How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

Sore muscles from exercise often occur because of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. There are things you can do to prevent and treat sore muscles; while stretching exercises are important for flexibility and less propensity to injury, they’re not the most effective way to deal with sore muscles. It’s valuable to understand the difference between muscle soreness and muscle pain, so you can see a doctor when it’s warranted.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness can occur within 24 to 48 hours following a strenuous or new type of workout. While DOMS does not cause acute muscle pain, it can leave you feeling unpleasantly stiff and sore. Once thought to be caused by a buildup of lactate, muscle soreness is actually caused by damage to the cell membranes that result in inflammation. This inflammation causes metabolic waste to form and stimulates your nerve endings, resulting in muscle soreness. DOMS-related soreness will usually resolve itself within 10 days.

Stretching and Muscle Soreness

Stretching exercises were once recommended as a method for relieving sore muscles. While it won’t hurt to do them, you won’t reap great benefits either. In a data collection gathered by the Musculoskeletal Division of The George Institute of Global Health, it was revealed that performing stretching exercises before and/or after an exercise routine doesn’t reduce muscle soreness from DOMS.

Stretching Exercises

The benefits of doing regular stretching exercises can help you avoid muscle injury, which will certainly eliminate soreness of a different kind. Doing stretching exercises two to three times per week for 10 to 20 minutes each session will also increase your flexibility, which can help reduce or eliminate muscle injury. Make sure your muscles are warmed up with a five- to 10-minute walk before you stretch. Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds without bouncing. Do stretches such as reaching for the sky, toe-touchers, the cat and cow poses, and arm stretches. One good arm and upper body stretch involves intertwining your fingers behind your lower back. Lean forward about 45 degrees while raising your arms toward the ceiling. Hold the position while feeling the stretch in your arms, chest and upper back.

Preventing and Treating Sore Muscles

Sore muscles from DOMS are best-relieved with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and ice. Place an ice pack on the sore muscle for 10 to 15 minutes, three times per day for the first three days. After this time frame, any remaining muscle soreness can be treated with heat. As you repeat the same vigorous exercise routine, you’ll be less likely to experience DOMS because your muscles will adapt.

  • University of New Mexico: Treating and Preventing DOMS
  • University of Maryland Medical Center: Muscle Aches
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: Stretching to Prevent or Reduce Muscle Soreness after Exercise
  • Harvard School of Public Health: Strength and Flexibility Training

Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

What if there was an easy way to help ease your pain every day that didn’t cost a thing, could be tailored to your needs and could be done in your home? Would you be interested? If so, you need to start stretching for pain relief.

Many people find stretching reduces pain and allows them to be able to do their daily activities, including work. A consistent stretching program can do wonders to increase range of motion and relieve stiffness, thus improving how you feel … and even how you look.

If you are not stretching with chronic pain, here’s how to get started, how stretching can help you and how stretching has helped others like you.

Why Stretching Should be Part of Your Treatment

Research shows that patients with pain chronic conditions benefit from exercise like stretching. And they report that moderate exercise decreases fatigue, pain, stress and symptoms.

“Stretching is an often overlooked component to chronic pain treatment. When performed correctly under the supervision of a physical therapist or other trained medical provider, stretching can be very beneficial for chronic pain sufferers,” says Dr. Jon Yoder, primary care sports medicine physician at OrthoCarolina.

Tips for Stretching for Pain Relief

Keep the following in mind when starting a stretching routine:

  • Do at least once a day
  • Wear comfortable clothes
  • Stretch to cool down, not warm up – so stretch after a walk, not before
  • Stretching should be pain free; do not force the body into difficult positions
  • Move into the stretch slowly and avoid bouncing, which may tear muscles
  • Hold stretches 30-45 seconds to allow muscles and joints to loosen
  • Repeat the stretch, generally 5-10 times
  • Stretch your whole body even if you only have pain in one area
  • Breathe deeply and relax your body

How does it help? Here are the benefits of stretching:

Increases flexibility
A regular stretching routine can help lengthen your muscles, increase range of motion in your joints and relieve stiffness. Staying flexible is especially important as we age and our muscles get tighter. Tight muscles hold your body in a restricted position so joints become less mobile which can trigger the pain cycle.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

Improves circulation and blood flow
Stretching improves circulation of blood to the muscles and joints. Increased blood circulation is good for your body as it brings nutrients to cells and removes waste byproducts. The increased blood flow also open up connective tissues so that blood can get to the knotted tissue more easily, which can help alleviate pain.

