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Groin Pain: What Causes Groin Pain & How to Find Relief

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Written by Jack Wilkinson, MD.
Fellow, Cornell/Columbia New York Presbyterian Child Psychiatry Program
Last updated April 1, 2024

Groin pain quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Pain in the groin can occur in athletes from muscle strains or tears in the tendon. Nerve damage and compression can also cause groin pain. The most common cause of groin pain in men and women are hernias or enlarged lymph nodes. Read below for more information on causes and how to treat groin muscle pain.

Groin pain quiz

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Pain in groin explained

When every step you take is a reminder of the discomfort you feel, groin pain can be a real drag. Your groin is a complex area where your abdomen ends and your legs begin. The large network of muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels can make diagnosing the cause of groin pain a particularly difficult task, though muscular pain is a common problem.

Athletes often suffer from groin pain, perhaps after taking a wrong step or sustaining a sports injury. The muscles in the area take a lot of stress during physical activity and are particularly vulnerable to strains and pulls.

Common accompanying symptoms of groin pain

Groin pain can be sharp or dull, but is often made worse by movement and may be accompanied by the following symptoms:

What can cause groin pain?

The many muscles in your groin area offer important support to your core and also allow you to twist, turn, and move your legs. Their many functions make them vulnerable to injury. While athletes often complain of these injuries, non-athletes who place sudden stress on their bodies can also suffer from painful problems. The hip joints are closely connected to the muscles and nerves of the groin, so joint problems may cause groin pain. Groin pain may also indicate a problem with the genitourinary tract.

Musculoskeletal causes

Musculoskeletal causes of groin pain may include the following.

  • Muscle and tendon injury: Probably the most common cause of groin pain, small tears of muscles and tendons located in the area can cause bothersome discomfort.
  • Nerve entrapment: Direct compression of a nerve can produce intense discomfort that is often described as shooting or radiating.
  • Stress fracture: Intense training or overuse can cause very small bone fractures that are painful but typically resolve on their own.
  • Arthritis: Wear-and-tear can damage the hip joints over time, leading to discomfort that extends through the groin region.
  • Bursitis: The lubricating fluid that sits between muscles, tendons and bones near joints can become painfully inflamed.

Genitourinary causes

Genitourinary causes of groin pain may include the following.

  • Urinary tract infection: The bladder sits in the groin area and it can become painful if infected.
  • Testicular pain: Infection or problems with blood flow can cause pain from a man's testicles that is felt in the groin.

Other causes

Other causes of groin pain may include the following.

  • Hernia: An organ, like the bowel, can break through the muscles that keep it in place leading to a painful bulge that worsens with cough or when bearing down.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes: Large chains of lymph nodes sit on both sides of the groin region and can become swollen due to an infection or other causes.
  • Kidney stones: Shooting pain from the kidneys can reach around the body all the way to the groin.

10 groin pain conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced groin pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Groin hernia requiring a doctor's examination

A groin hernia, or inguinal hernia, is the protrusion of an organ or other tissue – usually a loop of intestine – through a tear or weakness in the lower abdominal muscles. It can be easily felt beneath the skin, especially when the person is standing upright.

A groin hernia is most often found in men doing any kind of heavy lifting, though women can also be affected.

Symptoms include aching, burning groin pain with a sense of heaviness. The pain may be severe, especially on exertion. There may be an abdominal bulge that disappears when the patient lies on his/her back.

It is important to have a suspected inguinal hernia examined by a medical provider for possible treatment. A hernia can become strangulated, which means that its blood supply is cut off. A strangulated hernia is a medical emergency.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes ultrasound.

Treatment usually involves surgical repair of the hernia, although a small hernia may simply be monitored for any change.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea, nausea or vomiting, fever, groin pain, groin lump

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Mild/moderate hip arthritis

Arthritis of the hip is inflammation of one or more of the joints in the hip. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Hip arthritis can make it hard to do many everyday activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. It is a major cause of lost work time and a serious disability for many people.

The goal of hip arthritis treatment is to relieve pain and maintain the function of the hip. Your doctor will be able to suggest a future course of action, such as pain medication, walking aids, or changing to more appropriate footwear.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: hip pain, difficulty walking, pain in one hip, limping, groin pain

Symptoms that always occur with mild/moderate hip arthritis: hip pain

Symptoms that never occur with mild/moderate hip arthritis: severe hip pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Indirect hernia

A hernia occurs when an organ or internal body part bulges through the abdominal wall. In the case of indirect hernia, the hernia is a result an improperly failed deep inguinal ring after the testicle has passed through it.

A physician is needed to determine the course of treatment. A hernia reduction will be attempted, meaning that the bulging loop of intestine will be carefully pushed back, if possible. Then, your doctor will recommend surgery in some cases. Often, watchful waiting is the preferred route in minimally symptomatic hernias.

Iliopsoas bursitis

Bursae are small fluid-filled sacks located around the body in strategic locations to provide a cushion and help reduce friction. Iliopsoas bursitis, or hip bursitis, is an inflammation of the hip bursa, causing pain at the point of the hip. The pain may extend to the outside of the thigh area.

