Your groin is the area where your upper thigh and lower abdomen meet. Your hip joint is found along the same line underneath your groin. Because the anterior, or front, of your hip and your groin are roughly in the same area, groin pain and anterior hip pain often happen together.
Sometimes pain starts in one part of your body and spreads to another. This is called radiating pain. It can be hard to tell what’s causing groin and hip pain because pain from a problem in your hip often radiates to your groin, and vice versa.
We’ll go over the many possible causes of groin and hip pain, what you can do for them, plus a section on at-home treatments for common issues involving the muscles and bones in that area.
Pain in or radiating from your groin and hip area can be sharp or dull, and it may start suddenly or build up over time.
Pain from your muscles, bones, tendons, and bursae usually increases when you move. The type and severity of pain in your hip and groin varies based on the cause.
The characteristics of the pain and associated symptoms for specific causes are listed below along with common treatment options.
Avascular necrosis (Osteonecrosis)
Avascular necrosis happens when the top of the femur doesn’t get enough blood, so the bones dies. Dead bone is weak and can break easily.
Avascular necrosis symptoms
This causes a throbbing or ache in your hip and groin. The pain is severe and constant, but it gets worse with standing or movement.
Avascular necrosis treatment
When avascular necrosis affects the hip, it’s usually treated with hip replacement surgery.
Trochanteric bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sac, called a bursa, on the outside of your hip. Bursae reduce friction between tendon and underlying bone. This is usually an overuse injury. The bursa gets irritated because of repetitive movements, which causes pain.
Bursitis is sharp pain that gets worse with movement, prolonged standing, or when lying on the affected side. The pain can be severe.
In this condition, the two bones in the hip joint come in abnormally close contact, which can pinch soft tissue or irritate the joint, causing pain. It can be caused by abnormal bone development when you’re young.
Femoroacetabular impingement symptoms
The pain gets worse after sitting for a long time, standing for a long time and with movements such as getting out of a car. The pain may limit how much you can move your hip.
A break in the upper part of the femur can happen if it’s hit very hard, from a fall, or when the bone is destroyed by cancer.
If you have osteoporosis, your bones are weaker and have a higher risk of breaking. Osteoporosis and hip fractures occur most frequently in older women.
Hip fracture symptoms
Breaking a bone in your hip can be very painful. It gets worse when you try to move your leg or bear weight with it.
Hip fracture treatment
This is a medical emergency and may require surgery to repair or replace the hip. Usually you’ll need long-term physical therapy after surgery.
The labrum is circular cartilage that surrounds your hip socket. It can tear because of trauma, overuse injury, or femoroacetabular impingement.
Labral tear symptoms
The pain can be dull or sharp and increases with activity, weight-bearing, and when you straighten your leg. You may feel clicks, pops, or catches in your joint, and it may feel weak, like it will give out.
Labral tear treatment
You can start with conservative treatment, which includes physical therapy, rest, and anti-inflammatory medication. If this fails you may need arthroscopic surgery to permanently repair the torn labrum.
As you get older, cartilage — which helps the bones in a joint move smoothly — wears away. This can lead to osteoarthritis, which causes painful inflammation in the joint.
This causes a constant pain and stiffness in your hip joint and groin. You may feel or hear grinding or clicking in your hip. The pain improves with rest and worsens with movement and standing.
Osteoarthritis pain treatment
Osteoarthritis is initially treated conservatively with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and physical therapy. Weight loss helps if you’re overweight. When it progresses and starts to cause severe pain and problems walking or doing daily activities, you may need hip replacement surgery.
A stress fracture happens when the bones in your hip joint gradually weaken from repetitive movement, such as from running. If it’s not diagnosed, it eventually becomes a true fracture.
Stress fracture symptoms
The pain increases with activity and weight-bearing. It can get so severe you can’t do the activity that caused it anymore.
Stress fracture treatment
You can try home treatments for symptomatic relief of pain and swelling. If you don’t get better or your pain’s severe, it’s important to see your doctor before you develop a true hip fracture. Your doctor will determine whether the bone will heal itself with long-term rest or if you need other treatment such as surgical repair to permanently fix the problem.
It often happens because of overtraining or while playing sports, usually while you’re running or changing direction, or by moving your hip awkwardly. A muscle strain can be mild or severe depending on how much muscle is involved and how much strength is lost.
