What Is a Groin Strain?

A groin strain — also known as a groin pull — is when one of the muscles of the inner thigh gets stretched, injured, or torn. A groin strain may be mild or severe.

With rest and proper treatment, most groin strains heal completely and don't cause lasting problems.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Groin Strain?

All groin strains cause pain in the inner thigh. Other signs and symptoms can include:

  • swelling and bruising in the groin area
  • muscle spasms
  • weakness in the leg
  • trouble walking

What Causes a Groin Strain?

There are five muscles in the groin. A groin strain happens when one of these muscles:

  • gets stretched too far
  • works too hard and gets hurt
  • gets stressed when it's not ready (for example, without a proper warm-up)
  • is directly injured by a blow to the area

Who Can Get Groin Strains?

Anyone can get a groin strain. Things that make one more likely to happen include:

  • playing sports with sprinting, bursts of speed, or sudden changes in direction. These include track and field (particularly the hurdle and long jump events), basketball, soccer, football, rugby, hockey, and skiing.
  • not warming up. Muscles that haven't been warmed up and stretched properly are more likely to get injured. This is especially true in cold weather.
  • being tired or doing more exercise than usual. Tired or weak muscles are more likely to get injured.
  • extreme stretching like those done for ballet, gymnastics, and martial arts
  • returning to activities too quickly after a groin strain

How Are Groin Strains Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose a groin strain by:

  • asking questions about the injury
  • asking about symptoms 
  • doing an exam

How Are Groin Strains Treated?

With rest and proper treatment, most groin strains heal on their own in about 4–8 weeks. More severe groin strains can take longer. It is very important to let the strain heal fully and get the doctor's OK before going back to activities. People with groin strains who go back to activities too soon risk hurting the groin again.

To help with symptoms while the groin strain heals:

  • Rest the area and avoid activities that cause pain.
  • For the first day or two, put an ice pack on the area 3–4 times a day for 15 minutes at a time. Put a towel between the ice and the skin to protect it from the cold.
  • Use an elastic wrap to help support the groin and keep the swelling down.
  • Raise the groin by lying down and putting pillows under the hips to lift the hips and thighs.
  • Take medicine for pain such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, or store brand) or acetaminophen (Tylenol or store brand). Follow the directions that come with the medicine for how much to take and how often.

When the doctor says it's OK, people with a groin strain can do strengthening and stretching muscles through physical therapy (PT) or an at-home exercise program.

Can Groin Strains Be Prevented?

Anyone who has a groin strain should wait until it's fully healed before going back to activities. To help prevent a groin strain:

  • Keep muscles strong and flexible year-round through a regular exercise and stretching routine.
  • Increase the duration and intensity of exercise routines slowly.
  • Stop any exercise that causes groin pain until you can do the exercise without pain.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.