You should visit your primary care physician. Treatment for this condition usually involves avoiding activities that worsen the symptoms, over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Surgery is rarely needed.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: thigh pain, groin pain, limping, snapping or clicking sensation of the hip, pain in the front of the hip

Symptoms that never occur with iliopsoas bursitis: fever, back pain, butt pain from an injury, pain in both hips, unmovable hip lump, hard hip lump, back pain that shoots down the leg

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Groin nerve irritation

There are several nerves supplying the groin, inner thigh and genital region. Entrapment or irritation of one of these nerves can result in pain or numbness in this area. This is often caused by surgery in this area but can happen without a specific cause as well.

You should discuss your symptoms with your primary care physician. Sometimes a referral to a specialist is needed. Treatment often includes an injection with a local anesthetic.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: thigh numbness, groin numbness, testicle numbness, sharp testicle or scrotum pain, sharp groin pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Groin hernia

A groin hernia, also called an inguinal hernia, means that a structure in the lower abdomen – a loop of intestine or a section of fat – has pushed through the muscles of the abdominal wall. This creates a bulge, or hernia, that can be seen and felt in the groin.

A hernia is caused by a weak spot in the abdominal wall muscles, which can separate under heavy lifting or repeated straining. The weakness may be inherited or may be from previous surgery, injury, or pregnancy.

Symptoms include a bulge low down in the abdomen, most visible when the person stands; and pain in the bulge with any strain on the abdominal muscles, such as lifting a heavy object or bending over.

A hernia will not heal on its own. There is the risk of serious complications if the blood supply to the herniated organ becomes reduced or cut off.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and x-ray or CT scan.

A small hernia may need no treatment. A larger one can be repaired with surgery.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in the lower right abdomen, pain in the lower left abdomen, groin pain, testicle pain, groin lump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Groin abscess

An abscess is a buildup of pus under the skin that is caused by an infection. Redness and swelling may occur on the skin around the infected area.

You should consider visiting a medical professional within the next day to discuss your symptoms. An abscess can be evaluated with a physical exam, an abscess fluid sample test, and sometimes imaging. Once diagnosed, it can be treated with antibiotics or surgery to drain the abscess.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: groin pain, constant groin lump, lump on one side of the groin, painful lump in one side of the groin, hard groin lump

Symptoms that always occur with groin abscess: lump on one side of the groin, constant groin lump

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, also called trochanteric bursitis or GTPS, is an inflammation of the bursa of the greater trochanter.

Bursae are the small "cushions" between tendons, bones, and muscles. The greater trochanter is the larger of two bony knobs at the top of the thigh bone. Overuse, trauma, or infection can cause inflamed and irritated bursae around the greater trochanter.

Most susceptible are individuals with low back pain, osteoarthritis, and obesity.

Symptoms include chronic, persistent pain on the outside of the hip that radiates down the outside of the leg, sometimes to the knee.

The symptoms are similar to other conditions such as degenerative joint disease, and so a medical provider should be seen for an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and observation of simple movements.

Treatment largely involves managing the symptoms through weight loss, physical therapy, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In some cases, corticosteroid injections into the hip work well to relieve pain, and surgery can sometimes help.

Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy, or tubal pregnancy, means that a fertilized egg has not implanted in the uterus as it should. Instead, it has attached elsewhere – usually inside one of the fallopian tubes.

The condition is caused by scarring and damage to the fallopian tube from pelvic inflammatory disease or injury; by hormonal imbalance; or possibly by abnormal development of the fertilized egg. Other risk factors include smoking, use of an IUD, and use of fertility drugs.

Early symptoms include light vaginal bleeding, pelvic discomfort, and sometimes referred shoulder pain. Later symptoms include sudden severe pain on one side of the lower abdomen, vaginal bleeding, shoulder pain, and fainting.

The fallopian tube cannot accommodate a growing pregnancy. Eventually it will rupture, causing uncontrolled bleeding within the abdomen. If ectopic pregnancy is suspected, take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through pelvic examination, blood tests, and ultrasound.

Treatment almost always requires surgery, though in some cases medications can be used.

Prevention involves avoiding pelvic inflammatory disease by always practicing safe sex.

Ankylosing spondylitis

"Ankylosing" means a joint has become stiffened and fixed in one position due to injury or disease. "Spondylitis" means inflammation in the joints of the spine.

In ankylosing spondylitis, inflammation has damaged the vertebrae of the low back and caused a form of arthritis, leaving the lower spine inflexible.

The exact cause is unknown. It is thought to be an inherited, abnormal immune response that is triggered following damage to the lining of the intestines.

Most susceptible are those with a family history of ankylosing spondylitis and a history of intestinal damage from illness. However, anyone can be affected at any age.

Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the back and hips, and sometimes in the neck and shoulders. The pain will be worse during sleep and rest.

Early treatment can help to manage the symptoms, prevent complications, and improve quality of life.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and x-rays.

Treatment involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; new forms of biologic medications; physical therapy; and, in some cases, surgery to repair damaged joints.

