A groin muscle strain -- also known as a pulled groin muscle -- is a painful injury caused by forceful movement of your leg. Female athletes whose sports require running, jumping and kicking are particularly prone to these injuries. However, a groin strain can also occur with nonathletic activities, such as stepping off a curb while off balance or falling with your leg stretched out to the side. Groin muscle strains typically cause distinctive signs and symptoms.
Pain, Bruising and Swelling
Groin muscle strains range in severity from mild overstretching to severe tears of the involved muscle or associated tendon fibers. These injuries cause pain in your inner thigh, near your pubic bone, which may radiate to the front of your thigh. You'll typically experience sharp pain at the time of the injury and when putting weight on your leg. Your groin area may ache at rest. Using the injured muscles can cause pain for weeks. Internal muscle bleeding may cause bruising on the inside of your thigh, although this is relatively uncommon and typically occurs only with severe strains. Therefore, the absence of bruising does not signal lack of a pulled groin muscle. Similarly, you might experience swelling at the site of the injury, but this symptom is not always present.
Weakness and Popping
Severe groin strains can cause significant muscle and tendon damage, making it difficult to move your leg. Muscle weakness brought on by the strain can make lifting your leg difficult, such as when getting into bed or climbing stairs. In severe cases, you may have to lift your leg using your hands. If your muscle tears completely, you will be unable to perform these movements. You may notice or feel an indentation in your upper thigh where the tear occurred. Groin muscle strains may also cause a popping sensation.
Warnings and Precautions
See your doctor as soon as possible if you experience mild to moderate groin pain that doesn't improve within a week with rest. Seek immediate medical attention if you are unable to move the injured leg, a popping sensation occurs at the time of the injury, your pain is severe, or bruising develops. Many conditions other than a pulled muscle can also cause groin pain. Urgent medical attention is necessary if you experience groin pain accompanied by any warning signs or symptoms, including:
-- a painful or pulsatile groin lump
-- nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
-- fever or chills
-- moderate to severe abdominal, pelvic pain or back pain
-- bloody urine or painful urination
Reviewed and revised by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.