Groin Strain

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A groin strain is a tear or rupture in one or more of the adductor muscles of the inner thigh, resulting in pain in the inner thigh area. It may also sometimes be referred to as a hip adductor strain.

This injury is often caused by running, jumping and simultaneously making a sudden change in direction. It is frequently observed among athletes in sports like rugby and football or among soccer players, as these are sports in which these types of movements are common.

Typical signs of the injury are a popping or snapping feeling at the time of the rupture followed by pain and swelling in the groin area. Many affected individuals will also experience reduced groin range of movement.

Treatment of a groin strain in most cases requires rest, icing compression and elevation of the injured area. Physical therapy will also be an important component of the treatment.

Recovery will depend on a number of factors including the severity of the injury in the first place and the fitness level of the injured patient. Another important factor is the urgency with which treatment commences. Strains that are treated immediately will heal more quickly than those for which treatment is delayed. Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks to four months or more for a groin strain to heal fully, depending on these factors.

Grades Of Groin Strain Severity

As with many other types of muscle strains, the severity of a groin strain can be graded into three possible categories:

  • Grade I strains involve only overstretching of the adductor muscles, or at the most very mild tearing (typically, less than 5% of the muscle being torn). You will experience some groin pain and tenderness but will probably not see any bruising or weakness in the inner thigh area. This grade of strain is commonly referred to as a groin pull;
  • A Grade II  strain will involve tearing of at least one adductor muscle but not a complete rupture of any of the muscles. Your symptoms may include groin pain, tenderness, lost strength of groin muscles and even some bruising in the groin area;
  • Grade III strains involve a complete rupture of at least one adductor muscle. In this case, you will suffer not only severe pain, tenderness and bruising but you will also lose most of the muscle strength and adductor range of motion on the injured side.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Groin Strain?

Symptoms of a groin strain include:

  • Pain and tenderness around the inner thigh area;
  • Bruising and swelling in the same area, especially for grade II and III strains;
  • Pain opening or closing your legs (as this movement engages the adductor muscles);
  • A warm feeling in the region of the inner thigh;
  • Weakness of upper thigh area (again, this may be especially apparent when opening or closing the legs);
  • Limping or difficulty walking freely.

The nature of groin strain pain can vary from case to case. In some cases, it will be a dull ache, but in others it may be more like a sharp pain.

The pain may often be at its most severe when you are trying to walk, run or move the injured leg in some way.

You may also experience occasional muscle spasms in the inner thigh area.

If you experience some or all of these symptoms, we suggest seeking medical advice, preferably from a doctor with sports medicine experience.

Diagnosis

Your doctor or physical therapist will probably start the diagnosis process by asking you how the injury occurred (i.e. what were you doing when it happened). He or she may also ask about your medical history, and especially about  previous groin injuries that you may have experienced.

You may also be asked to describe the symptoms in detail, and to explain what if anything makes them worse.

The health care professional will then probably perform a physical examination. This may include palpating (touching) the inner thigh and asking you to perform various leg movements. While doing this you may be asked to explain which movements or positions cause you to feel pain.

In a minority of cases, doctors may request an X ray orMRI scan to see whether there is additional damage to the tissues of the inner thigh.

Treatment Of A Groin Sprain

As stated before, one of the keys to successfully treating a groin strain is to start the treatment promptly. Ideally, you should start the treatment within 24 to 48 hours of the occurrence of the injury.

The most typical treatment steps for a groin strain would include:

  • Resting the injured inner thigh muscles. Wearing a groin wrap, groin spica or compression shorts can provide additional support and compression to those muscles and promote the healing process;
  • If the strain is a severe one, resting the injured muscles may include avoiding standing or walking as much as possible and, if you must move, to use crutches;
  • Applying ice packs or a cold compress to the area (every 2-3 hours, for 20 minus at a time);
  • Over the counter painkillers such as aspirin, Ibuprofen or Naproxen can be taken for additional pain relief, if needed.
  • Working with a physical therapist to devise strengthening exercises for the adductor muscles.

Groin Sprain Recovery Time

The time to recovery will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How promptly treatment is started;
  • The fitness level of the injured individual (individuals that are fitter tend to recover more quickly);
  • The severity of the groin strain (gardes I, II or III);
  • How closely the patient adheres to the recommended treatment.

In most cases, however, you should expect to recover from a grade I strain in around 2 or 3  weeks. A grade II strain may require 2or 3  months for recovery, while a grade III strain may take as long as four months (or more) for full recovery.

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