A pulled groin muscle is a common athletic injury, but it can happen to anybody. Understanding the causes can help you avoid this uncomfortable injury, but when it does happen, it’s important to know how to identify it and what you can do to help your body recover.
Causes of a Pulled Groin Muscle
The muscles of the inner thigh, also known as the adductor muscles, can be torn or stretched, causing a muscle strain or pulled groin muscle. Most of the time, this is an acute injury caused by a sudden movement such as kicking, twisting, or overstretching while running or jumping. Because of the dynamic nature of sports, athletes are at a higher risk of a groin pull, but even common actions such as slipping on ice or lifting a heavy object can result in muscle strain in the groin area.
Symptoms of a Pulled Groin Muscle
Some of the telltale signs of a pulled groin muscle include:
- A snapping or popping sensation when the injury occurs
- Pain on the inside of the thigh
- Pain or discomfort when bringing the knees together
- Swelling or bruising in the groin area
- Loss of function or difficulty moving
Diagnosing a Pulled Groin Muscle
If you have the above symptoms, it’s likely you have strained one or more muscles in the groin, but if you’re not sure, it’s always a good idea to consult with a physician. When diagnosing a groin pull, your doctor will likely do a physical examination to evaluate range of motion, loss of function, and the degree of pain you’re experiencing. They might also recommend an X-ray to determine whether any bones have been affected, or an MRI to take a closer look at the soft tissues in the injured area.
Pulled Groin Muscle Recovery Time
If you have pulled a groin muscle, the recovery time mostly depends on how severe the injury is and what steps you take to treat it. For minor muscle strains, the recovery period could be two to three weeks. At the other end of the spectrum, a full muscle tear in the groin area could take up to four months to heal.
Be patient during the recovery process and avoid doing activities that cause pain in the groin area. Waiting until you are fully recovered to return to your pre-injury activity level may help you avoid prolonging the recovery time. Take the time to rest, apply cold therapy and compression several times a day, and follow your doctor’s instructions for physical therapy.
Stretches for a Pulled Groin Muscle
Your doctor or physical therapist might recommend stretching exercises to help you maintain flexibility and regain range of motion as you recover. Some of these might include:
Standing Groin Stretch
Similar to a side lunge, the standing groin stretch elongates the adductor muscles to provide a gentle stretch in the inner thigh area. Stand with your legs apart, wider than your shoulders. Shift your weight to one side and keep your bent knee pointing in the same direction as your toe. When you start to feel a stretch in the inner thigh, pause and hold it. Be careful not to bounce or stretch too deeply.
Seated Groin Stretch
Also known as the butterfly stretch, this exercise is done in a seated position with the soles of the feet together and the knees pointed out to either side. Keep your back straight and allow your knees to go toward the floor. For some people, this position provides enough of a stretch. If you want to go deeper, you can bend forward at the waist while keeping your back straight and use your forearms to gently push your knees closer to the floor. You can also bring your feet closer to your body to get a deeper stretch.
To do this exercise, start in a forward lunge position and gently lower your back knee to the floor. You might want to use a cushion or pad if this causes pain in the knee. From this position, using the arm on the same side as the front leg, press your elbow to the inside of your knee and gently twist your upper body until you feel a stretch in the groin area. You can deepen this stretch by extending the other arm behind you to increase the twisting motion.
Stretches are not the only important component of recovering from a pulled groin muscle. Want to learn more? Check out our comprehensive page on hip and groin injuries.