Getting the correct diagnosis is key for anyone with pain in the groin region. Groin injuries can be complex and are generally multifactorial. A groin strain is a strain to one of the three adductor muscles (brevis, longus and magnus) that cover the area from your pubic bone to just above the knee joint on the inside of your thigh. Depending on the mechanism of injury and the duration of your groin pain, it may indicate something else. This could be a tendinopathy, hernia or potentially a pain referring from the back or hip. That is why it is always best to get a full Physiotherapy assessment in the early stages of your injury. This will help to identify what is causing the pain and will guide the advice and exercises for your groin strain.
What is the best treatment for a groin injury?
When diagnosed with a groin strain you should first rest for a few days. Avoid aggravating activities and take pain relief as required. The next step should be to make an appointment for a specific treatment plan. Treatment may consist of manual therapy and dry needling to speed up the recovery process in the early stages. As well as advice, education, and reassurance on returning to playing/running. A recovery timeframe can also be advised. Most importantly your physiotherapist will give you a graded exercise programme that will be specific to your symptoms and goals.
What exercises can I do for a groin strain?
If you have been diagnosed with a groin strain, the following exercises may aid recovery. These are only sample exercises, if they increase your pain then stop and make an appointment to see a physiotherapist. In the first few days after your injury, you could start with the following exercises:
- Lying on your back, slide your leg out to the side and back in, as pain allows, 10 times for 3 sets. You could use a towel under your foot on a tiled or wooden floor to assist the movement
- Lying on your back do a glute bridge, lifting your bum up off the ground, up and down 10-15 times for 3 sets, as pain allows
- Active straight leg raises whilst lying on your back. Lift your leg up and down keeping the knee straight. Try to engage the core as you do these. Aim for 8-12 times, as pain allows. If possible, add an isometric hold for 5 seconds, if tolerable, for 2-3 sets
- Place a ball between your legs while lying on your back and squeeze holding for about 5-10 seconds, as pain allows. Keep pain at a low level when doing these. You could do this 10 times for 3 sets.
As the pain improves the exercises should progress in difficulty becoming more dynamic with the aim of returning you to your desired hobbies and activities. For example, walking lunge, bodyweight sumo squat, adductor slide in standing, plyometrics, neuromuscular control exercises and sport-specific drills.
Is it okay to run or train if I have a groin strain?
Your physiotherapist will guide you back to your hobbies with a gradually phased programme. I would recommend listening to your body. If you are in pain, reduce the amount you are doing. If you are not, increase what you are doing. A groin strain is managed differently to a tendinopathy when it comes to returning to sport, an exercise programme and training/running with pain. That is why it is essential you get the correct diagnosis to begin with so you can get back to your activities in an efficient manner.
How long will it take to recover from a groin strain?
This will vary depending on the severity of your strain. The following is an approximate recovery timeframe. Each case is different and factors such as age and previous injury profile can influence the length of recovery time.
- 2-4 weeks for a Grade 1 injury
- 4-8 weeks for a Grade 2 injury
- 8-12 weeks for a Grade 3 injury
Take home points:
A correct diagnosis ensures the most efficient recovery for your groin strain. Getting the correct diagnosis is key to a speedy and successful recovery. A graded exercise programme and detailed phased return to activities/hobbies are essential. Therefore, getting assessed by a chartered Physiotherapist is essential in the early stages of your injury.
John Shanahan is the Lead Physiotherapist at Next Level Physiotherapy Cork. With several years of experience within MSK Physiotherapy, John also has a background in Sports Science and a keen interest in all sports.