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Groin Pain After Running: Causes & Treatment

Many runners experience groin pain during or after running, regardless of their experience level. Although running through the pain is tempting, doing so could worsen your injury or prolong recovery. If you have groin pain after running, here are some of the most common causes and treatment and prevention methods to help you avoid it in the future.

Why do I get pain in my groin after running?

Group of runners talking in the park.

Your groin includes the area that stretches across your pelvis, along your inner thighs, and in front of your hips. It comprises three large muscle groups: your abdominals, iliopsoas, and adductor. These muscles stabilize your body when you run and push you forward with each step. 

Unfortunately, it’s easy to overwork the groin muscles while running, which often results in pain. The most common causes of groin pain after running include:1

  • A ligament, muscle, or tendon tear: These injuries are usually caused by repetitive stress. Overtraining (running too much or too hard without taking enough time to recover) is one of the most common causes of running injuries, including groin pain.
  • Not warming up or cooling down properly: If your muscles are tight, they’re more likely to sustain injury. Warming up before a workout prepares your body for physical activity and loosens muscles. Cooling down helps regulate blood flow and stretches out your muscles after running, reducing your recovery time and soreness.
  • Overpronation: The term “gait” refers to how your foot hits the ground when you walk or run. Overpronation means your foot rolls too far inward as you move, overly flattening your foot. This type of unbalanced gait can cause your adductor muscles to compensate by tightening up, leading to groin pain.2

Other potential causes of groin pain are less common but may include:

  • Excessive downhill running
  • Weak hips and glutes/improper running gait
  • Overstriding when trying to run faster
  • Tight hips, hip arthritis, or a hip injury like a stress fracture that is mistaken for a groin injury
  • A hernia
  • Pelvic floor issues due to childbirth

What are common symptoms of groin pain after running?

Man streching before his run at night in the city.

Most runners who experience groin pain have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the upper, inner thigh area
  • Soreness and stiffness in the groin area
  • Pain after running or when moving around (especially the day after a run)
  • Testicular pain in men
  • Pain when sneezing or coughing

How do I know if my groin pain is serious?

Woman streching her legs.

The best way to determine if groin pain after running is due to a severe injury is to see a physical therapist or doctor for a diagnosis. When you go in for your appointment, the doctor or physical therapist will review your symptoms, examine the area, and consider the timeline of their onset, as well as other basic information to determine the cause of your groin pain. Once they determine the cause of the pain, they’ll be able to identify the most effective treatment plan.

A doctor may also use tests like x-rays, an ultrasound, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to see inside your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues and identify any injuries like fractures or conditions such as arthritis that may be causing the pain.

The injury’s severity may also depend on the type of pain you’re experiencing. For example, if your groin pain is intense and you can hardly move, it’s more likely that you have a severe injury. Otherwise, if you feel slight groin pain during or after a run, but it tends to subside after a while, your pain may result from a less severe injury or muscle strain.

Risk factors for groin pain in runners

Group of runners in a city stretching.

The following risk factors may be more likely to result in groin pain:

  • Suddenly increasing the intensity or volume of your training3
  • Twisting your body sharply if you fall on a wet surface or uneven terrain
  • Not eating enough or the right types of calories for proper nutrition4
  • Having osteoporosis5
  • Insufficient rest or recovery between workouts
  • Sprinting (running very quickly puts more pressure on the abs)

Should I run with a groin strain?

Two women in workout clothes looking out at a park.

Depending on the severity of your groin injury, you might be able to keep running, but you should reduce the frequency and intensity of your training while healing. If you continue to run and train like normal without seeking treatment for groin pain, your injury might worsen, increasing your pain and discomfort.

If you’re dealing with a muscle strain, you may need to give your body up to six weeks to heal. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t stay active while resting. Suppose your doctor or physical therapist recommends taking a brief hiatus from running. In that case, you may still be able to do low-impact cross-training exercises to maintain your fitness and strength.

How to prevent and treat groin pain after running

Two men in workout clothes snacking.

Fortunately, with proper treatment, you can get rid of groin pain after running and prevent it from returning. Your treatment plan will vary depending on the type, severity, and cause of your groin pain. But these are some of the most common forms of treatment that can help you get some relief.

Apply ice

Wrap some ice in a cloth and apply it to the affected area to help reduce the discomfort. If you have any swelling in your groin area, the ice will also help reduce that.

Rest and see a doctor or physical therapist

If you just started experiencing groin pain, resting for a day or two is a good idea. The pain will often subside, and you can get back to your running routine. However, if the pain persists, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to assess your injury and provide specific exercises or treatment to help you recover and heal.

Strengthen your hips

Exercises focusing on core strength and stability will help promote healing in the groin area, including pelvic floor and glute exercises and hip stretches to loosen tight hips. Hip mobility exercises will also help reduce muscle imbalances that can lead to groin pain after running. 

Gradually return to your regular running routine

Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor or physical therapist can help you plan your gradual return to running. Jumping right back into an intense running regimen is likely to cause recurring groin pain and could ultimately make things worse for you. Instead, heed their recommendations and take it slow.

Surgery

If you have a severe groin injury, your doctor may recommend surgery. In this case, your recovery and rehab may take up to eight weeks, but your doctor will provide specific instructions for rehabilitation.1

Key Takeaways:

Groin pain is very common among runners and can vary in intensity. If you’re experiencing pain in your groin area, it’s best to see a doctor or physical therapist. They can diagnose the issue and provide proper treatment to help you recover and prevent future groin pain after running.

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Sources:

  1. Groin Strain: Running Injuries. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://www.medic8.com/healthguide/sports-medicine/running/groin-strain.html 
  2. Disease/Condition: Overpronation: What It Is, Causes & Treatment. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved November 2, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22474-overpronation 
  3. Gabbett, T. J. (2016). The training—injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarterandharder? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(5), 273–280. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2015-095788 
  4. Harty, P. S., Cottet, M. L., Malloy, J. K., & Kerksick, C. M. (2019). Nutritional and Supplementation Strategies to Prevent and Attenuate Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: a Brief Review. Sports Medicine – Open, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-018-0176-6 
  5. Dimitrakopoulou, A., & Schilders, E. (2018). Focal osteopenia of pubic parasymphyseal bone as an underlying cause of groin pain in sports: a new perspective. BMJ Case Reports, bcr-2017. https://doi.org/10.1136/bcr-2017-223698 

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