What Is A Groin Strain?
Adductor muscle (groin) strains are a common injury in sports that involve sudden changes of direction or side kicking and are characterised by a history of feeling a “pull” or a strain in the groin (inner thigh) region. The groin is made up of five adductor muscles: adductor Longus, Brevis, Magnus, Pectineus and Gracilis; the most common strain is an Adductor Longus Strain. Strains are most commonly caused by excessively over-stretching of tissues, strenuous contractions and/or repetitive micro-trauma. They are very common, and often resolve after following a course of rehabilitation within a few days to a few months depending on the type of strain. These strains are graded into 3 different categories:
- Grade 1: damage of up to 25% of the muscle fibres. This is the most common type of strain and normally resolves within a couple of weeks with rest, ice and exercise.
- Grade 2: damage of up to 50% of the muscle fibres, normally accompanied by swelling and bruising. They normally resolves within 3-5 weeks with a more intensive Physical Therapy programme.
- Grade 3: a strain or damage of up to 75% of the muscle fibres, with severe swelling and bruising. These injuries typically take up to 3 months to make a full recovery.
What Causes A Pulled Groin?
Groin injuries often happen during a forceful action such as kicking, sprinting, and sudden change of direction when competing, and other sporting movements where the muscle is being highly activated and/or stretched during forceful contraction. In English soccer, Groin injuries make up for a grand total of 12–16 % of all injuries per season! The pain is normally felt immediately on the inside of the thigh (groin region) and you’ll often have to stop what sport / activity you are performing immediately as will be unable to continue.
Groin Strain Risk Factors
- Age: a number of studies have shown that older sportspeople are at an increased risk of an acute groin strain.
- Previous injury: A previous episode of groin strain is a huge risk factor for future injury, likely caused by the scar tissue in the muscle fibres. This is why it is imperative to complete a full rehab programme.
- Adductor weakness: Reduced groin muscle strength (compared to abductor strength) increases the risk of the muscle being susceptible to an overload injury.
- Reduced hip range of motion: A history of hip tightness and reduced hip range of movement are likely to increase your chances of a groin strain.
- Fatigue: Performing or competing whilst your muscles have been overworked and have not fully recovered increases your risk of injury.
Groin Strain Symptoms?
- Sudden and severe pain during exercise, occasionally with a snapping or popping feeling/sound.
- Pain in the inner thigh towards the knee when walking and bringing your legs together.
- Tenderness in the inner thigh.
- Bruising and swelling.
KT Tape For Groin Strains
KT Tape provides you with tactile feedback and aids you proprioceptively when exercising and prevents you from “over using” or re-injuring the groin muscles. If taped in the correct manner, KT tape can be used to reduce swelling by increasing lymphatic drainage and therefore aid in the healing process. KT Tape recommends using their website for videos for specific injuries. You can purchase KT Tape here!
What Are My Treatment Options?
There are many treatment options available to people who suffer from a strained groin! Your rehabilitation programme and recovery time depend entirely on how severe the adductor muscle strain is. Make sure you get a full assessment from your health care professional before commencing the advice below.
Rest & Time
Initially, you need to stop doing the activities and sports that caused the groin strain injury in the first place and also prevent agitating it further. Immediately following the groin strain you can commence the RICE protocols:
- Rest. Relax and protect your groin muscles. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be increasing your pain.
- Ice. Cold packs will help reduce pain and swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. Do no place ice directly on to skin, wrap it in a towel first to avoid ice burn! You can find our favourite ice pack here!
- Compression. Wrapping the thigh with a compression sleeve will help decrease swelling and improve recovery time. You can find our favourite groin compression sleeve here!
- Elevation. Elevate your feet to reduce swelling and bruising in your thigh.
Although rest is a vital component of the recovery process, it doesn’t mean the affected groin has to be completely immobilised for long periods of time. In fact, the muscle fibres need to be placed under tensile loads to grow and stay healthy. The easiest way to grow your adductor muscles? Exercise!
Groin Strain Exercises
1) Side Lying Hip Adduction
A basic exercise to maintain adductor muscle mobility and to start your strength training. It can also be progressed and made more difficulty by using ankle weights.
How to do it:
- Lie on your injured side with a weight wrapped around your ankle.
- Bend the knee of your non-injured leg and place your foot flat on the floor in front of your knee.
- Slowly lift the bottom leg upwards as far as you feel comfortable, before slowly bringing it back down.
Repeat 12 reps, 3 times per day.
2) Adductor Squeeze
This exercise is also known as a “ball bridge”. Remember to briefly hold each position before slowly progressing to the next position. Focus on tensing your groin muscles together.
How to do it:
- Lying flat on the floor, bend both of your knees to 90° with your feet flat on the floor.
- Place an exercise ball between your knees and hold it there by squeezing your groin muscles gently.
- Hold these groin squeezes for 5 seconds.
- To progress, perform a glute bridge by lifting your bottom off the floor whilst squeezing the ball with your groin muscles.
Repeat 5 times, three times throughout the day.
3) Resisted Adduction
Resistance training increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force. The easiest way to strengthen your groin muscles through resistance is to use a theraband!
How to do it:
- Anchor one end of your theraband to an immovable object that is at ankle level.
- While standing, loop the band around the ankle of your injured leg.
- Move your leg across the front of your body (keep your leg straight), tensing your adductor muscles.
Repeat 10 reps, 3 sets, twice a day.
Lunges are a fantastic functional exercise which strengthens your groin, improves stability and co-ordination, whilst preparing you for a return to sport.
How to do it:
- Keep your upper body straight, with a decent posture. Engage your core muscles.
- Step forward with your injured leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent to a 90-degree angle
- Slowly reverse back to your starting position.
- To progress you can use weights, or lunge in varying directions.
Repeat for 12 reps, 3 sets, twice a day.
5) Static Groin Stretch
There are many variations of the groin stretch. This stretch is one of the easier and more effective stretches, it is known as the kneeling groin stretch.
How to do it:
- Kneel down on your non-injured leg, with your injured leg directly out to the side (straight) and your foot flat on the floor.
- Keep your upper body straight with a good posture.
- Slowly sit back onto your non-injured leg until you feel a slight stretch in your groin.
- To progress the stretch you can lift the toes of your injured leg off the floor.
- Hold each stretch for 15 seconds
Repeat the stretch 3 times, 3 times a day.
6) Open Gate Dynamic Adductor Stretch
Dynamic stretches involve gentle movement whilst lengthening and flexing the painful tissue to assist the healing process. It is a great exercise to get the blood pumping to your going muscles and to lengthen the muscle fibres and tendons.
How to do it:
- Standing on your non-injured leg while you lift your painful leg upwards.
- Raise your knee to hip level, before turning it out and opening it away from your body until you feel a gentle stretch in your groin. You just “opened the gate”.
- Bring your knee back around in front of your body and then lower your leg. You just “closed the gate.”
Repeat 10 stretches, 3 times per day.