Groin pain is not that common an injury for runners, sadly though it can be quite tricky to diagnose and treat. There are a number of muscles which help form the groin and this is why it’s hard to know how to treat which muscles.
The main symptom is pain usually felt in the inner thigh high up near the pelvis. The pain may develop slowly over time and this isn’t an injury that can happen suddenly. The pain will continue to get worse every time you run on it, the leg may also feel tight as you rotate it. Being unusually stiff in that area in the morning is also a symptom. Remember the groin is a the connection point of your leg muscles, so you’re likely to feel pain right down to your knee.
What is it?
A groin strain is an injury or tear to any of the adductor muscles of the thigh. These are the muscles on the inner side of the thigh. Sudden movements usually trigger an acute groin strain, such as kicking, twisting to change direction while running, or jumping. The strain is more prominent in the dominant leg, so make sure you are running on even terrain.
If you are having difficulty diagnosing yourself just how severe the strain is, then it’s best to have a physical exam done by a doctor. There are three grades of groin strain and you’re doctor will be able to give you good advice on how to treat your injury.
A grade 1 groin strain occurs when the muscle is overstretched or torn, damaging up to 5 percent of the muscle fibers. You may be able to walk without pain, but running, jumping, kicking, or stretching may be painful.
A grade 2 groin strain is a tear that damages a significant percentage of the muscle fibers. This might be painful enough to make walking difficult. It will be painful to bring your thighs together.
A grade 3 groin strain is a tear that goes through most or all of the muscle or tendon. This usually causes a sudden, severe pain at the time when it happens. Using the injured muscle at all will be painful.
There’s usually significant swelling and bruising. You may be able to feel a gap in the muscle when you touch the injury.
Groin strain while not as serious as other strains can only get better if you stop running and relax the muscle. The RICE method is advisable (Rest Ice Compression Elevation). Also if the pain is severe it would be best to see a health care professional who will recommend some anti inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen).
If the strain is more severe, then you’re doctor may recommend you seeing a physical therapist and/or a massage therapist.
When can I start running again?
It’s important that’s all injuries heal before you even think about starting to run again. Stretching is going to help your muscles heal and become more flexible, so while you’re not running make sure that you are still doing your stretches at least 3 times a day.
The injury recovery time depends on the grade of strain you have, here is some estimations of recovery times.
- Grade 1: two to three weeks
- Grade 2: two to three months
- Grade 3: four months or more
Only start running again once you can successful manage the stretches without feeling any pain. Also make sure that you’re only going for a light jog the first couple of runs, you can then up your time with every consecutive run. Remember if the pain returns stop running immediately!