Aligns your body for better posture
Stretching can help bring alignment to the joints of your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. And when your body is properly aligned inflammation of the joints is reduced and mobility is increased. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest can help keep the back in better alignment and improve posture. And better posture can lessen pain.

Relaxes and relieves stress
As you may well know, pain is exacerbated by stress in the body, and stress in the body can be exacerbated by emotional stress. Stretching helps the mind and body to relax. This encourages more wellness and more healing which in turn triggers more relaxation.

Increases oxygen flow
Breathing deeply and intentionally while stretching will increase your oxygen flow. Oxygen is one of the body’s natural healers. If you ever taken deep breaths to help reduce your stress or pain, you know that increasing oxygen flow throughout your body can help with healing and minimizing pain.

Enhances coordination
Stretching also helps you maintain a full range of motion through your joints which allows for better balance and coordination. Practicing yoga stretches will increase overall balance and coordination – keeping you more mobile and active.

[Related – How Yoga Makes You Stronger and More Resilient]

Relieves pain
“Exercise improves your pain threshold. With chronic pain, your pain threshold drops – in other words, it takes less pain to make you feel more uncomfortable. With strengthening, and flexibility exercise, you can improve that pain threshold. Regular physical activity can help you not have to worry so much about the pain and still have energy left over for enjoying recreational activities.

Studies report that moderate exercise can decrease fatigue, pain, and stress. At the same time it improves perceptions of your health, physical function and aerobic fitness,” states Dr. Yoder.

Research has shown that exercise is an essential aspect in the treatment of chronic pain. So consider stretching as one of the natural pain relievers to improve your overall health.

[Related – Exploring Complementary Alternative Medicine]

Here’s a video to help you get started. It’s geared towards fibromyalgia patients but provides good basic stretches for anyone.

Make sure to check with your physician before you start any new exercises and work with a pain specialist or physical therapist to develop an exercise plan geared just for you.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

While leg stretching can be included with the healing treatments for leg pain, stretching can also cause leg pain in some cases. You can follow certain steps to prevent or minimize leg pain that results from stretching. If you’re already experiencing discomfort, there are several ways to deal with the pain.

Recognize Immediate Pain

If you feel the pain during or immediately after your stretch, it could be immediate muscle soreness in the leg muscles that will go away quickly on its own. On the other hand, you might have pulled a leg muscle. Over-stretching can lead to a muscle strain, which is also called a pulled muscle and involves the muscle fiber tearing.

Take Note of a Delay

If you experience delayed pain in your leg that occurs about one to two days after your stretching, the pain is most likely caused by tiny tears in the muscle. These tears are common if you’re new to stretching or if you make a change in your normal stretching routine. YogaJournal.com explains that these microscopic tears in certain areas, such as the hamstring, will heal by themselves if you rest the legs for one to two days or longer.

Prevent the Pain

To prevent or minimize the leg pain brought about by stretching, listen to your body and pay attention to your limitations so you avoid over-stretching. You should feel a stretch that starts to feel more comfortable after 10 to 15 seconds — giving you the option to stretch deeper — not one that starts to feel very uncomfortable after a few seconds. If you can’t hold a stretch, scale back until you reach a point that feels challenging but not uncomfortable.

You should also use proper form, which you can learn from a fitness professional. Warm up before stretching with a low-intensity exercise such as walking, then perform slow and gentle stretches instead of quick stretches or ones with bouncing movements. Keep in mind, as well, that your flexibility can change from day to day — and some days you might just be less flexible than others.

