The groin is an area of your hip between your stomach and thigh. It is located where your abdomen ends and your legs begin. The groin area has five muscles that work together to move your leg. These are called:
- adductor brevis
- adductor longus
- adductor magnus
Groin pain is any discomfort in this area. The pain typically results from an injury caused by physical activity, such as sports. A pulled or strained muscle in the groin area is one of the most common injuries among athletes.
What’s Causing My Groin Pain?
Groin pain is a common symptom and can happen to anyone. There are some potential causes of groin pain that are more common than others.
Most Common Causes
The most common cause of groin pain is a strain of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the groin area. This type of injury occurs most often 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 internal tissues push through a weak spot in the groin muscles. 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
The less common disorders and conditions that could cause pain or discomfort in the groin are:
- intestinal inflammation
- testicular inflammation
- enlarged lymph nodes
- ovarian cysts
- pinched nerves
- urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Knowing When to Contact Your Doctor
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
- the pain spreads to your lower back, chest, or abdomen
- you develop a fever or feel nauseous
If you have any of these symptoms with your groin pain, seek emergency medical care. These symptoms could be signs of a more serious condition, such as a testicular infection, testicular torsion (twisted testicle), or cancer of the testicles. You should also seek emergency medical care if you have severe testicular pain that occurs suddenly.
Diagnosing Groin Pain
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.
Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and ask about any recent physical activity. This information will help your doctor diagnose the problem. 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 (the sac that contains the testicles) and ask you to cough. Coughing raises the pressure in the abdomen and pushes your intestines into the hernia opening.
X-Ray and Ultrasound
These tests can help your doctor see if a bone fracture, testicular mass, or ovarian cyst is causing the groin pain.
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
This type of blood test can help determine if an infection is present.
Treatment for Groin Pain
The treatment for your groin pain will depend on the underlying cause. You can often treat minor strains at home, but 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 acetaminophen (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 a broken bone or fracture is the cause of your groin pain, surgery may be required to repair the bone. You may also need surgery if an inguinal hernia is the underlying cause of your symptoms
If home care methods do not work for your strain injury, your doctor might prescribe drugs that reduce inflammation to help relieve your symptoms. If this does not work and you have recurring strain injuries, your doctor might advise you to go to physical therapy.
Preventing Groin Pain
There are a few steps that you can take to avoid groin pain. For athletes, gentle stretching is a way to help prevent injury. Doing a slow, steady warm-up before physical activity can help reduce your risk of a groin injury, especially if you do it consistently. Maintaining a healthy weight and being careful when lifting heavy objects can help prevent hernias.