Running is a tremendous fitness booster and fat burner, as well as a source of psychological well-being, and it requires nothing in the way of special equipment. In other words, it's just about perfect as a form of exercise. One down side, however, is that virtually every regular runner will be struck by injury at some point. Injuries to the hip and groin are especially common and can be vexingly persistent.
Your adductor muscles running along the interior of your thighs are the muscles classically referred to when people speak of "groin" muscles. You have three on each side -- a long, medium and short adductor. These are subject to strains and tears, usually as a result of sudden lateral movements, as seen in soccer, or when your foot suddenly slips outward, as on a wet floor or while wearing ice skates. A strain differs from a tear chiefly in that the latter produces swelling along with pain. Treatment consists of the RICE regimen -- rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Also called athletic pubalgia or Gilmore's groin, a sports hernia is not a true hernia in that the bowel is not involved. Rather, the pathology stems from small tears at the sites where the inner-thigh muscles attach to the pelvis. Pain usually occurs on both sides. This kind of "hernia" is similar to a classic hernia in that abdominal-wall weakness is part of the problem, and a sports hernia typically occurs in higher-mileage runners or those who do a lot of the same kind of speed work. Most advanced sports hernias require surgical repair followed by up to three months of rest.
Osteitis pubis, or OP, is the inflammation of the pubic symphysis, which is the central point several inches below the navel where the left and right ischia, or pubic bones, meet. Pain resulting from this condition may be felt at the site of the problem but often radiates downward to the inner thighs as well as upward into the lower abdomen, and usually comes on gradually. According to strength and conditioning coach Brad Walker, stress overload is the most frequent cause of OP and it usually afflicts runners with biomechanical derangements.
Hip Flexor Pain
Your hip flexors -- primarily your psoas muscles -- move the thigh forward and upward. Pain is this area can be acute, resulting from a pull in which the foot slips backward on a slick surface, or chronic, resulting from hip flexor tendinitis. Tendinitis, according to Dr. Cathy Fieseler of Running Times, is typically the result of increased training in the form of more mileage or additional hill or speed work. Treatment includes cutting back on training temporarily, icing the area, strengthening exercises and stretching. Cross-training in a pool, cycling or using a rowing machine, stair climber or elliptical trainer are all good short-term options with a hip flexor injury.
Michael Crystal earned a Bachelor of Science in biology at Case Western Reserve University, where he was a varsity distance runner, and is a USA Track and Field-certified coach. Formerly the editor of his running club's newsletter, he has been published in "Trail Runner Magazine" and "Men's Health." He is pursuing a medical degree.