Treat the Pain

If you’re experiencing pain from stretching, follow the acronym R.I.C.E., which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. In other words, stop stretching and exercising, and apply ice every hour for 10 to 20 minutes at a time for the first three days and as needed after that, according to ExRx.net. Also, apply a compression sleeve or elasticized bandage to the injured area and elevate the area above the heart. The American Council on Exercise explains that NSAIDs (nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs), ice and massage might help delayed muscle soreness. See a health professional if the pain doesn’t go away.

  • American College of Sports Medicine: Exercise-Induced Leg Pain
  • American Council on Exercise: What Causes Muscle Soreness and How Is It Best Relieved?
  • Yoga Journal: Yoga Shouldn’t Hurt
  • Fusion Fitness; Chan Ling Yap, Ph.D.
  • ExRx.net: Sports Injury First Aid

Sharon Therien has been writing professionally since 2007. She specializes in health writing and copywriting for websites, blogs and businesses. She is a Certified Yoga Teacher and a Reiki Master with a Certificate in Fitness and Nutrition. Therien has a Master of Arts in sociology from Florida Atlantic University.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

After a long hike in Camelback mountain, stretching your sore leg muscles seems to provide some relief. However, you may be doing more damage than good to your muscles. Muscle soreness after exercise can be caused by microscopic tears in the connective tissues of the muscle, according to the American Council on Exercise. Stretching can delay the healing process, even if it does feel good.

Stretching Mechanisms

The stretching sensation is caused by two muscle sensors in your muscle fibers and tendons. Muscle spindles are located throughout the muscle, and their job is to prevent overstretching of the muscle fibers. When you stretch a muscle, muscle spindles send signals to your brain that tell it how far to stretch. As the stretch increases — especially if it’s quick and forceful — the signal increases, which causes the muscle to start contracting. However, if the stretch is slow and gradual, there isn’t enough signal to tell the muscle spindles to contract, which allows the muscle fibers to lengthen. The Golgi tendon organs, located in the tendons, relax the muscle fibers when they’re stimulated, allowing them to lengthen.

Modified Perception

The feel-good sensation is more likely contributed by your nervous system rather than any change in sore muscle length. In a 2010 review published in “Physical Therapy,” the authors asserted that muscle length does change during a stretch, but its effects are short-term, leading to the likelihood that the stretching sensation is due to modified perception of the nervous system. Because stretching reduces neural activity in your muscles, the soreness sensation also decreases. However, it doesn’t mean that the damage isn’t there. You’ve just put a temporary anesthetic on your sore muscles.

Effects of Stretching

Stretching can cause more tension buildup in the muscle, causing it to get tighter and heal improperly. A 2003 article published in “Sports Medicine” reported that stretching does not alleviate muscle soreness; however, exercise and movement are the most effective means of alleviating muscle pain and soreness. Massage therapist and rolfer Todd Hargrove of Better Movement recommends that you avoid movements that build tension in the healing muscle. For example, if your hamstrings feel sore, avoid stretching and heavy lifting.

Alternatives to Stretching

Aside from medications, doing relaxing, mindful and low-intensity exercises, such as yoga, brisk walking and pool-wading, are a way to alleviate muscle soreness. Spending a couple of minutes in a dry sauna releases endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers. It also increases your heart rate similarly to doing light cardio, allowing your blood to remove wastes quickly while your muscles rest.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

After a long hike in Camelback mountain, stretching your sore leg muscles seems to provide some relief. However, you may be doing more damage than good to your muscles. Muscle soreness after exercise can be caused by microscopic tears in the connective tissues of the muscle, according to the American Council on Exercise. Stretching can delay the healing process, even if it does feel good.

Stretching Mechanisms

The stretching sensation is caused by two muscle sensors in your muscle fibers and tendons. Muscle spindles are located throughout the muscle, and their job is to prevent overstretching of the muscle fibers. When you stretch a muscle, muscle spindles send signals to your brain that tell it how far to stretch. As the stretch increases — especially if it’s quick and forceful — the signal increases, which causes the muscle to start contracting. However, if the stretch is slow and gradual, there isn’t enough signal to tell the muscle spindles to contract, which allows the muscle fibers to lengthen. The Golgi tendon organs, located in the tendons, relax the muscle fibers when they’re stimulated, allowing them to lengthen.

