Whether you play hockey or your foot slips while you’re walking across an icy driveway, stretching one of your inner thigh muscles past its normal limits can cause significant pain.

Most groin pulls occur when you move your leg with a fast and forceful motion or your leg changes direction rapidly. The level of pain accompanying a groin pull depends on the severity of the adductor muscle injury. Like other strains, groin pulls are diagnosed using a graded scale.

  • Grade 1 – The adductor injury is classified as a slight tear. After the initial sharp pain, a small tear in the adductor may cause mild discomfort, but does not usually affect a person’s ability to walk.
  • Grade 2 – The adductor has more than 25 percent of its muscle fibers torn. This type of strain causes pain, swelling and bruising. There may be a substantial amount of pain during movement or exercise, especially when moving the leg in front of the body.
  • Grade 3 – The most severe adductor injury severs all or nearly all of the muscle fibers. A grade 3 injury should be assessed by a healthcare professional and may require the use crutches for a few weeks.

It takes time for groin pulls to heal. They may cause stiffness and tenderness for a week or more. If the pain persists for more than 4 weeks or prevents you from participating in normal activities, you may want to see your primary care provider or a sports medicine specialist.

Unfortunately, once you’ve had a pulled groin muscle, you will be more susceptible to the injury in the future. But, you can take steps to minimize your risk.

Ways to Minimize Risk

  • Warm-up before working out or participating in your favorite sport or activity.
  •  Add static stretches to your routine after your workout or activity to keep the muscles and ligaments in your groin flexible.
  • Increase your endurance level. Groin injuries occur more frequently when your legs are tired.
  • Design a workout routine to strengthen your thigh muscles. Ask a physical therapist, certified athletic trainer or sports medicine specialist about the type of stretches and strength-training exercises you can do to condition your inner and outer thigh muscles.

Taking a few precautions and completing leg conditioning exercises on a regular basis may help you prevent groin pulls and adductor strains as you enjoy winter activities.