Todd Sabol MS, AT
There are many terms throughout the medical field that are blanket terms, or words that have been made up to describe something or a group of things so they are easier to understand. A very common area of the body where this happens is the “groin”. When you hear the word groin, although it isn’t the medical term for the area, you know exactly what it is, that area on the inside of your thigh up on the inside of your hip. The anatomically correct term for that area is the inguinal area, adductors or adductor complex. One of the initial reasons this is important is because it gives us a better understanding that there are many more than one structure in that area. I know when I was growing up, when I heard the word groin and felt around the area it just felt like one big tendon, so that is what I thought it was, so I realize that it can be very easy to have a misconception of an area of the body. The goal of this article is to give you a better idea of what this area is and give you one exercise I have recently really honed in on so you can be more educated about it and get a better idea on how to manage your pain in that area.
The medial thigh muscles that all attach on the inside of the hip include the adductor longus, brevis, magnus, gracilis, pectineus and obturator externus. All of these in some fashion allow the leg to be brought towards the body, or be adducted. As you can see from the photo below, these muscles act directly on the femoroacetabular joint and just as any other group of muscles that act on a joint, these should be providing movement and stability to that body segment. So when we talk about groin pain, there are obviously many mechanisms as to why the pain could have started, so let’s talk about one simple reason, the musculature isn’t providing the hip joint stability. This can cause pain for two reasons, A) The hip joint is more unstable and there could be excessive movement at the joint during movement which is a big risk factor for injury or B) The brain realizes that this musculature isn’t giving proper stability, so the brain communicates to that tissue to help it “create” stability by locking it up. This is why we so often have pain and “tight” muscles, but when we endlessly try to stretch them and we never get any relief. If we work at combating that instability by targeting the adductor complex with exercises to activate and fire that tissue, we can begin to correct that issue.
The one movement I have recently really started to rely on with my clients with adductor injuries and hip pain is a hip bridge with an adductor focus. You complete this movement just as you would with any other glute bridge, but the difference is you add an object (usually a ball) in between your knees and as you’re doing the hip bridge, you squeeze your knees into the ball for the duration of the movement. I would recommend you add this to any rehab you are doing for hip or adductor pain, it is a great isometric focus for the adductor tissue while you are performing active movement elsewhere. If you have any questions about this or anything else hip related please reach out and always remember to #HealByMoving.