How to relieve groin pain at home and when to seek professional treatment

Many causes of groin pain are minor muscular injuries, and these can usually be taken care of at home. In some cases, your doctor may be better equipped to handle the problem, especially if it does not resolve on its own or the pain experienced is particularly severe.

At-home treatments

At-home treatments that may provide relief for groin pain include the following.

  • Rest: Though this can be hard for the most active among us, it's especially important to rest the injured area for at least 1-2 weeks until the pain has resolved.
  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter options like Tylenol and Advil are excellent for short-term management of groin pain.
  • Ice: Applied to the groin and thigh, icepacks are an easy and effective way to relieve discomfort.
  • Heat: Some people may find heating pads set to a comfortable temperature are more helpful than ice, while others like to alternate heat and ice.
  • Support: Close-fitting undergarments can be soothing for some causes of groin pain.
  • Stretching: Gentle stretching of the injured area can be helpful during recovery and should be done before any workout.

Here are some over-the-counter treatment options you might consider:

  • Pain Relievers for Groin Pain: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Heat Pads for Muscle Relaxation: Applying heat can soothe and relax muscle tension in the groin area.
  • Ice Packs for Swelling and Inflammation: Ice packs can reduce swelling and numb the pain in the affected area.

Professional treatments

If at-home treatments are not enough, consult your physician for the following.

  • Physical therapy: A professional can teach more advanced techniques and target therapy to the specific area of injury.
  • X-rays: A doctor may order X-rays or some other form of imaging like CT or MRI to evaluate the cause of your pain.
  • Steroid injections: If your pain stems from inflammation in a joint or the surrounding area, steroids can treat this problem.
  • Antibiotics: While not commonly used for groin pain, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is suspected.
  • Surgery: Surgery can address more severe muscle tears and bone breaks or other problems like a hernia that may be the source of your discomfort.

When groin pain is an emergency

See a doctor without delay if you have:

  • Sudden onset, severe pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever or chills with the pain
  • Severe testicular pain that radiates to the groin
  • Problems urinating, including blood in your urine

FAQs about groin pain

Can groin pain cause erectile dysfunction?

Groin pain generally does not cause erectile dysfunction (ED). However, if you are experiencing groin pain due to trauma or a hip fracture, it's possible that you have also damaged the nerves and blood vessels required to achieve and maintain an erection.

Why does my groin hurt after running?

If you experience groin pain after running, it is possible you may have strained or torn a tendon or ligament. You can reduce the risk of injury by stretching before you run and improving flexibility in your hip joint. Maintaining good form while running and wearing suitable shoes can also decrease your risk of injury.

Which STDS cause groin pain?

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) is also known as sexually transmitted infection (STI). STDs that cause groin pain include genital herpes caused by the herpes simplex virus and chancroid caused by the Haemophilus ducreyi bacteria. Other STDs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause pain but are often not painful.

Why do I have groin pain when I have an erection?

Pain during erections may be caused by STDs such as genital herpes and chancroid. Sexually transmitted disease (STD) is also known as sexually transmitted infection (STI). Alternatively, there is a condition known as priapism in which you experience erections that persist for hours. Priapism is often, but not always, painful. It is caused by increased blood flow to the penis or decreased blood flow from the penis, and it is associated with sickle cell disease and medications such as antipsychotics and antidepressants. Priapism lasting more than 4 hours needs immediate medical attention.

Why is my grown pain worse at night?

Groin pain that is worse at night may be caused by osteoarthritis or tendonitis of the hip joints. If you are noticing it more when you are laying down to sleep, you may have an uncomfortable mattress or you may be sleeping in an unusual position.

Questions your doctor may ask about groin pain

  • Do your symptoms get worse when you exercise?
  • Were you lifting weights or straining yourself right before your symptoms started?
  • Do you have a history of constipation?
  • Does coughing cause other symptoms to worsen or appear?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Hear what 3 others are saying
Once your story receives approval from our editors, it will exist on Buoy as a helpful resource for others who may experience something similar.
The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Groin painPosted February 10, 2022 by A.
Pain in left side of groin really bad at night that doesn't go away in any position and now starting to hurt during walking and constant pain, where it's causing me to not walk properly. Taken Nurofen and used Voltaren Emulgel. do I need to see a doctor or just rest for a few days?
Pain in right groinPosted March 4, 2021 by J.
I have osteoarthritis in my hip and knee on the left side. This eventually resulted in a broken femur near my hip. After an operation and gradually starting to walk again with little aid, I am now experiencing aching groin pain in my right groin. After all the struggle to walk again, as I was quite an active person despite being 75. My main pleasure was getting out to the country or coast to walk my dogs. This is now pulling me down, making it harder to walk and sleep. It's beginning to really pull me down.
Left groin areaPosted November 2, 2020 by V.
Pain at 2:30 night during sleep in left groin area. Had radiculopathy of left leg 4 years back. USG of abdomen revealed normal urinary tract with mildly enlarged prostate. However, PSA in normal range. History of constipation. Surgeon gave Ornidazole for 5 days and ruled out herniation. After treatment, it was OK for 7 days. Now symptoms reappear.
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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