Groin Strain

A groin strain is a muscle strain that affects any of the muscles in your groin. It’s one of the most common injuries that affect athletes. A healthcare provider can diagnose your injury, and tell you which treatments you need and when it’s safe to resume physical activities.


Groin muscles.
Your groin muscles connect your lower abdomen to your thighs. A groin strain can affect any of them.

What is a groin strain?

A groin strain is a type of muscle strain that affects the muscles in your groin.

Your muscles are made of thousands of small fibers woven together. These fibers stretching and pressing together are what allow your body to move.

If you overuse a muscle, the strands of muscle fiber are stretched beyond their limit and tear apart. If you’ve ever tried to use an old bungee cord to hold something in place, you’ve seen this happen.

New bungee cords — like healthy muscle fibers — have plenty of give and stretch. But if you use them for too long or suddenly jerk on them too hard, the elastic fibers in the bungee cord will start to pull apart. It’s the same way in your muscles. Strains happen when fibers in your muscles are pulled beyond their limit and tear.

Your groin muscles connect your lower abdomen to your thighs. Three muscle groups form your groin, including your:

  • Lower abdominal muscles (your lower abs).
  • Iliopsoas muscles (the muscles that connect your spine to your hips and legs).
  • Adductor muscles (six muscles in your hips and thighs).

Types of groin strains

Healthcare providers classify muscle strains (including groin strains) with grades according to how severe they are:

  • Grade 1 (mild).
  • Grade 2 (moderate).
  • Grade 3 (severe).

How common are groin strains?

Muscle strains as a whole are extremely common injuries, especially among athletes. Groin strains are one of the most common injuries athletes experience.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a groin strain?

Groin strain symptoms include:

  • Pain.
  • Difficulty moving your leg or hip.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Bruising or discoloration.
  • Swelling.
  • Muscle spasms.

What does a groin strain feel like?

Usually, a groin strain will feel like a sharp, twinging pain — especially right after your injury. If you’re experiencing muscle spasms, you might feel sharp stabs of pain each time your injured muscle twitches.

What causes groin strains?

Groin strains happen when you stretch a muscle in your groin enough to tear or damage it.

The most common causes of groin strains include:

Groin strain risk factors

Anyone can experience a groin strain. Even if you don’t play sports or work out often, you can still strain your groin, especially if you suddenly exert yourself much harder than usual.

Athletes are much more likely to strain their groin, especially if they play a sport that requires them to stop, twist or change direction suddenly. Sports that commonly cause groin strains include:

  • Hockey.
  • Soccer.
  • Football.
  • Basketball.


Diagnosis and Tests

How are groin strains diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose a groin strain with a physical exam. They’ll examine your groin muscles and ask you about your symptoms. Tell your provider what you were doing right before you first noticed pain or other symptoms.

Which tests do providers use to diagnose groin strains?

Your provider might use imaging tests to diagnose a groin strain, including:

  • Ultrasound: They’ll use an ultrasound to check for tears or fluid buildup around your strained muscle or a connected tendon.
  • X-rays: X-rays help your provider see if the injury that strained your groin damaged any of the bones in or around your groin.
  • MRI: An MRI lets your provider check for muscle or tendon tears, bone fractures (broken bones) or internal bleeding.

Management and Treatment

How are groin strains treated?

You can treat most groin strains at home using the RICE method:

  • Rest: Stop the physical activity that caused the strain to avoid further damaging your muscle.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack or cold compress for 10 to 15 minutes every hour for the first day after your injury. After one day, you can apply ice every three to four hours. Don’t apply ice directly to your skin (wrap the ice pack in a towel or washcloth).
  • Compression: Compression reduces blood flow to your injured muscle and relieves swelling. Apply a compression bandage or wrap around your thigh. You can also wear compression shorts or pants to help keep pressure on your strained muscle.
  • Elevation: If possible, lift your leg and lower body above the level of your heart. Support your leg with pillows, blankets or cushions.

You may need to use crutches or a walker for the first few days after a groin strain if you’re having trouble walking or moving safely.

