The groin area is where your abdomen transitions into your lower body and legs. It’s located near the hips, above your upper thighs and below your stomach.
Pain or discomfort in your groin area is most commonly a result of straining, pulling, or tearing one of several groups of groin muscles or ligaments. This is especially common if you’re athletic or do a lot of daily physical labor.
An injury is usually to blame when you feel pain on one or both sides of your groin area.
While injury or inflammation can be the most common cause for that groin pain, we’ll discuss other potential causes below.
The most common cause of left-sided groin pain is an injury caused by overexerting or overusing muscles in your groin area. Groin injuries can also result in inflammation near the injury that can cause even more pain when you move.
This type of injury is especially common if you’re active or an athlete. Injuries in this area are typically strained, sprained, stretched, or torn leg tissues that connect the leg to the groin, including:
- adductor muscles on the inner part of the thigh
Other common causes of left-side groin pain include:
- kidney stones, which happen when calcium or other minerals build up and harden in your kidneys and bladder
- broken or fractured bones in the groin area, especially around the pelvic bone or where the femur (upper leg bone) meets the pelvis
While less common, there are several other possible causes for left-sided groin pain. These conditions typically occur only on one side of the groin area, so it is possible to experience them on your right side as well.
Enlarged lymph nodes
Lymph nodes are glands that circulate a clear fluid called lymph throughout your body. Lymph stores white bloods cells that support your immune system by fighting off infectious bacteria or foreign material.
Often, lymph nodes will get swollen on only one side of the body, which could be the left side. Swollen lymph nodes can result in groin pain and discomfort.
Inguinal hernias are another possible cause of one-sided groin pain. These happen when tissues in your abdomen, like your small intestines, slip through openings or weak areas in your groin muscles into the side of your groin (the left side, if your pain is on the left).
This causes pain or discomfort in your groin and can also result in a bulge visible under the skin.
Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen when infectious bacteria, viruses, or other microscopic infected foreign matter get into your urinary tract.
Your urinary tract is made up of your:
- kidneys, which filter chemicals and other substances from your body
- ureters, which transport urine from your kidneys to your bladder
- bladder, which stores urine
- urethra, where urine exits your body
Most UTIs affect only the lower urinary tract. This consists of the urethra and bladder. Left-sided groin pain can result from inflammation of tissue in one of these areas.
UTIs that affect the upper tract, including the ureters and kidneys, aren’t as common, but tend to cause more severe pain.
UTIs are more common in women than men because the urethra is much shorter. This means that infectious bacteria or matter can more quickly and easily travel up the urinary tract to the bladder and, in some cases, up the ureters that connect the bladder to the kidneys.
Ovarian cysts are sacs filled with fluid that can form on one or both ovaries.
Ovarian cysts are relatively common and don’t always result in symptoms. One common symptom of an ovarian cyst on the left ovary is groin pain that radiates outward from the left side of your groin area toward the hips and lower abdomen.
Other possible symptoms that can happen along with left-sided groin pain include:
- feeling pressure in your left groin area
- swelling visible in the skin
- feeling bloated or appearing bloated
- sudden sharp, intense pain if the cyst ruptures (rupture is a medical emergency)
Groin pain on the left side or both sides is a relatively common symptom you may experience during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters when the womb starts to expand rapidly.
This is because there are a few ligaments that keep your womb stable and safe when it expands while you’re pregnant.
One of the ligaments is called the round ligament. This ligament, at the front of your groin, typically expands and contracts slowly while you move. But as your womb expands as the fetus grows, this ligament can more easily be sprained or injured because it has to work harder than when you’re not pregnant.
Stretching of this ligament can cause dull pain in one or both sides of the groin. A strain or tear of this ligament can result in an intense, sometimes stabbing pain on either side of your groin, including the left side.
Pain isn’t usually considered serious unless a ligament is torn.
Walking engages numerous muscles, ligaments, and nearby tissues in the groin area — both when you lift your leg to take a step and when your leg makes contact with the ground again.
Even more muscles are required when you:
- turn as you walk
- walk backward
- bend down
You may also not realize that turning your upper body engages muscles and ligaments in the groin, which you do more often when you walk than you might think.
Walking can cause pain or discomfort if any groin muscles or ligaments are injured in this area, as injured tissues are strained by use.
You may be able to treat your groin pain at home if it’s caused by a mild sprain or strain of muscle or ligament tissue.
Treatment for more severe or long-term groin pain should address the cause and may need to be diagnosed by your doctor.
Here’s how you can treat mild left-sided groin pain at home, especially if it’s caused by a sprain or strain.
Rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE)
Here’s how to do the RICE method:
- Rest your groin muscle by taking a break from activity.
- Ice the area with a cold pack to reduce pain and inflammation. Do this for about 20 minutes at a time, several times per day.
- Compress the area with a medical bandage to limit blood flow.
- Elevate your groin area to keep blood from flowing into the area.
Take a pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), like ibuprofen or naproxen (Aleve), to reduce pain and inflammation.
You may need surgery to repair a broken bone or to address an inguinal hernia. These can’t be treated at home and may cause complications if they’re not corrected.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications if home remedies don’t reduce your pain or swelling.
Physical therapy can also help you learn how to work with muscles, ligaments, or joint tissues that may be chronically inflamed or permanently affected by an injury or an underlying condition.
See your doctor if:
- home treatment doesn’t help resolve your symptoms
- the pain gets any worse over time
- the pain happens suddenly without any obvious cause
- you can’t walk or move your lower body without intense pain
- you experience changes in your menstrual cycle or you miss a period
- you see any unusual discharge from your vagina
You should seek emergency medical help if, along with your groin pain, you experience:
Your doctor may use one or more of the following tests to help diagnose the cause:
- physical examination, including feeling around the area
- X-rays to see transparent images of tissue in the groin
- ultrasounds to see real-time images of groin tissues
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see 3-D images of the groin area
Left-sided groin pain isn’t always something to worry about. Mild injuries or minor infections can be treated quickly and easily.
But sudden, intense, or chronic pain may indicate an underlying cause that needs medical treatment. See your doctor as soon as possible if your groin pain disrupts your daily life or can’t be treated at home.