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First aid advice if you experience a groin pull or strain

Ensuring that you take proper care of a groin injury right after it happens can help you to reduce pain and prevent further injury. Ice is recommended for the first 24 hours, and then heat should be applied. Also, stop exercising and don’t try to just work through the pain. Here is some advice on how to provide the first aid needed after a groin pull and simple steps in managing it in the future.


Do

Do stop exercising if you feel you have pulled a muscle

All too often, the exerciser is unsure of whether or not they really pulled a muscle in the groin and continue to try to run, jump or even stretch. This is a NO-NO. If you truly pulled a muscle in your groin simple walking will irritate it. Do not try to push-it so you could simply finish the workout for the day. The initial most important treatment is rest. Yes, that may mean cross training for a few days.

Do use ice immediately

Some people never know when to use ice or heat after an injury. As a rule of thumb, after an injury occurs, you should always use ice for the first 24 hours after the injury, but then switch to heat. Make sure to apply the ice or heat with a towel layer in between the modality (ice/heat) and the pulled muscle. The ice should be the crux or inside of your leg as it meets your hip.

Do use a compression wrap or garment

After a muscle is pulled, the muscle becomes very sensitive to tensile and vibrational forces and can easily tear again. Concomitantly, swelling will likely ensue making that area tender to touch. Use a big ace wrap and perform a hip spica wrap for that region. Other companies have developed thigh/groin sleeves that work very well also if they fit high on the groin.

Do use natural forms of anti inflammatories or OTC anti-inflammatories if necessary

It is well known that inflammation will develop after a pulled groin, and the ingestion of anti inflammatory foods or over the counter NSAIDs will help reduce inflammation, thus speeding up recovery. Some foods to make sure are in your diet are:

  • oily fish like salmon
  • tuna and sardines for their omega 3 fatty acid and vitamin D
  • freshly brewed green tea for its catechins
  • bright fruits and veggies for it phyto chemicals

Some herbs that are useful are ginger, turmeric and garlic.

Do see a physician if you are not better by two weeks

It can be about 7-10 days for the healing of a groin strain, but as a general rule, if the pain persists and is not truly going away, it may be a sign of a different medical issue. That area is usually a referral region for hip pain, lower back pain or a hernia. So if it is still lingering around at the 14 day mark, set up an appointment with your doctor who may need to employ some diagnostic imaging to see what’s going on inside.


Don't

Do not massage the injured groin area right away

When an injury occurs, it is a natural human instinct to rub or grab the region that was injured. True massage directly after the injury is not recommended secondary to pain. Sometimes, acupressure can be helpful, but wait until the pain decreases a bit and you recover more range of motion before getting a massage. Massage can help with swelling and it does, but most people cannot tolerate massage in the acute phase.

Do not try to come back from the injury too soon

Most people are so eager to get back to exercising that they don’t let their injury fully heal. This promotes the chance of reinjury, further damage and increasing the chance of future recurrences. It is best to wait until you are fully recovered.

Do not forget to be cautious of stretching in the initial stages of the injury

Many people want to try stretch the muscle right away, but this is not advised. Once pain is controlled, then the proper stretching is vital. After about 5 days most injuries can be gently stretched by the spread eagle stretch and the butterfly, but don’t overdo it. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to about 2 minutes if possible. Stretching is more about duration rather than intensity, so don’t push it too hard.

Do not take a break from your lower body strength routine

Most people think that even though they pulled their groin muscles, they can still work out their lower body. This answer is two fold. There are some limited exercises that will not involve the adductors or groin which can be completed like working calves or seated leg extensions, but if you feel the injury, trust me, stop. Try to wait at least until pain has subsided and range of motion increases, then healthy strength training can begin.

Do not forget that heat may feel better, but ice is nice

Some people use heat after an injury because it feels warm and relaxing, but ice is imperative for reducing inflammation, stopping secondary injury and slows down nerve conduction which reduces pain. Heat will stimulate blood flow and swell the area more in addition to increasing pain.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Truly listening to your body is key when it comes to an injury to the groin. Following the procedures of Rest, Ice, Compression, Anti-Inflammatories (RICA), will speed up the process of healing. Following the advice of massage, stretching and strengthening are paramount, but must be done within the proper time frame and not included too early in the rehab program. Finally, make sure your pain level is a 2 out of 10 and you have almost full range of motion before returning to the activity without limitations.


More expert advice about Injuries

Photo Credits: © Maridav - Fotolia.com; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Dr. Scott A. Weiss DPT LATC CSCS FACSMLicensed Physical Therapist and Board Certified Athletic Trainer

Dr. Scott Weiss is a licensed physical therapist and board certified athletic trainer in the state of New York. He is also a registered exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning specialist and advanced personal trainer with over twenty ye...

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