When we mention inner thigh pain, we tend to think about groin pain or groin injury that usually affects athletes or exercise enthusiasts. The inner thigh is in close proximity to the pelvis, hip, knee, and back. This means that anything that affects these body parts can cause pain at the inner thigh.
This post specifically deals with the various causes, treatment techniques and how to avoid inner thigh pain.
What Can Cause Inner Thigh Pain?
1. Muscle Strain
A strain is an injury to a muscle or group of muscles. The muscles affected are the adductors. Injury can happen from suddenly running or not warming up before a major activity, not stretching properly or overworking the muscle.
The adductors are muscles that are found on the inner part of our thighs. These muscles are responsible for keeping our thighs together and also play a role in stabilizing the pelvis.
The adductor muscles are:
- Adductor Longus adducts the hip and assists in rotating the hip away from the body.
- Adductor Magnus is the largest adductor muscle. It starts from the pelvis and inserts at the medial condyle of the femur. It assists in flexing and extending the hip joint as well.
- Adductor Brevis allows the hip joint to be rotated medially and flex the hip joint.
- Adductor minimus assists in externally rotating the thigh and flexing the hip joint.
- Gracilis starts from the hip and inserts at the tibia adducts the thigh and assists in flexing the knee joint.
- Pectineus is the smallest muscle of the adductors. It adducts the thigh and also assists in flexing the hip.
We tend to see athletes have groin injuries because of the sudden increase in speed when taking off from the starting position in running or while trying to win a race.
Overworking a muscle places a lot of strain on the adductors and it may lead to tightness in the muscle or a muscle strain injury.
3. Muscle Imbalance
When there is a muscular imbalance, it means that some muscles are weaker than some. When this happens, some muscles compensate for the weaker muscles which stresses the stronger muscle and it can lead to a muscular injury.
4. Osteoarthritis Of The Hip Joint
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the surfaces of bones in a joint. The cartilage that allows easy movement of the joints on each other begins to wear off causing inflammation at the joint and direct contact between the bones. This can cause pain to surrounding structures like the muscles at the inner thigh.
5. Back Pain
This can cause pain in the inner thighs. The nerves that supply the adductor muscles are the obturator nerve and the femoral nerve. These nerves arise from the lumbar aspect of the spine.
When there is any form of spondylosis or spondylolisthesis around their origin, it affects the transmission of signals to the adductors, which can cause pain at the inner thigh.
6. Hip Impingement
This is also known as femoroacetabular impingement, which is a condition where the head of the femur (ball part of the joint) and the acetabulum (socket part of the hip joint) come in direct contact with each other probably because of an extra bone. It causes pain which can sometimes be felt at the inner thigh area.
This is when an organ slips out of its location through a weakness in the wall that keeps it in its place. We can call a hernia an ‘organ dislocation’. Due to the close proximity of the abdomen to the thigh, there is a tendency of the small intestine to slip out and go through a canal called the inguinal canal into the groin or inner thigh region. This is usually painful and can cause pain in the inner thigh.
8. Blood Clot
Have you ever had a wound that was bleeding and then it suddenly stopped? That is due to the clotting properties of the blood. This is done to stop the bleeding and heal the wound. However, blood clots can be harmful especially when it happens in major blood vessels in the body. These blood clots are usually caused by a sedentary lifestyle or having a family history of deep vein thrombosis.
A blood clot can be found in the femoral vein which is located in the inner thigh. This can cause pain in the inner thigh.
9. Pubic Dysfunction
This usually occurs during pregnancy. The pubic symphysis is a joint that joins the two pelvic bones together. The joint is kept in place by ligaments and plays a major role during childbirth. Pregnancy places a lot of pressure on the pubic symphysis which can make the ligaments slack and cause the joint to become unstable.
This unstable joint can cause pain in the pelvis which can affect the inner thigh.
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty walking or a limping gait
- Joint stiffness
How Is It Treated?
1. Diagnostic Tests
The doctor will recommend that some tests should be done to confirm the major cause of pain. For example, if it is a hernia, surgery may be recommended immediately. These diagnostic tests are usually imaging techniques that give an image of the bones such as CT scan, MRI and sometimes a doppler ultrasound to look out for blood clots.
