What exercise can I do with a groin strain?
A groin strain is a stretch or tear of one or more adductor muscles. It usually occurs when sprinting, landing from a jump, or kicking. Recovery typically takes weeks to months, depending on severity.
A doctor can diagnose it with a physical exam and imaging tests such as X-rays and MRIs. Treatment involves RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and pain medicine for a few days, followed by progressive exercises that include stretching and strengthening the muscle over several weeks.
The groin comprises six muscles that attach your pelvis to your inner thigh bone (the femur). These muscles help you move your legs away from the midline on the opposite side (abduction). Adductor strains are common in sports that involve sprinting, kicking, or change of direction.
The groin muscles include the adductor longus, brevis, and Magnus. Other strengths include the pectineus (deep hip rotators), gracilis (inner thigh), and tensor fascia lata (hip stabilizer).
The adductors are a group of muscles that help to stabilize your pelvis while walking, standing, running, or jumping. These muscles allow you to bring your legs together to do activities like cycling.
They play an essential role in helping you ambulate effectively – they contract when one leg moves towards the other and during most athletic activities such as cutting and jumping.
Adductor strains result from an overstretching, pulling, or tearing of one (or more) of these muscles. This can happen when a person is forced into a position that stretches the muscle too far, too quickly. The adductor Magnus is the most commonly injured muscle in this group and occurs in athletes who train on either hard surfaces or with equipment such as turf shoes.
A groin strain involves a stretching or tearing of one or all of the adductor muscles- which run from your pelvis down to your inner thigh bone (femur). In some cases, it’s thought they may be initiated by a core instability problem – where due to injury, you’ve lost control of your deepest abdominal muscles and lumbar spine stability system, placing a higher demand on your groin muscles to compensate.
A groin strain typically occurs when you’re sprinting, landing from a jump, or kicking and can be felt as either an acute ‘sharp’ pain at the time of the incident or as a more gradual onset of lower grade pain during activity or post-workout.
Symptoms include sudden contraction of the adductor Magnus – your body will lift your leg up and externally rotate it (turn it outwards). This is most commonly seen in footballers who perform this movement regularly – such as their goal kicks – then suddenly find themselves with a tear!
The athlete will also be unable to stand up straight and may even fall over due to the pain and muscle spasms. There is usually severe pain along your thigh’s inner side, which may radiate down to your knee.
It is essential to relax and remove yourself from training, competition, or activity immediately – contact your doctor or physiotherapist for advice. You can usually walk with a groin strain but must avoid specific movements that place too much stress on the muscle while it heals.
Treatment For a grade 1 tear involves RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation) for several days followed by gentle stretching exercises initially – then after 2-3 weeks, if there’s no pain, you can progress strength work in the gym. This type of injury generally takes around 4-6 weeks to fully heal, depending on the severity and how well you treat it and return to full training.
A grade 2 tear is a more severe injury involving a complete tear to one or all of the muscles in the groin. It often takes longer than six weeks to heal and requires a different rehabilitation protocol. Your doctor or physiotherapist can advise on specific exercises, but usually, your pain must be well controlled before you start strengthening work – typically around 4-6 weeks post-injury.
Severe tears require surgery to reattach the muscle, which will mean at least 3-4 months out from sport for complete recovery depending on the type of activity involved, how quickly you progress after surgery, and your ability to manage your pain levels during rehab.
Research has shown that eccentric exercises help athletes return to sport quicker with fewer complications than standard strength training protocols. Eccentric exercises are basically where you slowly contract the muscle while simultaneously lengthening it, e.g., a hamstring curl. This is different from standard strength training, which focuses on muscle contraction with no movement in the joint, e.g., a bicep curl.
The good news is that most adductor strains heal well, primarily if they’re managed by an expert sports injury professional. Have regular treatment to keep them pain-free and your rehabilitation on track, and be back in full training before you know it.
This is a question that I am often asked when treating athletes with groin injuries – but it’s not an easy one to answer because there are so many factors involved, such as age, medical history, grade of the damage, and type of activity involved.