Modified Perception

The feel-good sensation is more likely contributed by your nervous system rather than any change in sore muscle length. In a 2010 review published in “Physical Therapy,” the authors asserted that muscle length does change during a stretch, but its effects are short-term, leading to the likelihood that the stretching sensation is due to modified perception of the nervous system. Because stretching reduces neural activity in your muscles, the soreness sensation also decreases. However, it doesn’t mean that the damage isn’t there. You’ve just put a temporary anesthetic on your sore muscles.

Effects of Stretching

Stretching can cause more tension buildup in the muscle, causing it to get tighter and heal improperly. A 2003 article published in “Sports Medicine” reported that stretching does not alleviate muscle soreness; however, exercise and movement are the most effective means of alleviating muscle pain and soreness. Massage therapist and rolfer Todd Hargrove of Better Movement recommends that you avoid movements that build tension in the healing muscle. For example, if your hamstrings feel sore, avoid stretching and heavy lifting.

Alternatives to Stretching

Aside from medications, doing relaxing, mindful and low-intensity exercises, such as yoga, brisk walking and pool-wading, are a way to alleviate muscle soreness. Spending a couple of minutes in a dry sauna releases endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers. It also increases your heart rate similarly to doing light cardio, allowing your blood to remove wastes quickly while your muscles rest.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

Stiff neck? The area above your shoulders is one that commonly holds tension, especially if you’re sitting at a desk all day (with sub-par posture) or constantly staring down at your phone screen.

According to research, neck pain may feel like a “kink,” stiffness or severe pain. This pain may spread to the shoulders, upper back or arms, or it may trigger headaches and cause numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms.

In general, neck pain refers to pain anywhere from the area at the base of the skull into the shoulders. And technology is one of the major culprits. “As a culture we put our necks through hell with our reliance on technology, which creates forward head carriage, and results in neck muscles that go into spasm and refer pain into our heads, temples, and even behind our eyes,” says Brad Butler, chiropractor and author of “The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions.”

“The most common causes of neck pain are either postural or positional. The modern-day life style of sitting at a desk looking over a computer for multiple hours unfortunately leads to a forward head position where the skull moves forward of its placement on the first cervical vertebra,” says Lara Heimann, physical therapist and creator of LYT Style Yoga. “Every millimeter that the skull is off-center places a strain on the posterior neck muscles. These muscles on the back of the neck have a chronic stress and load on them that creates tension and pain.

Related

Feel better Back, neck or knee pain? Try these foam roller exercises

You may not be able to get away from the computer, but there are things you can do to reduce the strain. “To alleviate this pain, one must first position the computer at eye level to prevent the forward shift of the head,” says Heimann. “Also stretching the back of the neck muscles will help alleviate the tissue tightness present.”

“There are things you can do to assist with the prevention in neck pain,” adds Karen Joubert, PT. “I would recommend a visit to your local physical therapist to address your daily routine, habits and posture. Secondly, a good program of postural awareness along with movement-based stretching will have a positive impact in your further prevention of neck pain.”

Stretching the neck muscles is one of the simplest at-home (and at-work) prevention techniques to keep tension at bay. This routine can be repeated daily to alleviate neck pain and keep your neck loose throughout the day.

Assisted neck pull

Place your hands on the base of your neck with your elbows pointed out to the sides. Stand up tall and take a deep breath, and then exhale as you drop your chin towards your chest, pulling your elbows down towards the floor. Gently allow the weight of your hands and arms to weigh your head down further, and take a few deep breaths here.

Ear drop

Interlace your fingers behind your back, resting your hands on the small of your lower back and pulling the shoulders down and back. From here, drop your right ear to your right shoulder, and hold for a few breaths. Then switch sides.

Forward fold with head nod

Hinge forward at your hips and bend towards the ground. Hold on to opposite elbows and allow your head to dangle down. Nod your head yes and then shake your head no.

The yes stretch

In an exaggerated nod, say “yes’ with your head. Lift your head up towards the ceiling and look up as high as you can, and then drop your chin down towards your chest as far as you can. Repeat this 10 times.

