A Pain in the Groin

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

Life can be a pain in the groin. You hear about groin pain all the time if you watch enough football, baseball and basketball. But, you do not have to be an athlete to experience a pain in the area where the abdomen meets the legs. Actually, it is quite easy to understand why so many people experience groin pain at some point in life because so much is happening in that region of the body. Many different muscles attach in that area. The major bones of the spine, pelvis, and legs join in that area. And some very important internal organs lie nearby as well. With so much that can go wrong, it is no wonder why life can be a pain in the groin.

By far and away, the most common cause of groin pain is muscular. Did you ever wonder why a big 300 pound lineman could hit the ground and wince like a baby due to a groin injury? Hey, those muscles really can hurt. One muscle is the Iliopsoas which flexes the hip. Because of its deep position along the spine before it attaches in the groin, this muscle can also be painful during bowel movements. Another muscle commonly injured is the Adductor Magnus. This muscle sounds big because it is big. The Adductor muscle "adducts" the hip by moving the leg inwards towards the midline. Because of its large mass, the pain from this muscle can be far reaching into the groin and throughout the pelvis. Bicyclist commonly experience pain in the Adductor Magnus. Other muscles that cause pain in the groin include some of the abdominal muscles and a little known muscle called the Pectineus (squeeze your thighs together you may feel it). Yep, all of these muscles can make a grown man cry.

Pregnancy would make a grown man cry too. All the structural changes that occur during pregnancy wreck havoc on a woman's body, especially the pelvis. Two common conditions during pregnancy can cause groin pain. First, the notorious round ligament pain is frequently felt in the groin. As the ligaments that support the uterus strain to hold up the increasing weight of the baby, pain can be felt shooting from the pelvis into the groin. These ligaments are not the only ligaments under a great deal of stress during pregnancy. The pelvic ring contains some tiny ligaments holding together an important joint called the Symphysis Pubis. This joint can become quite painful and a source of groin discomfort in a condition called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. Both the round ligaments and the pelvic ring are common sources of groin pain during pregnancy.

Besides pregnancy related groin pain, many other skeletal sources of groin pain exist and affect both men and women. The spine, the hip, and the pelvis are important areas to be examined when someone has pain in the area where the legs attach to the rest of the body. Some people do not realize that hip joint pain is felt in the groin, thinking that the buttocks or Greater Trochanters represent the location of the hip joints. Hip impingement syndrome and hip osteoarthritis are major sources of groin pain, yet can be overlooked. Do not be fooled, diagnosing groin pain requires a thorough examination of many different body parts.

Sometimes the body parts causing groin pain do not involve the muscles or skeleton at all. Internal organs can also cause a pain in the groin. Testicular pain is often referred to as "groin pain". Hernias commonly occur in the groin (a.k.a. inguinal area). Even kidney pain from stones or infection can be felt in the groin. These causes are less common than a muscle or skeletal source; yet should still be considered when life causes a pain in the groin.

Only with a proper diagnosis of groin pain can appropriate treatment commence. Tricks for muscle related groin pain include taping, stretching, and strengthening. Pregnancy related groin pain can be remedied with body mechanic education, pillow support, and bracing. Skeletal sources of groin pain can be relieved by using a cane or walking stick for added support. If muscular and skeletal sources are ruled-out, then taking a closer look at the internal organs might reveal a hernia that needs repairing or an infection that needs medications. All in all, life can be a pain in the groin for athletes and regular folks alike.

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.