Runners who experience groin pain after running have likely torn a ligament, tendon, or muscle. The groin is a complex network of tendons, muscles, and ligaments that attach to the pelvis and stabilize the hips and legs with side to side motion.
In SOME select cases, it’s less serious and simply a symptom of a stride imbalance, usually due to tight hips.
While groin injuries are more common in sports like soccer, which requires frequent, sudden movements, runners are also susceptible to groin pain due to a number of reasons, including overuse and improper training.
Groin pain can present both while running and after running. It occurs in all levels of runners, from beginners to elite athletes. And I know you want to run through pain because runners are tough and maybe it will go away…don’t.
The good news is that groin injuries in runners are typically minor and with the proper care and recovery, you can be back on the road in no time.
Left untreated, however, you’re heading for a bigger issue and a much longer recovery.
Groin Pain After Running: Causes, Treatments, & Prevention
The most common reason for a groin strain is a tear in a ligament, muscle, or tendon of the adductor muscles, which run along the upper inner thigh.
The pain may appear suddenly build up slowly over time.
Common symptoms of a groin strain:
- Pain the lower abdomen that radiates into the upper and inner thigh
- Testicular pain in men
- Perineal pain (the area in between the genitalia and the anus)
- Pain in the upper, inner thigh exacerbated by running or changing direction
- Pain with sneezing, coughing, or engaging the abs
- Pain felt after running, especially the following morning
We often don’t think of all these muscles being part of the groin area, but we’re looking at the area between the pubic bone and therefore all of the attached muscles can cause issues.
One issue that can sometimes be confused for a groin strain is osteitis pubis. This is pain in the center of the pelvis and can indeed be caused by the same issues of overuse of the hip and leg muscles, though it’s much more common in sports where you’re moving side to side quickly.
This is not something you should feel in the hip joint. In that case, you need to look at hip injuries.
Causes of Groin Pain after Running
Like most muscle injuries overuse or training incorrectly can lead to pain. Most of the common causes are easily fixed, so take a look and see what you need to adjust to run pain free.
Adductor strains are somewhat common in trail runners or road runners who head out for a trail run for the first time. This type of injury is really just due to using muscles in a new way and should resolve itself quickly.
For the typical runner, groin pain is caused by a number of factors, the most common being:
Weak hips and glutes
Runners are notorious for not supplementing their running with strength training and this is what leads to injuries!
This causes imbalances in our hips and glutes that affect our gait. Weak glutes force your hips to sort of drag your leg forward instead of pushing off from the forefoot.
Overstriding during speed workouts can lead to groin injuries.
Runners tend to think that long strides mean faster pace, however, all it really does is slow you down and lead to injury. The extended leg is straight and stiff and affects the body’s ability to cushion the force from landing.
Lack of recovery
I’ve discussed at length the importance of incorporating rest and recovery days into training plans.
Not allowing your muscles to rebuild after hard efforts is a common mistake a lot of runners make and it leads to tired and inflamed muscles.
Recovery time is actually where the body is getting stronger and more able to handle the next big load of training whether that means miles or weights.
Sitting at a desk all day long does a number on our bodies, especially on our hips. Incorporating daily stretches to negate the effects of sitting all day will loosen tight hips and correct poor posture.
Increasing your pace or distance too quickly without a proper base leads to many injuries in runners.
This is why it’s so important that 80% of your weekly running effort is easy, with one to two days of hard work.
Is it Ok to run with a groin strain?
Initially, groin pain seems minimal, and pretty easy to run through. However, running through the pain probably isn’t the best approach. Continuing to run will only cause further damage and that can sideline you for weeks rather than days.
If the pain persists for more than a few days, then it’s time to treat it like an injury.
What Helps Groin Pain from Running?
Groin problems can be finicky and persistent, and you want to stop them as soon as you notice the pain to prevent a full-blown injury.
If you’re in the very beginning stages of a groin injury, rest for a few days. If the pain does not subside after rest, then consider a visit to see your doctor.
See a Sports Dr or Physical Therapist
Honestly, this is my top recommendation for every injury. A PT can quickly assess if you have a weakness that is causing the issue and give you exercises to correct it. You may only need one session.
Improve your hip strength
Groin pain is often caused by imbalances in the glute, hip flexors, and pelvic muscles, which manipulate your running gait. This video from Dr. Jo demonstrates several exercises that target the right muscles.
In fact, one study showed that 10% of all hockey player injuries were groin strains and not from lack of flexibility, but muscle imbalances. You’ve got to make the core a priority.
I also have a ton of resources for hip and glute strength:
- Pelvic Floor exercises – this is a key place to start
- Glute Bridge
- Glute Activation Exercises
- Resistance band workout for hips and glutes
- Hip strengthening for weak hips
- Correcting tight hips
Return to Running Slowly
Yes, a slow return to running is frustrating, but remember that being sidelined is even worse!
Follow a training plan built for new runners, like a run/walk approach, to get a solid base.
How long does it take a groin strain to heel?
If you’ve hit the point of going from mild discomfort to pain and it’s a muscle strain, then those often take up to 6 weeks to heel.
At this point you absolutely want to connect to a good sports doctor to develop a plan and make sure that is what’s happening.
You will need to stop running.
But that doesn’t mean you have to lose fitness.
There are a lot of things you can be doing during this time from upper body to mobility. A physical therapist will also help you decide exactly which hip, core and glute movements you can do to help resolve and prevent the issue going forward.
Does stretching help a groin strain?
Light stretching can indeed help it to feel better, but you must stop if you reach the point of pain. And more importantly you can’t rely on stretching alone.
This is a sign from your body that you need to improve your strength and flexibility.
Preventing Groin Pain
A runner with strong hips and glutes will have fewer injuries. Too often we fail to activate our glute muscles, which are key for efficiency and proper gait.
Dedicating some time to pre-hab will help keep groin pain and other common running injuries at bay.
Preventative exercises don’t require a lot of additional time and effort and make a huge difference when it comes to reducing the likelihood of injuries.
Here are a few of my go to routines:
I also include several videos that show you exactly how to do these moves on my YouTube channel.
Have you experienced groin pain after or while running?
How did you change your routine to prevent it from occurring again?
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