Adductor Strain? What You Should and Shouldn't Do to Heal Fast

Adductor Strain? What You Should and Shouldn’t Do to Heal Fast

Everything you need to know to fix a pulled groin…

By Coach E

If you’ve got a pulled groin - or adductor strain and want to get better quickly, keep reading to learn 8 do’s and don’ts that will help you heal fast! @PMovementCoach

There are few things in life that will slow you down like a groin injury.

Whether it’s because of injury you incurred playing a sport or as a result of overtraining/ improper form, the pain of a strained groin will make walking and running difficult.

If you’ve got a pulled groin – or adductor strain and want to get better as quickly as possible; keep reading to learn 8 do’s and don’ts that will help you heal fast!

Strained Groin: The Anatomy of Your Adductor Muscles

The hip adductors comprise a group of five muscles that form the bulk of the inner thigh.  Anatomically, the main function of the adductors is to bring the thighs together, however, as you’ll discover in a sec, there’s more to them than that.

adductor strain anatomy photo

The various heads of the hip adductors are known as:

  • Adductor Brevis
  • Adductor Longis
  • Adductor Magnus

There are also two lesser known deep muscles that have a similar line of action as the main adductor group that most people are unaware of: the gracilis and the pectineus.

What are the Short and Long Adductors?

The adductor muscle group runs along the inside of the thigh, with the pectineus, adductor brevis and adductor longus (known as the short adductor muscles) going from the pubic bone to your mid-thigh.

The gracilis and adductor magnus stretch from the pelvis to your inner knee and are called the long adductors.

The Adductors At Work in Real Life

Looking at the biomechanics of the adductors you’d think that all they’re responsible for is hip adduction i.e. bringing your legs closer together when they’re spread out wide like in a straddle position.

And while they perform this action, it isn’t a movement that’s often used in every day life.

Think about it – when was the last time you had to adduct your hip, other than for some exercise you’ve done in the gym?

The main job of the adductors is to stabilize your hips during walking – without proper adductor function, you’d fall over.

But the adductors are much more complex than that and when looking at EMG studies, contribute to both hip flexion AND hip extension during running as you can see from the EMG study of sprinting below:

adductor strain EMG study

This study goes to show the important role the adductors play during sprinting by contributing to propelling yourself forward via hip extension as well as maintaining alignment of the leg as it swings forward just before contact with the ground.

Thus, the simple hip adduction machines like the one you see below and that are ever so popular in commercial gyms are definitely NOT the most functional way to train this important muscle group. 

adductor strain workout

Using Your Adductors for Sports

Groin strains are a common problem among the physically active population (but especially so in competitive sports).  The sports that have the highest risk of causing a strained groin are:

  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Hockey
  • Basketball
  • Tennis

Each of these sports is adductor intensive, involving frequent moves side to side and making sudden changes in direction while sprinting at full speed.

Check out this technique if you want to learn how to properly “stretch” your hip adductors.

What about Weight-Lifting?

In the gym the most common exercise that results in groin strains is the Lunge and all its variants.

Just look back to the EMG study showing the adductors at work during sprinting – they fire most when driving yourself forward and when the leg is swinging forward just before your foot hits the ground.

adductor strain workout 2

So if you’ve got an adductor strain, definitely AVOID lunges until it’s healed up (but we’ll get to all the do’s and don’ts in a sec).

Symptoms of a Strained Groin

You already know the symptoms – tenderness in the muscles somewhere along the middle of the thigh.

Like all muscle strains, they’re classified according to severity:

  • Grade 1 is a minor tear that causes discomfort, but you can still walk without much pain
  • Grade 2 is going to be much more painful and you’ll likely see bruising and swelling
  • Grade 3 is a horror show; you’ve suffered a complete (or close to complete) rupture, this level of injury is unimaginably painful but luckily this is uncommon

Common Causes

Often a strained groin will be the result of failing to warm-up or stretch properly before running or playing a sport that involves sprinting.

So if you find groin strains a common occurrence, you need to get to the root cause and fix the overall function of your hips including addressing muscular imbalances, mobility deficiencies, and muscles that don’t activate properly.

For example, if your hamstrings are weak or aren’t firing properly, the adductors will try to make up for them and because of this, they’ll be called upon for movements that they’re biomechanically inefficient for.

This causes overload and can result in DOMS just like when you overload your biceps from 10 sets of Bicep Curls (please don’t do 10 sets of bicep curls!)…

And then when you go to sprint where the adductors are needed to be at peak performance, they’re already sore or fatigued and a strain can result.

My Experience

Growing up playing hockey, before this new era of movement, training and coaching that we now live in (and it’s advancing rapidly), I’ve had many groin strains.

At the time I had no idea what caused them but now, I understand that a lack of strength, control and mobility is the reason.

So, what was I told to do from coaches, teammates and anyone else who felt like sharing their advice?

“You gotta stretch more.”

“You need more flexibility.”

“Stretch your groin, son!”

Now that I understand the body, I realize the fatal error in this advice.

A strained/pulled muscle is like a rope that’s starting to fray and tugging on it and stretching it isn’t going to help it get better.

If you’ve already suffered a strained ground follow this list of do’s and don’ts to heal up and return to activity in no time.

Don’ts

Let’s start with the don’ts, because the last thing you want to do is make your adductor injury worse:

  • Don’t perform static stretches for your strained groin! – Static stretches will stress out already damaged tissue, which will cause further damage
  • Avoid performing any movements that hurt i.e. forget about “no pain no gain,” it’s more like when you say “doctor it hurts when I do that, what should I do?” and the doctor tells you “don’t do that.”
  • Don’t take pain killers to the point you can’t feel anything – this will numb you to the pain and prevent you from realizing when a movement is irritating your injury
  • Don’t rush your return to regular activities/training – it’s better to overestimate the time you need and be pleasantly surprised than underestimate and be disappointed

Do’s

Do Ice, Compress, Elevate within first 24hours: 15 minutes throughout day)…

After that:

  • Ice if you trigger the pain somehow or if throbbing and swelling still present
  • Pain-free movement, starting with passive movement if necessary
  • Apply gentle heat once throbbing and swelling subside and you’re dealing with more stiffness and want to speed healing
  • Do use pain killers if absolutely necessary but the minimal amount and for as short a time as possible – they are your neuromuscular alarm alerting you to damaging movements that you shouldn’t do
  • Do learn how to build your hips up to be stronger, quicker and more intelligent than ever before

There is no injury that causes more problems in every aspect of your day like a strained groin.  You can’t realize just how much these muscles are used until you injure them.  Follow these recommendations to keep from making it worse, while speeding your recuperation and getting back into the swing of things.

About the Author

Eric Wong (aka Coach E) is the founder of Precision Movement and has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo. He's been a coach since 2005 and spent his early career training combat athletes including multiple UFC fighters and professional boxers. He now dedicates himself to helping active people eliminate pain and improve mobility. He lives in Toronto (Go Leafs Go!) with his wife and two kids and drinks black coffee at work and IPAs at play. Click here to learn more about Eric.