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Search Health Information    Groin Problems and Injuries

Groin Problems and Injuries

Topic Overview

You may have had a minor groin problem at one time or another. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems. It's not surprising that symptoms may develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury.

The groin areas are located on each side of the body in the folds where the belly joins the legs. The pubic area lies between the two groin areas.

Groin injuries most commonly occur during:

  • Sports or recreational activities, such as ice hockey, cross-country skiing, basketball, and soccer.
  • Work-related activities.
  • Work or projects around the home.
  • Motor vehicle accidents.

Groin problems and injuries can cause pain and concern. Most minor problems or injuries will heal on their own. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to relieve symptoms and heal.

Groin injury

An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a stabbing injury, a fall, or from the leg being turned in an abnormal position.

Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on an area. This often happens when you overdo an activity or repeat the same activity day after day. Overuse can lead to muscle strains or tears or may cause swelling, such as bursitis .

Other causes of groin problems

Groin pain not caused by an injury to the groin may be coming from other parts of the body. This is called radiating, or referred, pain. Pulled muscles , ligaments , or tendons in the leg may cause symptoms in the groin. It is important to look for other causes of groin pain when you have not had an injury.

An inguinal hernia is a bulge of soft tissue through a weak spot in the abdominal wall in the groin area.See a picture of an inguinal hernia . An inguinal hernia may need surgical treatment. A sports hernia may affect the same area of the groin in competitive athletes.

Rashes

Rashes in the groin area have many causes, such as ringworm or yeast. Most rashes can be treated at home.

Groin symptoms in children

When a child develops groin pain, the pain may be caused by a problem with the upper part of the thighbone (head of the femur) or the hip. Common causes of groin pain, knee pain (referred pain from the hip), or limping include:

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

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Home Treatment

Home treatment measures can help relieve pain, swelling, and bruising and promote healing after a groin injury. These home treatment measures also may be helpful for noninjury problems. But if you think you may have a more severe injury, use first aid measures while you arrange to be checked by your doctor.

  • Rest. Rest and protect an injured or sore groin area for 1 to 2 weeks. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness. Do not do intense activities while you still have pain. A pulled muscle ( strain ) in the groin can take several weeks to heal.
  • Ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply a ice or cold pack immediately to reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. A bag of frozen peas or corn may work as a cold pack. Protect your skin from frostbite by placing a cloth between the ice and your skin. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply warmth to the area that hurts.
  • Support. While recovering from a groin injury, wear jockey shorts, not boxers, to help support the injured area.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try an over-the-counter medicine to help treat your pain:

Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use an over-the-counter medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not use more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, call your doctor before you take any medicine.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

It may take 4 to 6 weeks or longer for a minor groin injury to heal. Stretching and strengthening exercises will help you gradually return to your normal activities.

Home treatment measures may also be helpful for:

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Signs of infection develop, such as fever, swelling, redness, or pus.
  • Swelling develops in the scrotum or the lymph nodes in the groin.
  • Swelling that is known to be a hernia suddenly becomes very painful.
  • A rash gets worse or has not improved.
  • Groin pain has not improved.
  • A limp or trouble walking develops or becomes worse.
  • Symptoms become more severe or frequent.

Prevention

The following tips may help you prevent a groin injury or other problems in the groin area.

Prevent groin injury and strain

Steps to prevent a groin injury or strain may include the following:

  • Warm up by stretching the groin muscles before exercising. Stretching can increase your range of motion and reduce stiffness and pain. Stretching is also important during the cool-down phase of exercise when your muscles are warm.
  • Increase the intensity and length of exercise gradually. As your fitness level improves, you will be able to do more intense exercise without injury.
  • Try to exercise regularly; don't just go all out on weekends.
  • Use proper sports techniques and equipment. For example:
    • Wear supportive, well-cushioned shoes for running, aerobics, and walking.
    • Properly adjust your bicycle seat and handlebars for your height.
  • Drink extra water before and during exercise, especially in hot or humid weather. This can help prevent muscle cramps and stiffness.
  • Make sure you can always see where you are walking. To avoid falls:
    • Use a step stool when reaching for high objects. Do not stand on chairs or other objects.
    • Don't climb stairs with both hands full.
  • Get help carrying heavy or awkward objects. Do not strain to lift or carry objects.

Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

You can take measures to reduce your risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can also reduce the risk of transmitting an STI to your sex partner. Know high-risk behaviors and the symptoms of STIs , and do not have sex with anyone who has these symptoms.

Condom use may reduce the risk of becoming infected with an STI. Condoms must be put on before beginning any sexual contact. Use condoms with a new partner.

Prevent jock itch or yeast infection

Try the following things to prevent jock itch (fungal infection of the skin in the groin) or yeast infection (cutaneous candidiasis):

  • Dry yourself well after bathing. Use a hair-dryer to dry your groin area.
  • Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Avoid tight pants.
  • Use a powder to absorb moisture.
  • If you have athlete's foot, put on your socks before your underwear. This can prevent fungi from spreading from your feet to your groin when you put on your underwear.
  • Change out of a wet bathing suit soon after swimming so that your skin can dry out.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions.

Before your appointment

If you have a rash, do not have sexual contact or activity until you are seen by your doctor. This will reduce the risk of transmitting a possible infection to your sex partner. If you do have an STI, your sex partner or partners may need to be evaluated and treated also.

Questions to prepare for your doctor appointment

  • What are your main symptoms? How long have you had your symptoms?
  • Have you had this problem before? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated?
  • What activities make your symptoms better or worse? What sports do you participate in?
  • How and when did an injury occur? How was it treated?
  • Have you had any injuries in the past to the same area? Do you have any continuing problems because of the previous injury?
  • Do you think that activities related to your job or hobbies caused your symptoms?
  • Have you had infections or rashes in the groin area in the past?
  • Do you or your sex partner engage in high-risk sexual behaviors? Do you think you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) ?
  • Does your sex partner have any genital symptoms or problems?
  • Have you had any surgeries or procedures in the groin area?
  • Have you been told that you have a hernia?
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help?
  • What prescription and nonprescription medicines have you taken? Did they help?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised March 1, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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