Your groin is located in the area where your abdomen ends and your legs begin. If you feel pain in this area when you walk, it could be caused by an injury or issue with one or more of the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones in your groin.
Groin pain can also be caused by a type of hernia or by an infection or inflammation in the abdominal area.
This article will take a closer look at the most common causes of groin pain when you walk, as well as treatment options for this kind of pain and ways you can help ease groin pain at home.
If your groin pain is especially painful when you walk, there’s a good chance it could be due to an injury to a muscle or the cartilage that connects the bones in your hip joints.
Groin pain that feels worse when you walk could also be caused by conditions that affect the organs and tissues within the abdomen and groin.
Some of the most common causes of groin pain when walking include the following:
1. Groin strain
Any of the muscles in your groin can become strained. A groin strain happens when one or more of the muscles in that area is stretched or torn. It can be caused by overusing the muscle or from a sudden movement, like twisting or turning sharply.
A groin strain is a common sports injury. It isn’t usually serious, but a severe strain can take a long time to heal.
Pain is the most common symptom and usually appears in the inner thigh, but the pain can also be felt anywhere between the hip and knee. Other symptoms of a groin strain include:
The main muscles in your groin include:
- Adductor brevis. Located high on your thigh, this helps your leg to move to the midline and front to back.
- Adductor longus. Located on the inner side of your thigh, this helps your thigh to the midline.
- Adductor magnus. Located near the middle of your thigh, this larger muscle pulls your thigh toward the center of your body. It’s a main adductor muscle used for walking, running and climbing.
- Gracilis. This long muscle on your inner thigh helps pull your legs inward and helps flex your knee.
- Pectineus. This smaller muscle, located in the mid-thigh region, helps flex your thigh at the hip joint and also moves the thigh toward the midline.
2. Hip labral tear
The hip labrum is the semicontinuous rim of cartilage that lines the outside of your hip joint socket. It acts as a cushion and also seals the joint and helps hold the ball of your thighbone inside the hip socket.
An injury to your hip or degeneration over time can cause a hip labral tear. Some people may not have any pain or discomfort, but others may notice:
- pain in the hip or groin that gets worse if you walk or if you sit or stand for extended periods of time
- stiffness in the hip area and limited range of motion
- a clicking or locking feeling in your hip joint
3. Hip impingement
When the ball and socket don’t fit and move together smoothly in your hip joint, it can lead to a painful condition called hip impingement. It’s also known as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI).
Hip impingement can be caused by a deformity in the ball at the top of your femur, also called the thighbone. If the ball is misshapen, it can jam in your hip socket, especially when you bend over.
This condition can also be caused by a hip socket that isn’t shaped properly or has extra bone. This can prevent the ball of your femur from gliding smoothly inside the hip socket. In turn, this can wear down the cartilage that lines the socket.
Hip impingement issues can cause pain and stiffness in the groin area, especially when you walk or bend forward at the hip. It can also lead to osteoarthritis.
4. Inguinal hernia
An inguinal hernia is a type of hernia that occurs near your groin area. It develops when tissue, such as your intestine or fatty tissue from the abdominal cavity, pushes forward through a weak section in your abdominal wall.
An inguinal hernia can cause groin pain that worsens when you walk, bend, lift, or cough. Other symptoms include:
- a bulge in the groin area that gets bigger when you stand up or cough
- a feeling of heaviness or discomfort in the groin area
- swollen scrotum
Wear and tear in your joints, including your hip, can cause cartilage to wear away over time, leading to osteoarthritis. Once the cartilage has significantly worn away, the ends of the bones within a joint no longer move smoothly. Instead, they rub together, causing pain and stiffness.
With hip arthritis, pain and stiffness are typically felt in the hip and groin area. It can feel worse when you walk, stand, or climb stairs. The pain may feel better if you rest.
Another symptom you may notice is a grinding or clicking sound or feeling in your hip when you move. You may also feel referred pain over the lower thigh and knee on the same side of your body as the affected hip.
Tendons attach your muscles to your bones. When these thick cords become irritated and inflamed, it’s called tendinitis.
It can develop in any tendon, and the pain usually starts off as a dull ache around the affected area. It’s more common in the shoulder, knee, elbow, or wrist, but can develop in the hip or groin area, too.
Tendinitis is most often caused by repeated movements, like bending, throwing, turning, or kicking a ball. You’re at a higher risk if you tend to do the same motions on a regular basis while playing a sport, working out, or performing your job.