Neck circles

Use your chin to draw a circle to the right three times and then to the left three times.

More ways to reduce pain and injury

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Stephanie Mansour is a health and fitness expert and weight-loss coach for women. She is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and Pilates instructor, and host of “Step It Up with Steph” on American Public Television.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

When you've pushed your body harder, exercised longer or performed some type of new resistance training, you'll probably feel at least a bit of soreness in the following days. You may be tempted to stretch those muscles to ease some of that pain, but that could be a waste of time. In spite of a prevailing notion to the contrary, numerous studies have found that stretching does not actually relieve sore muscles.

Video of the Day

Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness

When you're sore after exercising, you're experiencing what's known as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS; it's thought to be the result of damage to the muscle fibers as a result of training harder than the body is accustomed to. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, DOMS happens as a result of the lengthening of a muscle while under force, called an eccentric muscle contraction.

Stretching is Lengthening

Now consider that information about eccentric muscle contraction and how it relates to stretching. When you stretch a muscle, you're also lengthening that muscle. When you think of it that way, it makes it easier to understand why stretching after a hard workout isn't going to help relieve sore muscles. Think of it this way: if you hurt yourself doing a certain activity, repeating that activity is probably not going to relieve the pain. In research studies, some people have experienced slight pain reduction from stretching, but the results were not significant enough to recommend stretching as a viable form of pain relief, suggests The BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal.

The Nervous System Response

When you feel pain, it's a result of your nervous system sending a signal to a part of the body, telling it to hold off on more movement or potentially-damaging activity. Pain, in other words, is a mechanism of protection. Stretching an area in pain, then, is likely to elicit an even bigger nervous system response, not a smaller one. If you're experiencing muscle soreness, time is your best ally, suggests the ACSM. Wait a few days to rest your muscles, and when you go back to the same exercise, you'll probably find your muscles have adapted and you won't be as sore the next time around.

Supporting Research

If you're still not convinced that stretching to relieve soreness is a waste of time, a number of studies may shed some more light on the issue. One review published in 2011 in the "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews" looked at 12 studies that examined this issue, and concluded that stretching before, after or during a workout will not reduce soreness. A review published in 2002 in the "British Medical Journal" concluded the same thing.

How to stretch to relieve sore muscles

Corrective exercise specialist and trainer Tatiana Lampa, NASM, says that feeling the slightest bit achy in your hamstrings, arms, or core usually occurs for one of three reasons. And, fortunately, all of them can be remedied after a few days of TLC, stretching, and—yes—other, slower workouts. Below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and how to care for your body when walking up the stairs suddenly feels like a Sisyphian task.

What to know about DOMS—the technical name for sore muscles

“Sore muscles are known as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, which can occur after physical activity, a new exercise program, or changing your exercise routine or increasing the intensity and duration of your normal workout,” says Lampa. DOMS happens because of deep muscle tears, and it will make its presence known. However, when it comes down to what exactly your body will feel like 24 hours after you’ve finished a particularly difficult abs circuit, exercise-lovers report feeling very different things in their bod.

“It affects everyone differently. Some people feel mild soreness, and some people have pain so bad it restricts their range of motion,” Adam Rosante, strength and nutrition coach and founder of The People’s Bootcamp, previously told Well+Good. “The truth is, no one’s really isolated a single cause for DOMS, but it’s most likely a combination of damage to the muscle tissue and inflammation.”

If you’re a dedicated runner who suddenly decides to start cross-training by lifting weights, swimming, or biking, for example, you’ll likely feel DOMS come in the day after you introduce the new fitness into your workout routine. Your body loves a plot twist—but it will have to recalibrate itself before you can soldier on with your new, more well-rounded workout.

But how long should soreness last?

According to Lampa, mild soreness (like you might get from introducing more reps into your weight training workout) should last for one to two days. More severe muscle soreness, meanwhile, could last up to five days and come as the result of trying something completely new and intense like rock climbing or boxing.