Depending on the results from these tests, the doctor will refer appropriately to the concerned units.
The R.I.C.E. treatment will work for muscular injuries in the adductor muscles. The treatment acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Rest basically means the muscle should be given a break. No unnecessary movement should involve the inner thigh.
Ice can be used to relieve swelling and pain. Crushed ice in a damp towel or an ice pack can be placed on the inner thigh for 15 minutes every 4 hours.
Compression involves applying an elastic bandage on the thigh to reduce swelling that may arise at the inner thigh.
Elevation also helps in reducing swelling by placing the painful leg on pillows or on a high stool to help reduce swelling.
Analgesics such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are recommended for pain relief. Sometimes, muscle relaxants are recommended for muscle spasms. Medications for blood clots in the veins can be recommended to treat or avoid them.
Physiotherapy’s main goal is to relieve pain and ensure no complications arise while recovering from inner thigh pain. Pain can be relieved through the use of ice or heat depending on the cause of the pain and the duration of the injury. Ice is usually used for the first 72 hours from the onset of injury.
The physiotherapist will assess the thigh, the back, and the entire lower limb as well. This is to confirm if the pain is associated with other parts of the body like a referred pain from the back to the thigh.
After the assessment, the physiotherapist will design treatment plans to achieve your goals. The goals are usually to relieve pain, strengthen muscles as weakness may arise from resting the muscle for a while and also strengthen surrounding muscles like the hamstrings and quadriceps.
If the pain is so severe that it affects the normal walking pattern, the physiotherapist will correct the abnormal walking pattern and also prevent deformities.
The physiotherapist will also educate on some lifestyle changes to avoid a reinjury of the inner thigh and also prevent other parts of the body from being affected by the inner thigh pain.
Exercises are prescribed by physiotherapists depending on how the pain relief improves and the severity of the injury. Some of these exercises target the adductor muscles and also other surrounding muscles. These exercises are:
A curtsy lunge is a curtsy twist to the typical lunge.
- Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet apart
- Take the right foot behind your left foot and outside
- Lunge into this position which will look like a curtsy
- Do this 10 times; 5 on each side
Inner Thigh Squeeze
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and hip-width apart
- Place a ball or a pillow between your bent knees
- Squeeze the pillow between your two knees
- Hold for 30 seconds and release
- Lie on your side with your knees bent and directly on top of each other
- Open your legs like you are opening a book
- Slowly return the raised knee to the starting position
- Repeat 10 times
Hip Abduction To Adduction
- Lie on your side with your knees straight and the affected leg on the unaffected leg
- Raise the top leg, which is the affected leg, towards the ceiling
- Slowly return the leg to its original position
- Returning the leg works on the adductors
- Stand with your feet apart with your toes pointing out to the sides
- Bend your knees and move down towards the ground
- Stand up and repeat 10 times
- Lie on the side of the affected leg with the unaffected leg crossed over it
- Lift the affected leg off the floor as high as you can
- Return to the starting point
This stretches the adductor muscles.
- Stand with your feet apart
- Step out with the unaffected foot as far as you can from the affected foot
- Drop your hips down toward the unaffected foot and feel the stretch in the affected leg
- Repeat 10 times
Surgeries are usually recommended depending on the cause of pain. An inguinal hernia repair is the type of surgery that is usually recommended to treat a hernia.
How Can It Be Avoided
- Warm up and stretch before and after any workout or sporting activity. Warming up prepares the muscle for any activity.
- Wear the correct shoes while exercising and doing a sporting activity to avoid muscle overload
- Drink lots of water to refresh the muscles
- Listen to your body and do not overwork it
- Be more active by reducing your sitting time and moving around more
- Strengthen other muscles of the legs to avoid overworking some muscles
Most cases inner thigh pain are usually related to injuries in the muscle and do not take too long to heal. However, if it becomes uncomfortable within a short period of time, kindly see a doctor to ensure that it is not a sign of a serious medical condition like a hernia or a pelvic disorder.