Groin Pain – A common term but what does it mean?

Whether it’s down on the football pitch, in the gym, or at an aerobics class groin pain is a term that most of us have heard about or have even been diagnosed with. But what is it? Why does some groin pain get better and why does some hang around? How can we improve symptoms? Does age matter in diagnosis? What do we need to be aware of that may indicate the symptoms are not as simple as it could be?

The groin region is described as the area between your stomach and thigh on the front of your upper leg. The complex anatomy includes muscles, ligaments and tendons. The term groin pain is used to describe any issue in this area although this can lead to confusion with regards to diagnosis and therefore rehabilitation can be different. Lumbar spine and hip joint problems can also refer pain into the area which often feels very similar to a typical groin-strain leading to many of these issues being misdiagnosed.

In the last few years a consensus has been reached within the medical professions that we should aim to differentiate between the potential causes of ‘groin pain’ in order to individualise treatment. To do this it can help to try and locate a specific area where you feel pain or discomfort and also specify exactly which factors and movements contribute to it. We now differentiate groin pain into categories – adductor-related (groin muscle belly), iliopsoas-related (hip flexors), inguinal-related (ligamentous and stomach muscles) and pubic related (groin muscle attachment) problems.

To help with diagnosis there are questions your Physiotherapist will ask you and physical tests you will perform during your assessment that will help guide the Physiotherapist as to exactly what is contributing to your groin pain. This will enable a more specific diagnosis and also guide the development of a tailored rehabilitation plan for the problem.

Whilst the groin is a complex area and there are many issues which can present there, the important thing to remember is that exercises are the key component of almost all rehabilitation for groin pain. Rehabilitation exercise needs to be specific to your activities and the factors aggravating your pain and should also be performed at an appropriate difficulty level.

Will a scan help diagnose the cause of groin pain?

Having a scan may not be useful as ‘abnormalities’ detected on a scan are present even in the non-injured individual. So a scan on its own can’t be relied on to give a definitive diagnosis. Age can also muddy the water when it comes to interpreting the relevance of scan results as age commonly results in structural changes in tendons and muscles that are completely normal, like grey hair!

If, despite thorough assessment, the diagnosis remains unclear or if a major structural or medical cause of your symptoms is suspected, an MRI or ultrasound scan may be indicated. The Chews Health team can arrange this for you as required.

What else could it be?

Groin pain can be related to other pathologies. To help us find out, the age of the individual can help. For example, in 20-30 year old’s it is important to rule out a hernia which normally presents as a lump which is noticeable on coughing or sneezing. If there is a suspicion of this a type of ultrasound scan may be useful. In middle to retirement age, a hip joint problem will also present as groin pain. This can include arthritis and there is lots of evidence now to suggest a detailed and tailored exercise plan is vital for the management of arthritis. We can help with this too!

Other causes of groin pain, some rarer than others, can include referred low back problems, nerve irritations, fractures, kidney stones and infections. At Chews Health our physiotherapy team and rehabilitation facility in well-placed to help diagnose, and fully rehabilitate groin pain in order to help you be you again!

If you wish to book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists please use to booking form here or give us a call on 0161 871 7391.

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