With hip tendinitis, the pain usually has a gradual onset. It tends to get worse if you walk or do some activity and feels better when you rest. The affected area may feel tender to the touch, and you may also notice some swelling.
Several other conditions can bring on groin pain when you walk. In many cases, the pain may be constant, but it can worsen when you move around.
Some other possible causes of this type of groin pain include the following:
- Urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI is due to a bacterial infection that can develop anywhere in the urinary tract. It’s more common in women. Besides groin pain, symptoms can include pain or burning while urinating, and a change in the frequency or urgency of urination.
- Epididymitis. This condition causes inflammation of one or both of the testicles. Epididymitis causes pain in the affected testicles, which can radiate up to the groin and the lower abdomen.
- Kidney stones. Kidney stones are made up of hard, crystal-like stones that are formed from mineral deposits. These stones often don’t cause symptoms until they move to where the kidney meets the ureter and beyond. Pain, which can be intense, may be felt on one side of your abdomen or low back. The pain can also radiate to the groin.
- Ovarian cyst. An ovarian cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can develop on one or both ovaries. Most of the time they’re painless, but symptoms can appear if the cyst grows. Symptoms can include groin or lower back pain, abdominal bloating, and painful bowel movements.
- Strained round ligament. Located between the uterus and the front of the groin, the round ligament moves and changes shape as you walk. During pregnancy, it stretches to accommodate the expanding uterus, and can become strained and painful when you walk.
If you have mild groin pain that’s caused by a muscle strain, resting your injured muscle can help. You’ll especially want to avoid doing strenuous, repetitive motions, or movements that cause you pain.
It’s important not to stop moving entirely as you don’t want the injured muscle to weaken. You also want to ensure that your injured muscle is getting good blood flow, which can help speed up healing.
Applying an ice pack or cold compress to the injured muscle may also help ease the pain and swelling. To do this, you can use:
- an ice pack or frozen bag of vegetables wrapped in a moist towel
- a towel soaked in cold water
- ice cubes in a plastic bag
Apply the cold compress to the sore area for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day. Don’t apply ice directly to your skin.
Over-the-counter pain medications like NSAIDs can make you feel more comfortable, and can also help reduce inflammation and swelling.
Be sure to follow up with your doctor if:
- your groin pain doesn’t get better with rest and ice therapy
- your groin pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as:
- nausea or vomiting
- pain while urinating
- a bulge you can feel between your hip and pubic bone
- abdominal bloating
- pain in the testicles
- a clicking or locking sound or feeling when you walk
To diagnose the source of your groin pain, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination. They’ll also ask you about your symptoms. If an inguinal hernia is suspected, your doctor may press on parts of your abdomen or groin to help make a diagnosis.
In order to make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor may order an imaging test, like an X-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan. These tests can help your doctor see images of the inside of your body, which may help pinpoint the source of the pain.
For conditions such as a hip labral tear, tendinitis, or osteoarthritis, an injection of steroid into the hip may help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Physical therapy may help strengthen your injured muscle and increase the range of motion in the affected area. During physical therapy sessions, you’ll learn about exercises you can do each day to ease pain or stiffness in your joints or muscles.
More severe labral tears may need surgery in order to be repaired. In some cases, arthroscopic (closed or minimally invasive) procedures may be possible.
Surgery is typically the best option for repairing an inguinal hernia.
The most important step you can take to lower your risk of a groin strain or injury is to stretch before and after any kind of activity, workout, or sport. This helps boost the flexibility of your muscles which, in turn, may reduce the chance of a muscle injury.
Other preventive steps that can help include the following:
- Maintain a healthy weight. This can avoid putting too much strain on your hip joints.
- Stay well hydrated. Drinking water can reduce your risk of developing a kidney stone, a UTI, or muscle cramps.
- Use proper body mechanics. Pay close attention to your body mechanics when you lift heavy objects. Bend your knees, use the strength of your legs to lift, and keep the object close to your body. Safe lifting techniques can lower your risk of developing a groin hernia or straining a muscle or ligament.
Groin pain when walking is often caused by strained muscles, ligaments, or tendons in your lower abdominal area. Cartilage tears, hip impingement, an inguinal hernia, and osteoarthritis are also common culprits.
If your groin pain is caused by muscle strain, rest and ice therapy can help the injury to heal.
If your groin pain is more severe or is accompanied by other symptoms, be sure to follow up with your doctor. They can diagnose the cause of your pain and work with you on developing the right type of treatment plan.