Groin strain surgery

It’s rare to need surgery for a groin strain. If you have a severe strain (grade 3), you might need surgery to repair your torn muscle. If the strain is severe enough to pull tendons or ligaments off your bones, you may need surgery to reattach them. Your provider will tell you which kind of surgery you’ll need and what you can expect.

What medications are used to treat groin strains?

Your provider might recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (like aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen) to reduce pain and swelling while you’re recovering. Don’t take NSAIDs for more than 10 days in a row without talking to your provider.

Your provider will tell you which medications to take based on your specific symptoms.



How can I prevent a groin strain?

Stretching and warming up before you exercise or play a sport are the best ways to prevent groin strains. Increasing your overall flexibility also protects your muscles from future injuries. The more flexible you are, the more your muscle fibers can stretch before they begin to tear.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have a groin strain?

You should expect to make a full recovery from a groin strain. You should regain all of your strength and ability to move after your muscle heals.

It’s rare, but some people who experience severe groin strains have long-term effects like muscle weakness or reduced range of motion (how far you can move).

How long does it take to recover from a groin strain?

How long a groin strain lasts depends on how severe the original injury is. Most people need a month or two to fully heal after a mild or moderate groin strain (grade 1 or grade 2).

Severe groin strains (grade 3) and chronic strains (straining the same muscle multiple times) can take several months to heal.

Will I need to miss school or work with a groin strain?

You shouldn’t need to miss work or school if you can do your job or schoolwork without putting stress on your strained groin muscles. Talk to your provider about which activities you should avoid while you’re recovering.

Check with your provider before resuming any physical activities.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Visit a healthcare provider right away if you’re experiencing symptoms like intense pain in or around your groin.

Talk to your provider if you’re still feeling pain after a few weeks of at-home treatments for a groin strain.

When should I go to the ER?

Go to the emergency room as soon as possible if you’ve experienced a trauma or have any of the following symptoms:

  • Bleeding in or around your groin.
  • You can’t move your leg or hip.
  • Swelling that won’t go away or is getting worse.
  • A feeling of cold or your skin changing color.
  • Numbness or tingling in your leg.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • Do I have a groin strain or another type of injury?
  • Which grade of strain do I have?
  • Which treatments will I need?
  • How long will I need to rest?
  • Are there any activities I should avoid while I’m recovering?

Additional Common Questions

What is the difference between a groin strain and a pulled groin?

There’s no difference between a groin strain and a pulled groin. People use these terms interchangeably. The same is true for a strained groin and a torn groin. They’re all the same injury with the same symptoms and treatments.

Is it OK to walk with a groin strain?

Most people can walk with a groin strain. But you shouldn’t run, work out or do intense exercise while you’re recovering from a groin strain. If you start working out or playing sports again before your muscles have healed, there’s an increased chance you’ll re-injure them.

What is the difference between a groin strain and a sports hernia?

Groin strains are caused by tears in the fibers of your groin muscles. Unless they’re very severe, you can treat a groin strain at home with rest, icing and over-the-counter medicine after a healthcare provider diagnoses your injury.

Sports hernias (athletic pubalgia) happen when the deep layers of your lower abdominal wall or the tendons that attach your abdominal muscles (your abs) to your pelvis weaken or tear. They’re more likely to cause chronic (long-term) pain. People who experience multiple groin strains are more likely to develop a sports hernia.

Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing groin pain or other symptoms. They’ll diagnose what’s wrong and tell you which treatments you’ll need.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Groin strains are injuries to any of the muscles in your groin. They’re one of the most common injuries in sports like hockey and soccer, but they can affect anyone. Visit a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing pain or other symptoms in your groin.

It’s frustrating to skip practices, games, meets or matches, but don’t rush your recovery. Wait until your provider says it’s safe to get back out on the ice, field or court. Your groin muscles need time to heal, and once they do, you’ll be able to resume the sports or activities you love. Don’t push your body past its limits. Putting more stress on your injured groin can make a minor injury more severe and take longer to heal.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 11/02/2023.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 216.444.2606