Groin Pain: 16 Possible Causes

Written by Leon Mao
Physiotherapist, University of Melbourne
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on May 31, 2022

Man with groin pain

What is groin pain?

The groin is the part of the front body where the leg meets the abdomen at the hip crease. Groin pain can be experienced by a wide variety of people, depending on the cause.

Young, athletic populations may develop groin pain from a muscle strain or injury. This is commonly seen in hockey, soccer, and football players.[1] There are multiple muscles in the groin that help the leg move, including iliopsoas, gracilis, pectineus, the adductor group – adductor magnus, longus, and brevis, and the abdominals. Any of these muscles can be affected and cause groin pain.[2]

In older age groups, there is a greater risk of developing a hernia or other underlying condition that may cause groin pain. The treatment for groin may depend on the cause. It is important to get a diagnosis before any treatment begins as it may worsen any symptoms and become chronic.

What are the symptoms of groin pain?

The symptoms of groin pain may include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the groin area

  • Stiffness

  • Aching that radiates into the leg

  • A ‘popping’ or ‘snapping’ sensation

  • Difficulty putting weight through the leg

  • Movements, such as crossing the legs, may be painful

  • Pain when lifting heavy items.

What causes groin pain?

1. Muscle strain

A muscle strain results from overstressing a muscle, particularly if the muscle is overloaded suddenly. A groin strain is common in athletes that play sports that require sudden changes of direction, such as hockey, rugby, or football.

A muscle strain can happen suddenly, or it may develop gradually over a period of time. Muscle strains may recover with time and rest. However, in more severe cases it may require medical attention and a prolonged break from the sporting activity.

2. Osteoarthritis

Groin pain can be caused by osteoarthritis, which affects the protective cartilage of the hip joint. Osteoarthritis affects how the joint moves, and it may cause stiffness and groin pain. Osteoarthritis generally needs to be managed over time as there is no cure.[3]

3. Hernia

A hernia is a condition where soft tissue bulges through an area of weakness in the body. There are two main types of hernia that may cause groin pain, an inguinal hernia and a femoral hernia. Signs and symptoms of a hernia can include pain with coughing and a palpable mass in the area. The risk factors for hernia include being older, overweight, it is more common in men than women and also associated with athletic activities.[4]

Other causes of groin pain

Other causes of groin pain may include:

  1. Gastrointestinal disorders

  2. Enlarged lymph nodes

  3. UTI (urinary tract infection)

  4. Kidney stones

  5. FAI (femoroacetabular impingement)

  6. Referred pain

  7. Pubalgia

  8. Testicular problems

  9. Ovarian cysts

  10. Infection

  11. Cancer

  12. Fracture

  13. DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

Diagnosing groin pain

A doctor can assess and diagnose the cause of groin pain. They will ask about the symptoms and how the pain started. The doctor will likely also ask about any relevant medical history, including the history of injuries and other risk factors.

A physical examination can help the doctor evaluate the symptoms as well, and may include checking the range of motion in the joints, the strength of the muscles, and other specific tests. In some cases, further investigations may be required, including imaging (x-rays, ultrasound, MRI) or blood tests.

Treatment for groin pain

The treatment for your groin pain will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the symptoms.

Self-care for groin pain

In some cases, groin pain will resolve on its own. There are also some simple treatment options that may help settle the symptoms.

This may include:

  • Rest

  • Ice therapy

  • Avoiding intense exercise

  • Over-the-counter pain relief


Exercises can be used to treat and prevent the recurrence of groin injuries. A physiotherapist will assess and treat the cause of the pain, and can prescribe individualised exercises to strengthen the relevant areas of the body. Other treatment options may include taping, massage, or assessing and correcting the sporting technique.

Medical treatment

In some cases, conservative (non-surgical) treatments may not be effective in resolving the pain. A doctor may recommend other options, including a corticosteroid injection, prescription medication, or a surgical review. A surgeon can assess if the pain could be resolved with a surgical procedure. In cases where the pain is caused by an injury or underlying condition, such as a fracture or hernia, surgery may be the first line of treatment.

When to see a doctor

If there are any unexplained or concerning symptoms, or if the pain has persisted and is worsening since the initial onset of symptoms, a doctor should be consulted.

In some cases, the symptoms of groin pain can indicate there is a serious underlying medical condition and it is important to seek immediate medical attention.

Look out for red flags signs and symptoms, including:

  • Severe, unrelenting pain

  • Progressively worsening symptoms

  • Tingling or numbness

  • A lump in the groin, hip, or testicles

  • Blood in the urine

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Fever or chills

  • Any other unexplained symptoms

Preventing groin pain

A few strategies can be helpful to prevent groin pain. It is worth noting, that it may not be possible to completely eliminate the risk of developing groin pain, but it’s possible to reduce the risk.

Some strategies to avoid groin pain:

  • Complete a warm-up and cool-down for sport

  • Undertake the appropriate training to strengthen the body

  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight

  • Use the correct lifting technique when picking up heavy objects

A summary of groin pain

Groin pain can be experienced by anyone at any age. A strained groin muscle is the most common reason for groin pain amongst young athletes. A hernia or other underlying condition may be the more common cause of groin pain in the older population. If there are any concerns, it’s important to speak to a medical professional.

Written by Leon Mao
Physiotherapist, University of Melbourne
Published on May 31, 2022
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on May 31, 2022
Medical reviewers
Last medically reviewed on May 31, 2022 has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.
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