By Maureen Williams, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (June 4, 2009)—Groin pain, or inner thigh pain, is a common concern among athletes, especially those whose sports require quick directional changes while running, frequent stops and starts, and repeated kicking. Muscle spasm and pain in the groin can often be so severe that the athlete is not able to participate in sports for either the short or long term. A new report on research into groin pain treatment found that exercise therapy over a sufficient time period can be effective at returning athletes to their sports.
Strengthing supporting muscles
The report, published in Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation, Therapy and Technology, evaluated studies looking at exercise therapy for groin pain in athletes. Out of 468 studies, the researchers identified five that met their criteria and were included in their final analysis.
The studies showed that exercise therapy was effective as part of a recovery program after groin injury. Most of the studies used strengthening exercises that targeted the abdominal muscles and muscles supporting the hip joints, and most of the exercise programs progressed from isometric exercises (static muscle contractions, such as holding a weight in a fixed position) to isokinetic exercises (dynamic exercises in which the speed of muscle contraction is controlled by resistance, such as pulling against elastic bands).
Taking time for recovery
The muscles of the groin are responsible for movements that bring the legs together (adduction). They also help to stabilize the hips. People who play soccer, rugby, ice hockey, and Australian football are especially prone to strain injuries of the groin muscles that result in acute or chronic groin pain. It is estimated that as many as 10% of hockey-related injuries and 5% of soccer-related injuries are groin injuries. As with other muscle strain injuries, continuing to use injured groin muscles without allowing time for recovery can lead to repeated injury and chronic pain and disability.
While all of the studies in the current analysis found that exercise therapy was effective for treating groin pain and enabling athletes to return to playing sports, recovery was not necessarily quick. “The evidence suggests that a duration of intervention of between 3.8 to 16 weeks may be required for exercise intervention to be effective,” the study’s authors said. “This is in stark contrast to routine practice, where there is often great pressure on all concerned to return an athlete to their sport.”
Preventing groin injury and pain
Although the risk of groin injury and pain is high in athletes playing certain sports, some simple steps can be taken to lower the risk:
• Practice proper stretching every day.
• Use stretches and gentle exercises to warm up before and cool down after workouts and games. Develop a 10 to15 minute routine for each and be sure you are doing the stretches and exercises correctly.
• Wear shoes that fit well and provide appropriate support for the sport and the surface on which it is played.
• Avoid muscle overuse and fatigue by not playing too many games in too short a time.
• Participate regularly in activities other than your primary sport to maintain overall muscle fitness and prevent overstressing a single muscle group.
• Consider using compression shorts or elastic thigh bands, especially if there has been a previous injury, to keep the groin warm during exercise. Cold muscles are more vulnerable to injury.
• Take a break at the first sign of pain—a pulling sensation in a muscle is a warning. Resting might help you avoid real injury and lasting pain.
(Sports Med Arthrosc Rehabil Ther Technol 2009;1:5)
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada, and has done extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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