A groin strain is an injury to the groin area, the area of the body where the abdomen meets the leg and the inner thigh muscles attach to the pubic bone. Typically, groin strains occur in the muscles of the upper inner thigh near the pubic bone or in the front of the hip. Although more common in athletes than non-athletes, groin strains can occur during any type of forceful movement of the leg, such as jumping, kicking the leg up, or changing directions while running. Groin strains account for 10% of all hockey injuries and 5% of all soccer injuries. Our physical therapists at Progressive Physical Therapy treat groin strains by reducing pain and helping patients improve muscle strength and leg motion and to increase the speed of recovery.
What is a groin strain?
A groin strain is an overstretch or tearing injury to the muscles of the inner thigh or front of the hip. Groin strains make walking, lifting the knee, or moving the leg away from or toward the body difficult and painful. Groin strains can occur from overuse of the muscles, or from a sudden contraction of the muscles.
Injury occurs when the muscles are either too forcefully contracted or too forcefully overstretched. A muscle strain can be graded according to the amount of muscle damage:
- Grade 1: Mild or partial stretch or a tear of a few muscle fibers. The muscle is tender and painful but maintains its normal strength. Use of the leg is not impaired, and walking is normal.
- Grade 2: Moderate stretch, or tearing of a greater percentage of the muscle fibers. There is more tenderness and pain, noticeable loss of strength, and sometimes bruising. Use of the leg is noticeably impaired, and limping when walking is common.
- Grade 3: Severe tear of the muscle fibers, sometimes a complete muscle tear. A “popping” sound may be heard or felt when the injury occurs. Bruising is apparent, and sometimes a “dent” in the muscle may be seen under the skin at the site of the tear. Use of the leg is severely difficult, and putting weight on the leg is very painful.
How can a physical therapist help?
Your physical therapist at Progressive Physical Therapy will design a specific treatment program to speed your recovery. This program will include exercises and treatments you can do at home to help you return to your normal lifestyle and activities.
The First 24-48 Hours
Your physical therapist may advise you to:
- Rest the area by avoiding walking or any activity that causes pain. Crutches may be recommended to reduce further strain on the muscles when walking.
- Apply ice packs to the area for 15-20 minutes every 2 hours.
- Compress the area with an elastic bandage wrap.
- Consult with another health care provider for further services such as medication or diagnostic tests.
Your physical therapist can use different types of treatments and technologies to control and reduce your pain, including ice, heat, ultrasound, electricity, taping, exercises, and hands-on therapy such as massage.
Your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement in the leg and hip. These might begin with “passive” motions that the therapist performs for you to gently move your leg and hip joint, and progress to active exercises and stretches that you perform yourself.
Certain exercises will benefit healing at each stage of recovery; your physical therapist will choose and teach you the appropriate exercises to steadily restore your strength and agility. These may include using cuff weights, stretchy bands, weight-lifting equipment, and cardio exercise equipment such as treadmills or stationary bicycles.
Speed Recovery Time
Your physical therapist is trained and experienced in choosing the right treatments and exercises to help you heal, return to your normal lifestyle, and reach your goals faster than you are likely to do on your own.
Return to Activities
Your physical therapist will collaborate with you to decide on your recovery goals, including your return to work or sport, and will design your treatment program to help you reach those goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible. Your physical therapist will apply hands-on therapy such as massage, teach you exercises and work re-training activities. Additionally, if you are an athlete you will be taught sport-specific techniques and drills to help you achieve your sport-specific goals.
Prevent Future Reinjury
Your physical therapist can recommend a home exercise program to strengthen and stretch the muscles around your hip, upper leg, and abdomen to help prevent future reinjury of your groin. These may include strength and flexibility exercises for the leg, hip, and core muscles.
If Surgery Is Necessary
Surgery is rarely necessary in the case of groin strain, but if a groin muscle fully tears and requires surgical repair, your physical therapist will help you minimize pain, restore motion and strength, and return to normal activities in the speediest manner possible after surgery.