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.
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 . 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 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.
- : 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 of groin pain may include the following.
- Urinary tract infection: The bladder sits in the groin area and it can become painful if infected.
- : Infection or problems with blood flow can cause pain from a man's testicles that is felt in the groin.
Other causes of groin pain may include the following.
- Hernia: An organ, like the bowel, can 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: 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.
Top Symptoms: nausea, nausea or vomiting, fever, groin pain, groin lump
Urgency: Emergency medical service
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.
Top Symptoms: pain in the lower right abdomen, pain in the lower left abdomen, groin pain, testicle pain, groin lump
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Hernias occur when an organ protrudes through part of the abdominal/pelvic wall that normally contains it. Indirect hernias are located near the groin and occur when abdominal contents, such as the intestines, pass through an opening into a channel called the inguinal canal.
A groin abscess is caused by an infection of the skin or area right under the skin. The infection is typically caused by a bacteria, which your body reacts to by creating a ball of inflammation around the bacteria.
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
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.
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
"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 arthrit..
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 th..
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.
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
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.
Top Symptoms: thigh numbness, groin numbness, testicle numbness, sharp testicle or scrotum pain, sharp groin pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Ectopic pregnancy is a fairly common condition (one to two percent of all pregnancies). An ectopic pregnancy is one that occurs outside the uterus, which is the normal site of fetal development.
The hallmark symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include severe abdominal pain, vaginal bleed..
How to relieve groin pain at home and when to seek professional treatment
Many causes of groin pain are , and these can usually be taken care of at home. In some cases, your 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 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.
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 transmited 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 transmited 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?
- de Sa D, Holmich P, Phillips M, et al. Athletic Groin Pain: A Systematic Review of Surgical Diagnoses, Investigations and Treatment. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016;50(19):1181-1186.
- Holmich P. Groin Pain. BMJ Best Practice. Updated March 2018.
- Martin R, Martin HD, Kivlan BR. Nerve Entrapment in the Hip Region: Current Concepts Review. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2017;12(7):1163-1173.
- Richardson WS, Jones DG, Winters JC, McQueen MA. The Treatment of Inguinal Pain. The Ochsner Journal. 2009;9(1):11-13.
- Sobol J. Groin Pain. Penn Medicine. Updated August 26, 2017.
- Almeida MO, Silva BNG, Andriolo RB, Atallah AN, Peccin MS. Conservative Treatment for Exercise-Related Groin Pain. Cochrane. Published June 6, 2013.
- Blahd Jr WH, Thompson EG, Husney A, Romito K, eds. Groin Problems and Injuries. UW Health. Updated November 20, 2017.