Diagnosing and treating a groin strain

A groin strain is an injury to the inner thigh muscles. It is also called a muscle strain. The groin muscles, called the adductors, are made up of six muscles that extend from the inside of the pelvis to the inside of the femur (thighbone).

These muscles pull your legs together and help your hips move in other ways. Adductors are important for many types of athletes, including sprinters, swimmers, soccer players, and soccer players.

When a muscle is strained, it is stretched too far. Minor strains can push a muscle beyond its normal range of motion. More severe strains can tear muscle fibers, sometimes completely tearing the muscle in half. Most of the time, a groin strain is a minor tear in some muscle fibers, but most of the muscle tissue remains intact.

This article describes what a groin strain feels like and how to diagnose and treat them. It also explains how to do some simple stretches to prevent future strains.

Groin Strain Symptoms

A groin strain can be very painful. Groin pulls are usually graded as follows:

  • Grade I groin strain: mild discomfort, but usually does not restrict activity
  • Grade II groin strain: Moderate discomfort that limits the ability to perform activities such as running and jumping, and may be swollen or bruised
  • Grade III groin strain: Severe injury that can cause painful walking and may involve muscle spasms, swelling, and visible bruising

severe groin strain

If you have severe symptoms of a groin strain, you should see a healthcare provider for treatment.

Signs of a severe groin strain include:

  • difficulty walking
  • pain when sitting or resting
  • pain at night

Severe groin strains should be treated because the muscle may have ruptured. If this is the case, you may need surgery to reconnect the torn muscle ends. This is rare, even in patients with grade III groin strains.

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This video has been medically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MD.


Groin strains are common in players who play ice hockey and soccer. People with the following conditions are more likely to be injured:

  • Weakened hip muscles
  • Less effective preseason conditioning
  • previous injury

In order to prevent a groin strain, proper conditioning is very important. Athletes, especially hockey and football players, should design their training to:

  • Strengthen the adductors
  • stabilize the pelvis
  • Build core muscle strength


A groin strain is usually a definite diagnosis. Most athletes know the cause of an injury before seeking medical attention. However, other conditions can mimic the symptoms of a groin strain. A lesser-known condition is a sports hernia.

Sports hernias have been found in patients with chronic groin strains.A sports hernia is similar to a normal hernia groin A hernia, which is a weakening of the abdominal muscles. The symptoms of a sports hernia can be nearly identical to those of a groin strain.

These other conditions can also feel and look like a groin strain:

  • Osteitis pubis (inflammation of the pubic bone)
  • Hip problems (including early arthritis)
  • hip labrum tear
  • Low back problems (tense nerves)


Once the strain is diagnosed, you can begin treatment. Rest, stretching, and oral pain medication are the most common treatments. Surgery is usually not required.

Groin strains are frustrating for athletes and weekend warriors alike. You may want to return to activity until you are fully recovered. How long it takes to recover will depend on the severity of the pull and how quickly your body recovers.

Sticking to your treatment plan will help ensure that you recover as quickly as possible. It is important to allow your body the time it needs to fully heal. Otherwise, you could get hurt again — and start the healing process all over again.

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Working with a physical therapist or athletic trainer may help.

Stretching to prevent injury

If you have a groin strain, a stretching program will help you recover. Simple stretches can help relieve symptoms and prevent new strains from emerging.

As a general rule, stretching shouldn’t hurt. There should be a gentle pulling sensation, but it shouldn’t be painful.

squat adductor stretch

The first stretch is the squat adductor stretch:

  1. Squat on the ground with one leg in front of your body.
  2. Let your other leg stretch behind you.
  3. Gently push past your front knee and spread your legs apart.

different adductor stretches

This adductor stretch is done while standing:

  1. Extend one leg to the side and place the other leg under your torso.
  2. Bend the knee under your torso to lower yourself and stretch the inner thigh muscle of the opposite leg.
  3. Your outstretched leg should have a straight knee and you should feel a stretch in the inner thigh.

butterfly stretch

The butterfly stretch is done in a seated position:

  1. Sit with your feet together, knees bent.
  2. Grab your feet with your hands.
  3. Extend your knees down toward the ground.
  4. Don’t bounce. Feel the stretch in the inner thigh.

cross leg stretch

Cross-legged stretches while seated:

  1. While sitting, cross one leg over the other.
  2. Press your crossed knees against your body to open your hips.

This stretch will emphasize the muscles of the inner thigh and front of the thigh.


A groin strain is an injury to the inner thigh muscles. Most of the time, these strains involve small tears in muscle fibers. They can be treated with rest, stretching, and over-the-counter medications.

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However, more serious muscle tears can sometimes occur. In rare cases, these tears must be repaired surgically. If you have a severe groin strain, see a healthcare professional. You may need more significant treatment, or other conditions, such as a hernia, may be causing the problem.

To prevent a groin strain, stretch regularly. You may also need exercises to strengthen your adductors, pelvis, and core muscles.

VigorTip words

If you’re not sure if your groin is strained or your symptoms aren’t improving quickly, it’s best to see a healthcare provider. Other conditions can be confused with a groin strain, and they may require different treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the groin muscle called?

    The groin muscles are called adductors. This group of six muscles is connected to each other by the femur and pelvis. As they contract, it pulls our legs inward to the midline (middle of the body), placing the legs side by side. The names of the muscles are the adductors brevis, the adductors major, the adductors long, the pubis and the gracilis.

  • How Does Strained Groin Treatment Work?

    Groin strain treatment includes plenty of rest, stretching, and if needed, over-the-counter oral pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil. Exercises like the squat adductor stretch and the butterfly stretch can help with recovery. Proper stretching shouldn’t be painful.

  • What to do if you have groin pain while walking?

    If you have pain in your groin when you walk, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Although rare, this type of groin strain can indicate a torn muscle. Other symptoms of a grade III groin strain include muscle spasms, swelling, and bruising.