By Erin Higins, DPT
Jumpstart Physical Therapy
It seems that nearly everyone has complained of a pulled/strained/torn muscle at some point in their lives. One of the most common places to pull a muscle is the groin, which is clinically known as the adductor muscles. The adductors are a group of five muscles that make up the muscles of your inner thigh. You typically strain your hamstring high in the groin, near its insertion point on your pelvic bone. This article will discuss the proper management of a strain to ensure effective healing so that you can quickly and safely return to your prior levels of function and workout routine.
As with all strained muscles, a groin strain occurs due to overload. This is typically from a quick burst of movement, such as a jump, run/sprint, or heavy lifting. There is typically an instant in time in which you feel a pull/pain/pop in your groin. This is different than muscle soreness, which typically starts hurting a day or two after intense exercise. With a strain, muscle fibers are stretched and pulled, causing pain. With a bad strain, you may also have significant swelling and bruising in the area.
Immediately after the injury, there may be some pain at rest that will worsen with any active contraction or stretching of that muscle. Therefore, immediate management of a muscle includes RICE - rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Any activities that cause pain (for instance, lunging, running, jumping, even fast walking) should be avoided to allow proper healing. Ice and elevation will help with swelling management. Compression via compression shorts will also help with swelling and typically helps to decrease pain as well.
Additionally, stretching should be AVOIDED during initial stages post-injury. If you think about it, a torn muscle is a stretched muscle - so if you try to stretch it, you are literally stretching an already over-stretched muscle potentially making the strain even worse.
Stretching a strained muscle is a common practice... but a misguided one. Stretching should be implemented only once you are completely pain free. Even then, when you initially start stretching, you may have some mild tightness and discomfort in the area -- but there should be NO PAIN. If there is, you are likely making the strain worse.
When you are pain free with daily activities, make sure to gradually resume your old routine to make sure that you do not re-aggravate the strain. That means when you pick up your exercise routine again go for decreased time and intensity, or modify your activities.
Generally, with proper early management of a strain, you can quickly return to your prior functional levels and exercise routine. If you suspect a severe strain, you should seek medical attention in order to ensure proper management and a more specific treatment plan.
Some interesting food for thought...research has not shown that being more flexible decreases your risk for a muscle strain. Research does however show a correlation between increased core strength and decreased risk for muscle strains. So train that core!