The groin is the junction where the leg and abdomen meet. Many use groin and testicle or genital area interchangeable, but the difference is important as causes of pain in the groin don't necessarily cause testicle or vaginal pain and vice versa.
Causes of Groin Pain
Groin pain can occur for a number of reasons and quickly lead to frustration if you have no idea what caused it to happen. Knowing the causes of groin pain and what to do about it can give you a piece of mind.
1. Enlarged Lymph Glands
Lymph glands are part of our immune system and function to filter our system. Lymph glands can become enlarged due to infection, trauma, lymph channel blockage and cancer. The groin lymph glands are found in a line running from the hip to the pubic bone. This region is called the hip crease and is a common location to experience groin pain from swollen lymph glands. Treatment is directed at the underlying cause.
The epididymis sits on top of each testicle and helps transport sperm. These coiled tubes can become inflamed from infection or trauma. Common symptoms include an ache or heaviness in the testicle region, nausea and notable tenderness when pressing on the area or squeezing the testicles. If caused by a sexually transmitted infection, symptoms such as pain and burning with urination, swollen lymph glands or discharge from the penis can also occur. This condition is generally treated with antibiotics and pain control with anti-inflammatory medications.
The groin or inguinal region is the most common location for hernias to develop. The abdomen is made up of multiple layers of tissue and muscle. When an area becomes week and breaks down, the abdominal contents can slide through this opening. Common symptoms are pain and swelling and the telltale bulge in the groin region. Other than surgery, there is no cure for a hernia.
4. Kidney Stone
Kidney stones develop in the kidneys and then can pass into the tube connecting the kidney to the bladder (ureter). This tube is very small and the kidney stone causes irritation and muscle spasm in the tube creating severe pain. Many state that passing a kidney stone for a man is equivalent to childbirth. Several different types of kidney stones exist and their development is influenced by diet, fluid intake, medication use and hereditary factors. Common symptoms include flank or low back pain, groin pain or pain radiating from the back to the groin, burning with urination or blood in the urine. Some males also complain of testicle pain from a kidney stone. Treatment contains adequate hydration and pain control, often with narcotic medications. Large stones may need to be treated with surgery or broken up using sound waves (lithotripsy or laser).
5. Leydig Cell Tumor
This condition is a testicular tumor. Leydig cells are located in the substance of the testicles. This relatively uncommon tumor generally occurs in males between 20 and 60 years of age. Common symptoms include pain and heaviness in the groin or testicle, a nodule or bump in the testicle or testicle swelling in more advanced cases. Treatment is based on how early this cancer is detected and involves surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
6. Testicular Torsion
The testicles are suspended in the scrotum (sac) and occasionally twist on themselves, which is called testicular torsion and results in cutting off the blood supply to the affected testicle. This condition causes immediate severe pain, nausea, vomiting and swelling. Testicular torsion is a surgical emergency and needs to be corrected as soon as possible or the testicle will die. Anyone with a suspicion of this condition as the cause of his or her groin pain needs to get to the emergency room promptly.
7. Urinary Tract Infection
A bladder or urinary tract infection is caused by bacterial growth in the bladder, kidney or both. Common symptoms include burning with urination, groin or lower abdominal pain, frequency of urination and kidney infections which can result in back pain and fever. Treatment contains antibiotic therapy prescribed by a doctor.
Inflammation of the testicles is called orchitis. The most common cause is a viral infection, but bacterial causes and trauma are also responsible. Common symptoms are a noticeably swollen testicle and scrotum, low-grade fever, groin pain, swollen lymph glands and abdominal pain. Pain can be mild or more severe. Treatment is directed at supporting the testicles so they don't swing excessively and identifying the underlying cause.
9. Muscle Strain
Numerous muscles attach in the groin region and are responsible for pulling the legs together. Muscle strain from overuse, weightlifting, sports or slipping can strain the groin muscles. Common symptoms include pain and more severe cases result in tearing of the muscle fibers and can cause bruising. The pain can be felt deep in the groin and described as an ache, throb or burning sensation. Treatment is supportive and includes backing off of physical activities that aggravate or increase the pain. Physical therapy, ice and compression or massage may also be beneficial.
Many other causes are possible but less common. Other causes of groin pain include necrosis of hip joint, avulsion fracture, bursitis or joint inflammation, pinched nerves in the lower back, varicose veins and blood clots in the leg as well as shingles (herpes zoster).
Self-care for Groin Pain
Over the counter treatments generally work well for self-care of groin pain.
- Try Tylenol, ibuprofen or Aleve. Modify any activity that worsens the pain.
- Cut back on exercises that cause discomfort.
- Try ice or alternate between ice and heat.
- An ace wrap or compression wrap can provide added comfort and support.
When to See a Doctor
The following are an indication that a more serious cause of groin pain may exist:
- Fever or chills
- Severe pain
- Pain not resolving with self-care over 5-7 days time
- Abdominal pain, flank or back pain
- Testicular pain, heaviness or swelling or a testicular lump
- Discolored urine, bloody urine or inability to pass urine
When you are experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seek medical help immediately.