The longer your DOMS sticks around, the more often you’ll have to ask yourself: Is it okay to work out today? Sometimes the answer will be yes; sometimes, it will be a resounding, NOPE. If any part of your body is swelling up, if you find varying body parts compensating for others, or if you don’t feel emotionally invested in your workout, it’s best to let the DOMS run its course and let rest be your workout routine for the day. “If you can’t get yourself to fully ‘rest’ for a day, then at least make your recovery active. Meaning, if you feel the need to move, go swimming in the ocean, play tennis, take a walk in the park, [bike] ride around the city,” recommends Charlee Atkins, trainer, and founder of Le Sweat.

How to relieve sore muscles in five easy steps

1. Rest. Rest. Rest.

When it comes to recovery from muscle soreness, there’s no substitute for some old-fashioned rest and relaxation. And of course, the gold standard of rest is sleep. “Without sleep, muscles become more inflamed and begin to break down their own protein to provide building blocks—aka nitrogen and other protein components—to the rest of the body, which needs more protein to function during sleep deprivation,” says Ben Smarr, science advisor to Oura and assistant professor at UCSD Bioengineering & Data Science. “Sleep allows healing, but deprivation causes breakdown, making getting good sleep doubly important.”

And thus, when it comes to combatting DOMS, your bedtime is just as important as whatever techy recovery gear you decide to invest in.

2. Don’t skip your warmups

Skipping your warmup is the exercise cardinal sin that we’re all very, very guilty of. While it won’t necessarily give you DOMS, it could lead to more serious injuries that make muscle soreness look like, well, a cakewalk. As Gold’s Gym Personal Trainer, NCSF, Katie Merrick puts it, “motion is lotion.” “A tight body is more prone to get injured if you try to move it too quickly or lift too heavily without your muscles being prepared. I like to compare it to a new balloon. It’s more difficult to immediately start inflating the balloon. If you stretch and move it well first, it will inflate much easier. Our bodies are very similar,” she told Well+Good.

Start with this warmup:

3. Become very good friends with your foam roller

Foam rollers loosen tightness that happens in your body as a result of soreness from exercise. That means a little one-on-one time with the device can improve your range of motion and reset your muscles from their fatigued state. If you have no idea how to foam roll, here’s how to tackle every single muscle in your body.

Check out this five-minute foam rolling routine:

4. Stretch after your workout—and every single day

You should think about stretching as the finale to every single one of your workouts and a tool to pull out when you’re sore. “Taking the time to warm up and cool down will help you avoid or minimize soreness,” said Karena Wu, DPT of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. “Static stretches are best after working out to lengthen the muscle fibers and minimize any lactic acid build up in the muscles.”

Unsurprisingly, stretching also goes hand in hand with sleep (that other ingredient you need to recharge your muscles). So if you’re in the market for a nightly ritual that helps you in more ways than one, try a few forward folds or backbends.

Runners, this one’s for you:

5. Research and invest in a recovery device

Lampa loves her Hyperice Hypervolt ($300): a percussive therapy device designed to massage sore and stiff muscles. However, as the corrective exercise specialist points out, you’ll really have to do a bit of experimenting to discover the exact combination of treatments and devices that helps you feel the most equipped to tackle your exercise regimen. “I stretch, foam roll, and use my Hypervolt post-workouts and when I’m sore,” says Lampa.

DOMS, in short, is just a fact of the active life, a way for your body to say to your mind that, Hey! We need to rest! TLC! Maybe a recovery device if you want! Even though everyone experiences it differently, that fact remains true for everyone. Whether you feel a little sore for two days or five, that’s the price of being a person in motion.

