What is Groin Pain?
Groin pain is any discomfort in the groin area. The groin area is where your abdomen ends and your legs begin. The groin is also called the inguinal area and includes your upper inner thigh as well as the front area where your legs attach to your torso.
In men, groin pain may also refer to pain that radiates into or from the scrotum or the testicles within the scrotum. Women may experience groin pain due to a condition of the genitals or reproductive organs. Pain can also radiate into the groin from a condition of the hip, lower spine, pelvis, kidney, bladder, or colon.
Pain is usually a sign of inflammation, disease, or direct injury to a particular area of the groin. The groin may appear swollen, red or tender to the touch. Groin pain can be due to serious infections, inflammation, trauma, malignancy (cancer), and other abnormal processes.
A very common cause of groin pain is a groin pull, a strain of the inner thigh muscles. A groin pull often occurs due to an activity that involves running, skating, jumping or swimming. Groin pulls are a common injury in such sports as football, baseball, hockey, soccer, and track and field.
Depending on the cause, groin pain can begin suddenly and disappear quickly, such as from a pinched nerve associated with a minor injury. Groin pain that develops over time and occurs along with additional symptoms may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), inguinal hernia, or testicular cancer.
Most Common Causes of Groin Pain
The most common cause of groin pain is strain of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the groin area. This type of injury is most commonly seen in athletes. If you play a contact sport such as football, rugby, or hockey, it’s likely that you’ve had groin pain at some point.
Another common cause of groin pain is an inguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia occurs when one of your internal organs pushes through the protective muscle that surrounds it. This can create a bulging lump in your groin area and cause pain. Kidney stones (small, hard mineral deposits in the kidneys and bladder) or bone fractures can cause groin pain as well.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
The health care provider will do an exam of the groin area and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:
- Have you had an injury recently?
- Has there been a change in your activity, especially a recent strain, heavy lifting, or similar activity?
- When did the groin pain start? Is it getting worse? Does it come and go?
- What other symptoms do you have?
- Have you been exposed to any sexually transmitted diseases?
Tests that may be performed include:
- Blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) or blood differential
- Ultrasound or other scan
Home Treatment of Groin Pain
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 an 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 the swelling is gone, apply warmth to the area that hurts.
- Support. While you are recovering 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.
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.
Diagnosing Groin Pain
Most cases of groin pain do not require medical attention. However, you should see a doctor if you experience severe, prolonged pain accompanied by fever or swelling. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition.
To diagnose the underlying cause of your groin pain, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and ask about any recent physical activity. Your doctor will then perform a physical examination of the groin area along with other tests, if necessary.