What causes groin pain? 12 possible conditions
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The groin is an area of your hip between your stomach and thigh, where your abdomen ends and your legs begin. The groin area contains five muscles that work together to move your leg. These include:
- adductor brevis
- adductor longus
- adductor magnus
Groin pain is any pain in this area, typically as the result of an injury from physical activity or sports. A pulled or strained muscle in the groin area is the most common injury among athletes.
Groin pain is a common symptom and can happen to anyone. There are a number of potential causes of groin pain.
Most Common Causes
The most common cause of groin pain is strain of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the groin area. This type of injury is most commonly seen in athletes. If you play a contact sport such as football, rugby, or hockey, it’s likely that you’ve had groin pain at some point.
Another common cause of groin pain is an inguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia occurs when one of your internal organs pushes through the protective muscle that surrounds it. This can create a bulging lump in your groin area and cause pain. Kidney stones (small, hard mineral deposits in the kidneys and bladder) or bone fractures can cause groin pain as well.
Less Common Causes
There are a number of less common disorders and conditions that could cause you pain or discomfort in your groin. These include:
- enlarged lymph nodes
- intestinal inflammation
- testicular inflammation
- pinched nerve
- urinary tract infection (UTI)
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms if you have moderate to severe pain in your groin or testicles for more than a few days.
Contact your doctor immediately if:
- you notice physical changes in the testicles, such as lumps or swelling
- there is blood in your urine
- pain spreads to the lower back, chest, or abdomen
- you develop a fever or feel nauseous
These symptoms could be signs of a more serious condition, such as a testicular infection, testicular torsion (twisted testicle), or cancer of the testicles. If your groin pain is accompanied by any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care. Severe testicular pain that comes about suddenly should also be treated as an emergency.
Most cases of groin pain do not require medical attention. However, you should see a doctor if you experience severe, prolonged pain accompanied by fever or swelling. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition.
To diagnose the underlying cause of your groin pain, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and ask about any recent physical activity. Your doctor will then perform a physical examination of the groin area along with other tests, if necessary.
Your doctor will insert one finger into the scrotum (sac that contains the testicles) and ask you to cough. Coughing raises pressure in the abdomen and pushes your intestines into the hernia opening.
X-Rays and Ultrasounds
These tests can help your doctor see if a bone fracture or inflammation is causing groin pain.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
This type of blood test can help determine if an infection is present.
The treatment for your groin pain will depend on the underlying cause. Minor strains can often be treated at home, while more severe groin pain may require medical treatment.
If your groin pain is the result of a strain, treatment at home is probably your best option. Resting and taking a break from physical activity for two to three weeks will allow your strain to heal naturally. Pain medications, including Tylenol, may be taken to manage your pain and discomfort. Applying ice packs for 20 minutes a few times per day can help as well.
If your groin pain is caused by a broken bone or fracture in the area, surgery may be required to repair the bone. If an inguinal hernia is the underlying cause of your symptoms, surgery may be needed.
If home care methods do not work for your strain injury, drugs that reduce inflammation might be prescribed to help relieve your symptoms. If this does not work and you have reoccurring strain injuries, your doctor might think it is best that you perform physical therapy.
There are a few steps that you can take to avoid groin pain. For athletes, gentle stretching is a way to help prevent injury. A slow, steady warmup before doing physical activity can help reduce your risk of groin injury, especially when done consistently. Maintaining a healthy weight and taking care when lifting heavy objects can help you prevent hernias.
- Groin pain. (2009, September 30). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/003111.htm
- Groin pain. (2011, September 23). British Medical Journal Best Practices. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from http://bestpractice.bmj.com/best-practice/monograph/580/highlights/summary.html
- Inguinal hernia. (2010, November 4). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/inguinal-hernia/DS00364
- Preventing Groin Injuries. (n.d.). Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina. Retrieved July 11, 2012, from http://www.orthonc.com/news-updates/preventing-groin-injuries
See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.
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