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Groin Problems and Injuries

Overview

You may have had a minor groin problem at one time or another. Most of the time, our body movements don't cause problems. But sometimes symptoms may occur 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 often 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 crashes.

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's needed to relieve symptoms and heal.

Groin injury

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

You can pull (strain) or tear a groin muscle during exercise, such as running, skating, kicking in soccer, or playing basketball. You can strain a groin muscle when you lift, push, or pull heavy objects. You might pull a groin muscle when you fall. A sudden pulling or tearing of a groin muscle may cause sudden pain. You may hear a snapping sound when you move your hip or leg. Swelling and bruising can happen quickly. But sometimes they don't appear for a few days after the injury.

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. Overuse may cause:

  • A hairline crack in a bone (stress fracture).
  • Bursitis.
  • Osteitis pubis. This is a condition that causes chronic groin pain because of stress on the pubis symphysis. Distance runners and soccer players are most likely to be affected.
  • Hip problems. Examples include a muscle strain in the groin or buttock.
  • Avulsion fractures. This occurs when force causes a tendon or ligament to tear away from a bone and break off a piece of bone. It most often affects teen athletes who are involved in jumping, kicking, sprinting, or hurdling sports.

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's important to look for other causes of groin pain when you haven't had an injury.

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

Infections may cause a lump, bumps, or swelling in the groin area. Glands (lymph nodes) in the groin may be enlarged and painful when there's an infection in the groin area. If the infection is minor, the swelling may last a few days and go away on its own.

Rashes

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

Causes of groin pain in children

When a child has 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:

  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. It affects the blood supply and proper placement of the head of the femur in the hip socket.
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis. It occurs when the femur slips at the growth plate (physis) and doesn't fit in the hip socket correctly.
  • Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). It's caused by abnormal development of the hip joint. The femur may fit loosely into the hip socket (subluxation). Or it may be completely out of the hip socket.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the lining of the joint space of the hip (toxic synovitis).
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis. This disease causes inflamed, swollen, stiff, and often painful joints.
  • Infectious arthritis (septic arthritis). It's caused by a bacterial or fungal infection inside the hip joint.

Check Your Symptoms

Do you have a problem in the groin area?
Yes
Groin problem
No
Groin problem
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female

The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.

  • If you are transgender or nonbinary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
  • If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
  • If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.
Do you have problems with urination?
Yes
Problems with urination
No
Problems with urination
Do you have a problem in the genital area?
This includes things like vaginal itching or discharge, pelvic pain, and other problems in the pubic area.
Yes
Problem in genital area
No
Problem in genital area
Do you have a problem in the genital area?
This includes problems with the penis or scrotum.
Yes
Problem in the genital area
No
Problem in the genital area
Have you injured your groin?
Yes
Groin injury
No
Groin injury
Do you have any urinary symptoms?
Yes
Urinary symptoms
No
Urinary symptoms
Did they first occur after the groin injury?
Yes
Urinary symptoms developed after groin injury
No
Urinary symptoms developed after groin injury
Is there any pain in the groin area?
Yes
Pain in groin
No
Pain in groin
How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
8 to 10: Severe pain
Severe pain
5 to 7: Moderate pain
Moderate pain
1 to 4: Mild pain
Mild pain
Has the pain:
Gotten worse?
Pain is getting worse
Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?
Pain is unchanged
Gotten better?
Pain is getting better
Are you having trouble putting weight on your legs?
Yes
Trouble with weight bearing
No
Trouble with weight bearing
Can you bear any weight on your legs?
Yes
Able to bear some weight
No
Unable to bear weight
Are there any symptoms of infection?
Yes
Symptoms of infection
No
Symptoms of infection
Are there red streaks leading away from the area or pus draining from it?
Yes
Red streaks or pus
No
Red streaks or pus
Do you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, peripheral arterial disease, or any surgical hardware in the area?
"Hardware" includes things like artificial joints, plates or screws, catheters, and medicine pumps.
Yes
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
No
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
Do you think you may have a fever?
Yes
Possible fever
No
Possible fever
Do you think that the groin problem may have been caused by abuse?
Yes
Groin problem may have been caused by abuse
No
Groin problem may have been caused by abuse
Is there a lump, a bulge, or any swelling in the groin area?
Yes
Lump, bulge, or swelling in groin
No
Lump, bulge, or swelling in groin
Is the lump, bulge, or swelling new or changing?
Yes
Lump, bulge, or swelling is new or changing
No
Lump, bulge, or swelling is new or changing
Is there a rash in the groin area?
This could include a rash, blisters, or an open sore in the groin area.
Yes
Rash in groin area
No
Rash in groin area
Does the rash hurt?
Yes
Painful rash
No
Painful rash
Is the rash very itchy?
Yes
Very itchy rash
No
Very itchy rash
Are there blisters in the groin area?
Yes
Blisters in groin area
No
Blisters in groin area
Do you have an open sore?
Yes
Open sore
No
Open sore
Have you had problems in the groin area for more than 2 weeks?
Yes
Problems in groin area for more than 2 weeks
No
Problems in groin area for more than 2 weeks

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, herbal remedies, or supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

Symptoms of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or around the area.
  • Red streaks leading from the area.
  • Pus draining from the area.
  • A fever.

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
  • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Not having a spleen.

Pain in adults and older children

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days. Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's there.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.

Urinary symptoms may include:

  • Pain when you urinate.
  • Trouble urinating.
  • Not being able to urinate at all.
  • Blood in your urine.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older
Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 11 and Younger
Male Genital Problems and Injuries
Female Genital Problems and Injuries

Self-Care

Home treatment can help relieve pain, swelling, and bruising. It can also help you heal after a minor groin injury.

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. Don't 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 an ice or cold pack right away 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 the swelling is gone, you can apply warmth to the area that hurts.
Support.
While you recover from a groin injury, wear underwear that supports the injured area. Females can use workout underwear or shorts with a snug fit. For males, it's best to wear jockey shorts with a snug fit rather than boxer shorts.

If you think you may have a more severe injury, you may need to be checked by your doctor.

Stretching and strengthening exercises

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.

Stretching exercises start with range-of-motion exercises. These are controlled stretches that prevent stiffness and tendon shortening. Gently bend, straighten, and rotate your leg and hip. If your pain gets worse, slow down or stop the exercises.

You may do strengthening exercises with light weights, such as ankle weights. But wait until the pain has decreased and your flexibility has improved.

Non–weight-bearing activities, such as swimming or cycling, may be helpful. It depends on how serious your injury is. A sports medicine health professional or trainer can advise you about fitness activities.

Other groin area problems

Rashes and injuries may also occur in the groin area.

  • Rashes, such as those that occur with yeast infections or jock itch, are often treated with creams or ointments.
  • Cuts are rinsed and cleaned. If a cut is large or painful, you may need to see a doctor.

When to call for help during self-care

Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:

  • New or worse signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, pus, or a fever.
  • A painful lump or swelling.
  • New or worse rash.
  • New or worse urinary problems, such as burning with urination or blood in urine.
  • Symptoms occur more often or are more severe.

Learn more

Preparing For Your Appointment

Credits

Current as of: March 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine