You may have had a minor groin problem at one time or another. Most of the time our body movements do not cause problems. It's not surprising that symptoms may develop 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 commonly 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 accidents.
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 is needed to relieve symptoms and heal.
An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a stabbing injury, 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 while lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy objects. You might pull a groin muscle when you fall. A sudden pulling or tearing of a groin muscle may cause sudden pain. A snapping sound may be heard with hip or leg movement. Swelling and bruising can happen quickly. Sometimes swelling and bruising do not show up 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).
- Osteitis pubis, which 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.
- 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 commonly affects teenage 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 is important to look for other causes of groin pain when you have not had an injury.
An inguinal hernia is a bulge of soft tissue through a weak spot in the abdominal wall in the groin area. See a picture of an inguinal hernia . An inguinal hernia 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 become enlarged and painful when there is an infection in the groin area. If the infection is minor, the swelling may last a few days and go away on its own.
Groin symptoms in children
When a child develops 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. This condition affects the blood supply and proper placement of the head of the femur in the hip socket.
- Slipped capital femoral epiphysis. This condition occurs when the femur slips at the growth plate (physis) and does not fit in the hip socket correctly.
- Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). This condition is caused by abnormal development of the hip joint. The femur may fit loosely into the hip socket (subluxation) or 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). This is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection inside the hip joint.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.