A pulled groin—also known as a groin strain or sprain—occurs when the muscles in the inner thigh get overstretched or torn. 1 This can happen when they contract too quickly during activities such as running, jumping, or changing direction. 1 Although a pulled groin is a common injury among athletes, it can happen to anybody. Though this injury can be quite painful, it usually heals on its own. 1

Pulled Groin Muscle Causes

Although it can happen as a result of many types of activities, this type of injury is common among athletes who participate in sports such as:

  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Dance

This is because groin muscles can tear or stretch when pivoting to avoid a tackle, changing directions quickly to catch a ball, or stretching beyond the natural limits of the muscles. Any type of sudden movement in the groin area can potentially cause a strain or pull, especially when the muscles are not properly warmed up. 2

Pulled Groin Muscle Symptoms

When you pull a groin, you can expect to experience some or all of the following symptoms 1 :

  • Pain when you lift your knee
  • Pain when you use the adductor muscles, which bring your legs together
  • Tenderness and discomfort in the inside of the thigh
  • Swelling or discoloration in the groin area
  • Loss of strength or function if the muscle has completely torn

At the moment the injury occurs, you might also feel a snapping sensation in the groin area, followed by intense pain. 1

Exercises to Treat a Pulled Groin

After a few days of rest, when the pain has started to subside, you can help move the process along by performing stretching and strengthening exercises. 3

Stretching Exercises

Start with gentle static stretches, and move on to dynamic stretches when you can do the static stretches without pain. For each static stretch, hold the position for 30 seconds. You should try to repeat this several times a day, according to exercise physiologist Elizabeth Quinn. 4

  1. Seated short groin stretch: While seated on the floor, bend the knees, and bring the soles of the feet together in front of you. With a straight back, use your elbows to gently push your knees toward the floor until you feel a light stretch in the inner thigh, and hold the position.
  2. Seated long groin stretch: From a seated position, extend both legs out to the sides of your body to create a V shape. With a straight back, gently walk your hands forward as you bring your torso toward the floor, and hold the position. Repeat this process while facing each leg.
  3. Hip flexor stretch: Start in a forward lunge position, and lower the back knee to the floor. Keeping your shoulders above your hips, gently lean forward to stretch the muscles in the front of the hip, and hold the position. Repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Swinging leg stretch: Balancing on one leg, swing the opposite leg forward and back, without forcing it to go too high. The motion should feel relaxed and not strain the muscles in the hip and groin. Swing each leg for 10 repetitions.

Strengthening Exercises

When you are ready to start stretching exercises for your pulled groin muscle recovery, you can also complement them with movements that will strengthen the muscles in the groin area. Again, start with static exercises, and then move on to dynamic ones. 3

  1. Bent-knee adductor exercise: Lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Use a small medicine ball placed between the knees to create resistance, and squeeze for five-second intervals. Repeat 10 times, and increase the duration and number of repetitions as strength improves.
  2. Straight-leg adductor exercise: Remain in a reclined position, and extend the legs flat on the floor. Place the medicine ball between the ankles, and repeat the squeezing exercises outlined above.
  3. Hip adduction against gravity: Lie on your side on the floor with the top ankle resting on the seat of a chair and the bottom leg under the chair. Slowly lift the bottom leg to touch the bottom of the chair seat, pause briefly, and then lower the leg back to the floor. Perform the exercise 10 times on each leg, and repeat three times a day.
  4. Hip adduction with resistance bands: As groin strength improves, you can add more resistance to hip adduction exercises with bands. Secure one end of a resistance band around your ankle and the other end around an object that will not move. Standing on the opposite leg, position yourself so that the resistance of the band will increase as you gently swing your leg toward the centerline of your body without bending the knee. Do 10 repetitions on each side, and increase the number as strength improves.

Additional Pulled Groin Muscle Treatment Ideas

Like with most other types of soft tissue injuries, pulled groin muscle treatment can include RICE therapy 5 :

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

You can administer this treatment with traditional ice packs and compression bandages, or increase the effectiveness of therapeutic cold and compression with a cold therapy system .

If the pain is so severe that cold therapy cannot sufficiently dull it, your doctor might recommend temporarily taking an over-the-counter pain medication to help reduce pain and swelling during your pulled groin muscle recovery.

After the initial swelling and inflammation has subsided, some people like to apply therapeutic heat. This can help loosen up stiff muscles and increase range of motion. 6

Massage is another popular method for reducing tension in the groin muscles while recovering from a pull or tear. This type of treatment is appropriate after the area is no longer tender to the touch, as otherwise it might be too painful and uncomfortable. 7