About muscle strain pain
Pain caused by a muscle strain gets worse with movement, especially when you:
- stretch your groin
- tighten your thigh
- flex your knee towards your chest
- pull your legs together
The pain comes on suddenly. Muscle spasms may occur. You may notice bruising or swelling in your groin and upper thigh. The range of motion of your hip may be reduced, and your leg might feel weak. You might have trouble standing or walking because of the pain.
Tendonitis is when a tendon, which connects muscle to bones, becomes inflamed from overusing the muscle. Because tendons are attached to the bone in the hip and the muscle in the groin, the pain can also start in your hip and radiate to your groin.
About tendonitis pain
The pain has a gradual onset. It gets worse with activity and improves with rest.
Pain from organs and tissues that aren’t part of the musculoskeletal system usually doesn’t increase with movement, but it may get worse with other things, such as your menstrual cycle. This is especially true if you have endometriosis or ovarian cysts.
Endometriosis is a condition where the tissue that normally lines the uterus, called the endometrium, grows someplace outside the uterus. It usually grows on an organ in the pelvis. When it grows near the hip or groin, it can cause pain in these areas.
About endometriosis pain
The pain starts where the endometriosis is located and can radiate to your hip and groin. The intensity often cycles along with your period. Other symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding and abdominal cramping.
Endometriosis is usually managed with medication or surgery.
Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that grow on the ovaries. They’re common and usually have no symptoms. When they do have symptoms they can cause pain, sometimes severe, that can radiate to the hip and groin.
About ovarian cyst pain
This usually causes pain in the lower pelvis on the side with the cyst. The pain can radiate to the hip and groin. Other symptoms include feeling full and bloated. The pain may be worse during menstruation.
Ovarian cyst treatment
Less common causes of simultaneous hip and groin pain include:
Mild to moderate musculoskeletal injuries, such as muscle strain, bursitis, femoroacetabular impingement, and tendonitis, can usually be treated at home. By reducing the inflammation, you can temporarily improve the symptoms and often cure the condition. Possible treatments include:
- over-the-counter NSAIDs, such as naproxen or ibuprofen, to decrease pain and inflammation
- applying ice packs or heat to the injured area for short periods of time can reduce the swelling, inflammation, and pain
- resting the injured or painful area for several weeks, allowing it to heal
- compression wrapping to control swelling
- physical therapy
- stretching exercises may help improve the symptoms
- don’t resume physical activity too early to avoid re-injury
If you’re not getting better or your symptoms are severe or getting worse, you should see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes your doctor may suggest a cortisone shot to reduce inflammation or, for severe tears and injuries, arthroscopic surgery to permanently repair the problem.
Physical therapy helps improve the symptoms of most musculoskeletal conditions. It’s also used to strengthen your muscles and improve range of motion of the hip joint. You may be shown exercises you can do at home.
When you have groin and hip pain, the most important thing your doctor does is determine what’s causing it. Because so many structures in the area of your groin and hip and symptoms can be similar, this can be difficult unless there is an obvious cause, such as a broken hip. A correct diagnosis is essential to determine appropriate treatment.
Your doctor may ask you:
- what happened
- if you had a recent injury
- how long you’ve had the pain
- what makes the pain better or worse, especially is specific movements increase the pain
Your age is helpful because some things are more common in certain age groups. For instance, osteoarthritis and fractures are more common in older people. Problems in the soft tissues, such as muscle, bursae, and tendons, are more common in people who are younger and more active.
Tests for groin and hip pain
An exam will usually include feeling for the exact location of your pain, moving your leg in various ways to reproduce the pain, and testing your strength by having you resist when they try to move your leg.
Sometimes, your doctor needs more information and will get an imaging study, such as:
- X-ray. This shows if there’s a fracture or if the cartilage is worn down.
- MRI. This is good for showing problems in soft tissues, such as muscle swelling, tears, or bursitis.
- Ultrasound. This can be used to look for tendonitis or bursitis.
Arthroscopy, where a lighted tube with a camera is inserted through the skin into your hip, may be used to look inside your hip. It can also be used to repair some hip problems.
Most of the time, pain in your hip and groin is caused by a problem with the hip bones or other structures in or around the hip joint. Muscle strain is another common cause. Occasionally it’s caused by pain radiating from something near the hip and groin.
Determining the cause of hip and groin pain can be very difficult. If your symptoms are severe or your pain doesn’t improve with home treatment, you should see your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment for you groin and hip pain. When treated correctly and quickly, most people with hip and groin pain have a good outcome.