What Is Groin Pain?
Groin pain is discomfort that happens where the inside of your upper thigh and your abdomen come together. It's not the same as pain in your testicles, though that can sometimes cause pain that can spread to your groin.
Common Groin Pain Causes
Most often, groin pain is the result of a muscle, ligament, or tendon strain. This happens to a lot of men who play sports. The pain may happen right away, or it could build over time. Continuing the sport or activity may make the injury worse.
There are other conditions that can cause groin pain, including:
Inguinal hernia: This happens when fat or a loop of your intestine pushes through a weak spot in the muscles of your lower abdomen (belly). You may see a bulge in your groin or scrotum. One quarter of all men will develop this problem sometime during their lifetime. If the intestine or fat gets stuck in the abdominal muscle wall, its blood supply may get cut off. That’s called a strangulated hernia.
Symptoms can include:
Get urgent care if you have any of these symptoms. A strangulated hernia is a life-threatening emergency.
Surgery can fix a hernia.
Prostatitis: This is swelling or infection in your prostate gland. In addition to pain, you may have a hard time peeing.
See your doctor. Prostatitis can sometimes go away on its own. But if it’s caused by an infection, you may need to take antibiotics.
Epididymitis: This is swelling in the tube where sperm is stored -- the epididymis. Most often, an infection causes it. Signs and symptoms can include:
- Pain on one side of the scrotum that comes on slowly.
- Pain while peeing
- Milky discharge from your penis
Orchitis: It’s swelling in one or both testicles that can cause fertility problems. The same infection that’s behind epididymitis may cause orchitis. The two conditions can happen at the same time. Sometimes, the mumps virus triggers orchitis.
If bacteria is the cause of either condition, an antibiotic can clear it up.
Testicular torsion: This happens when a testicle gets twisted inside your scrotum. It may feel like you got kicked in the crotch. It’s a medical emergency. The twisting (torsion) cuts off the blood supply to your testicle. If it’s not surgically untwisted within a few hours, your testicle can die. It happens most often in teen boys.
Testicular cancer: Most of the time, this cancer causes a painless lump in or on your testicle. But sometimes, it’s painful. It’s not a common cancer. If it’s found early, it’s almost always treated and cured.
Hip problems: Sometimes, hip pain from arthritis or another problem can radiate to your groin. It usually builds slowly and may feel worse when you’re driving or sitting in a low chair. Usually, a doctor will try physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications first to treat the problem. You may need an operation if these don’t work.
Kidney stones: These are small crystals that form in your kidney and can get stuck in tubes leading to your bladder. The pain can be severe. It’s usually in your back or belly, but it can be in your scrotum or at the tip of your penis, too. If the stone is really big, you may need surgery.
Kidney infection: This usually happens when an infection travels from your bladder and enters one or both of your kidneys. Symptoms may include groin pain, frequent urination, and blood or pus in your pee. The bacteria called E. coli is often to blame. Kidney infections are treated with antibiotics.
When to Call the Doctor
Call 911 if you have:
- Testicle pain that's sudden or intense
- Pain that radiates to your back, abdomen, or chest
- Discomfort along with fever, chills, and nausea
Make an appointment with your doctor if:
- The groin pain is very bad, or it doesn’t get better in a few days.
- There’s swelling or a lump around or in your testicle.
- Pain in your side moves into your groin and testicle.
- There’s blood in your urine.
Groin Pain Diagnosis
If you think you may have groin pain, your doctor will ask:
- When the pain started
- What activities you do regularly
- If anything makes your pain better or worse.
Your doctor will also want to give you a physical exam to rule out other conditions. They'll also test things like your range of motion and your strength. If they think you might have a groin injury, they may use imaging tests like X-ray and ultrasound to find the problem.
Groin Pain Treatment
If another medical condition causes your groin pain, your doctor will treat that first with medicines, surgery, or both.
If a strain causes your groin pain, your doctor can recommend a physical therapist. They can help you do a mix of stretching and strengthening exercises. They can also wrap your groin area, either with compression clothing or with athletic tape, to help ease swelling. In some cases, they can also teach you how to wrap your groin area yourself.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help you feel better, too. If your injury is more serious, your doctor can prescribe stronger pain relievers.
There are also things you can do at home to feel more comfortable. You can:
- Pause any athletic activities that you normally do to give your groin a chance to heal. For many, rest is the most important thing you can do to help your pain go away.
- Put ice where you feel pain using either an ice pack wrapped in cloth or a bag of frozen peas. You should do this for 20 to 30 minutes a few times a day for a few days, or until swelling goes down.
In some cases of groin pain due to strain, if other treatments don't work, you may need surgery to feel better.
Groin Pain Prevention
Groin pulls can be painful, and they can keep you away from activities you love. There are ways that you can help prevent groin pulls that result from strains:
- Warm up your legs and groin muscles before any physical activity. A light jog or other activities to get your body temperature up can lower your chances of muscle stains.
- Wear shoes that are comfortable with good support.
- Raise the intensity of your training slowly.
- Stop exercising if you feel pain or tightness in your groin or the inside of your thigh.
- Do regular strengthening exercises for your thigh muscles, especially if you've had a groin pull before.
Ask your doctor about other things you can do to make groin pulls less likely.