wall
  • Hip abductor stretches
  • Standing groin stretches

Then move on to exercises that involve more movement once your groin pain decreases, like these:

  • Leg raises
  • Lying-leg crossovers
  • Side plank

Cardio exercises with groin strain can be difficult as you don’t want to put undue stress on the groin muscles by using your legs for energetic activity. If you want to continue with cardio exercise, try to opt for upper body-focused activity.

How long does a groin strain take to heal?

How long does a groin strain last? Groin strain recovery time varies depending on the severity of the injury and whether the area has been properly treated. Mild groin strain can last for as little as one week while severe groin strain could still be affecting you in four months’ time.

Full groin strain recovery can usually be identified when there is no more pain or discomfort and the muscles in the groin can be easily moved and take the weight of the body.

Be Prepared for Groin Strain

Make sure you and your team are always prepared for an injury or emergency situation with the proper training, check our blog for everything you need to know about sports first aid, including first aid courses for sport and essential parts of any sports first aid kit.

If you’re interested in improving your knowledge, skills, and awareness of sports injuries and helping athletes to recover, check out the Injury Rehab Network. We created the IRN to offer a network of sports rehabilitation experts, professionals, students, and enthusiasts with lots of opportunities to join workshops, discussions, and networking events.

We cover the best ways to treat a range of common sports injuries in our blog:

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