A pulled groin, also known as groin strain, is a result of putting too much pressure or stress on the groin and thigh muscles. If the groin or thigh muscles are stressed in a forceful manner or when they are pulled all of a sudden, they can get stretched or torn.
A pulled groin is quite common in people who are into sports that require lots of running and sudden jumping. This particular issue is mostly seen among people who play football or soccer. It also makes up for approximately 10 percent of injuries experienced by professional hockey players.
Groin strain is usually caused by a tear or rupture of any of the adductor muscles, which leads to pain in the inner thigh section. The severity of groin injuries often ranges from mild, moderate to severe, which can be totally debilitating.
The symptoms of a pulled groin include:
- Excruciating pain when you bring your legs together.
- Tenderness and pain in the groin or inner thigh.
- A popping sensation followed by excruciating pain.
- Severe pain when raising one knee.
A pulled groin is categorized into three different degrees of severity:
- 1st Degree - In this category, mild pain is experienced with a minimal loss of movement and strength.
- 2nd Degree - Presence of tissue damage along with moderate pain and moderate loss of strength.
- 3rd Degree - Pain experienced in this category is quite severe along with a severe loss of strength and function. The excruciating pain would be due to a rupture of muscle fibers.
Most of the time, a pulled groin happens while sprinting or quickly changing directions. It can also happen due to rapid movements of the leg against any kind of resistance such as kicking a ball. Adductor muscles are torn when the muscles are overstretched, especially in people doing high kicks in martial arts. The groin muscles or adductor muscles are of five different kinds, wherein three of them are short adductors called pectineus, adductor longus, and adductor brevis.
The other two groin muscles are long adductors called gracilis and adductor magnus. A groin strain may randomly occur, but there are certain factors that may lead to an increased risk of injuries. Those factors would include not carrying out proper warm-up exercises, having weak or tight adductor muscles, any history of injuries, biomechanical factors, and lower back issues.
The doctor would first conduct a physical examination. Certain imaging tests may be carried out such as an MRI or X-ray to rule out the possibility of other problems.
Most of the time, a pulled groin usually heals on its own provided that you give yourself enough time to recover. Treatment for a groin strain is normally based on administering an immediate first aid therapy such as compression and cold therapy to minimize swelling and bleeding. First aid treatment may be followed by full rehabilitation, which includes functional and strengthening activities as well as stretching to restore the muscles back to their full functioning.
The following treatment options can help speed up the process of healing:
- Apply ice to the inner thigh to help reduce pain and swelling. It is recommended to apply cold therapy for about 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours. You can do this treatment for at least 2-3 days or until the pain subsides.
- Apply compression with the help of an elastic tape or bandage.
- You can also take anti-inflammatory painkillers to achieve pain relief. Certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs such as naproxen and ibuprofen are known to provide relief from pain and swelling. However, certain studies show controversial effects of NSAIDs when they are taken for longer durations. These medications can also have side effects. Thus, the long-term use of these drugs is not recommended, unless your doctor says otherwise.
- Active stretching and strengthening exercises can be performed under expert supervision. Pain is usually used as a guide to these exercises. Based on the severity of the injury, exercises can be immediately started or after several days to rest the strained muscle. Avoid getting too aggressive in carrying out the exercises to prevent further damage.
PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation)
You can also follow the principle of PRICE, which means protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This principle should be applied as soon as possible after the injury or within the first 72 hours from injury. With the help of compression and cold therapy, bleeding, pain, and swelling can be significantly reduced. Wearing a groin support or strap is quite useful in the early stages of a groin strain to help minimize pain as well as provide support to the muscles during the healing process.
Groin Shorts and Supports
The use of groin shorts and supports are useful in protecting and providing muscle support during the healing period. You can also use these supports during various stages of rehabilitation and when carrying out physical activities such as warm-ups.
A sports massage may also help after the 72-hour period. It is beneficial when it comes to releasing the tension in the muscles, thereby encouraging the proper flow of blood and nutrients. However, take caution not to massage the affected area too soon after the injury since it can lead to an increased risk of bleeding, thereby making the injury worse.
These conservative forms of treatment would most of the time do the trick, but it is not always the case. If you cannot find relief from the above-mentioned treatment options, then surgery might be necessary. However, surgery is usually regarded as a last resort. You can discuss the pros and cons of surgery with your doctor or seek a second opinion.
Once the acute stage of the injury has passed, affected individuals may undergo a gradual rehabilitation course, which would consist of various kinds of stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Stretching Exercises - These exercises are done to stretch both short and long adductor muscles.
- Strengthening Exercises - The aim of these exercises is to gradually increase the load put on a muscle. These exercises can start as early as the 5th day from injury, as long as they are mostly at low-level and pain-free.
You may feel that you are ready to get back to your activities as soon as you feel better. But how soon can an individual resume on doing physical activities after experiencing a groin strain? There is no sure answer to this question since recovery is completely dependent on the severity of the pulled groin. A rough estimate of 4-6 weeks may be needed to achieve complete healing. Moreover, each individual heals differently and at a varied rate.
If the groin pain is still in the process of healing, it is better to choose activities that would not put too much stress on the groin muscles. An example would be choosing swimming activities instead of running or playing sports that require kicking or jumping. But note that whatever you do, avoid rushing with any type of activity since it is not ideal to return back to your old level of physical activity until:
- Your injured leg feels strong and has the same strength of the non-injured leg
- You are able to move the injured leg as freely as the non-injured one
- You do not feel any kind of pain while carrying out certain activities such as jumping, walking, sprinting, or jogging
If you start pushing yourself against the will of your body, then there is an increased risk of re-injuring the groin before it is completely healed. If the groin becomes injured again, it would have a longer healing process. In certain cases, it would end up as a permanent disability.
A pulled groin can be quite painful and debilitating. Below are some tips to help prevent a groin strain:
- Wear a good pair of shoes that provide proper support along with a comfortable fit.
- Immediately stop any kind of strenuous activity the moment you experience pain or tightness coming from the groin or inside thigh.
- Make sure to carry out warm-up exercises before starting any kind of physical activity to reduce muscle strains.
- Do not rush on doing physical activities. Gradually increase your physical activity by 10 percent every week.
- Carry out strengthening exercises to improve the strength of your thigh muscles.
Consult a medical professional if you are one of those people who frequently engage in athletic activities, especially if you have a past history of groin injuries.