Groin Pain in Women: Causes, Treatments and When to See a Doctor

Groin Pain in Women: Causes and Treatments
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Groin pain in women can have a number of different causes that can range from a minor muscle twinge at the top of your legs to agonizing sharp pain caused by kidney stones. It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reasons for pelvic pain. The aches in your groin could be from a minor injury to muscles or nerves in your lower back, strained thigh ligaments or tendons, infections in your internal organs, or be connected with your menstrual cycle.

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The causes of groin pain in women can be divided into 2 types – direct and indirect causes of pain in the pelvic area. For example, a pulled leg muscle can cause direct pain in your left thigh or right thigh. Or, a condition like a bladder or a kidney infection can cause pain that radiates from your abdomen to your groin area.

Apart from the common reasons for lower back pain, abdominal pain, and pelvic discomfort, women can suffer from pain connected to their reproductive system. For example, around the time of ovulation, you may experience abdominal and pelvic cramping. Sometimes, female groin pain could indicate a more serious condition like ovarian cysts or endometriosis.

Usually, women can get rid of groin pain by using a warm compress to help get relief from pelvic discomfort. If other health conditions or hip problems are to blame for the pain in the groin, then it’s important to address these. For example, exercising can help to strengthen lower back, abdominal, and leg muscles and ligaments to prevent groin pain.

In this article, you will learn what causes groin pain in women and when painful pelvic symptoms require you to see a doctor.

Symptoms of Groin Pain in Women

Finding out the cause of left groin pain or right groin pain can be difficult because the pain could originate somewhere else. Very often, you will have other symptoms along with groin pain.

For example, pulled pelvic muscles or joint dysfunction can make walking painful. Many women find that the groin pain is worse at night or when they are taking part in physical activity. You may also find that you have shooting pains down one of your legs or have a tingling sensation in your lower back or hip joint.

If your pelvic discomfort is connected with your menstrual cycle, the groin pain may come and go during your cycle. For example, you may experience severe lower abdominal cramping pain before your period along with some spotting. Or, infections or inflammation like appendicitis or kidney disorders will usually just cause pain on one side of your body that radiates to your groin. You may also have nausea and vomiting with the pain and possibly have a fever.

Causes of Groin Pain That Only Affects Women

Let’s look at some of the common causes of female groin pain. First of all, we will look at causes of pain in the groin area that only affect women.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause pain in your pelvic area along with vaginal discharge that has a strong odor or fishy vaginal odor.

PID is a bacterial infection in a woman’s reproductive organs that causes inflammation. Along with pain in your pelvic region, the pain can radiate to your abdomen or your lower back.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, pelvic inflammatory disease may cause just mild symptoms with pelvic light pains. However, severe cases of PID can result in aching pelvic pain or severe lower abdominal discomfort.1

If you have signs of an infection like fever, vomiting, and offensive-smelling discharge along with pelvic pain, you should see your doctor. It’s important to get PID treated as soon as possible because it can lead to further complication in your reproductive system.

Twisted ovary

A severe groin pain that comes on suddenly and just affects your right groin or left groin could be caused by a twisted ovary. Twisting of the ovary or fallopian tube can be caused by hormone treatment, ovarian cysts, or pregnancy. Along with the ovary pain, you may experience vomiting.

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Gynecologist, Dr. Gene McNeeley from the Center for Advanced Gynecology and Pelvic Health says that usually an ovary on just one side of the body twists. The result is a severe pelvic pain on one side and tenderness in the abdominal area. In the weeks before the ovary twists, you may have crampy pelvic pain that comes and goes.2

Surgery is usually required to treat a twisted ovary and get rid of the groin pain.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition when endometrial tissue grows on other reproductive organs and can cause severe groin pain in women. Sometimes endometriosis can be a reason for cramping pains without a period. You may find that the groin pain isn’t just localized to your pelvic area because the pain can spread to your lower back and also be a cause of belly pain.

The Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons reports that endometriosis can be a reason for debilitating groin pain in women.3 This causes cramping pelvic pains before and during your period and the pain can spread to your lower back and abdomen. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that endometriosis can cause bleeding after your period.4

However, not all women experience the same severity of pelvic pain with endometriosis. Doctors say that some women with mild endometriosis experience severe pain in the pelvic area, while others have no pain at all.

Adenomyosis

A related condition to endometriosis that also causes groin pain in women is adenomyosis. This condition of the uterus happens when endometrial tissue grows in the wall of the uterus. The result is severe cramping like being stabbed in the pelvic area.

Experienced gynecologist, Dr. Nasrin Moghadami Tabrizi says that doctors should consider adenomyosis as a cause of severe groin pain as well as endometriosis.4

Ovarian cysts

Another cause of groin pain that only affects women is ovarian cysts. Ovarian cysts are small sacs that fill with fluid and usually go away on their own. However, if the cysts rupture, you will experience pelvic pain that feels like a dull or sharp ache on one side of your groin.

According to the journal Practitioner, ovarian cysts can cause one-sided groin pain and general pelvic discomfort. The cramping pain caused by ovarian cysts can also felt in your upper thigh. Ovarian cysts may also be a cause of irregular vaginal spotting.5

Some of the other warning signs of ovarian cysts include abdominal bloating, pain during bowel movements, irregular menstrual bleeding, or pain while having sexual intercourse.

Uterine Fibroids

Uterine fibroids is a condition that affects around three-quarters of all American women. Fibroids are growths that are generally benign and that can develop inside the muscle of the uterus. According to doctors from Mayo Clinic, depending on the size and location of the fibroids, you could experience various symptoms including pelvic discomfort or pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and pain in the leg or back.19

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy can be a cause of groin and abdominal pain if you are pregnant. Ectopic pregnancies happen when the fetus grows outside of the womb. Recognizing the signs of an ectopic pregnancy can be difficult because they resemble the early signs of a normal pregnancy like implantation spotting, lower back pain, fatigue and light cramping that happens at the start of pregnancy.

According to Dr. Mary Harding on Patient.info, the 2 most common signs of an ectopic pregnancy are severe pelvic cramping and abdominal pain. You may also feel dizzy, have tender breasts, and pain that radiates to your shoulder.6

If you notice abnormal vaginal bleeding but no period and you have other symptoms, you should see your doctor for a check. Sometimes, an ectopic pregnancy can occur even if you don’t think you are pregnant.

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Female Pelvic and Groin Pain: Joint and Hip Causes

Apart from conditions affecting women’s reproductive organs that cause groin pain, there are many other reasons for female pelvic pain and discomfort.

Injury

Very often, a hip fracture, infected hip joint, or injury to the tendons in your leg can be a common cause of groin pain in women and men. Wear and tear injuries or overuse of the leg muscles are often work-related or sustained from a sports or workout injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, the pain at the top of your legs can be mild to severe and the pain may radiate to your back or down your leg.

Dr. William Blahd on WebMD says that our legs are subject to a daily use that can strain, stretch or tear leg ligaments and muscles. This may cause localized swelling and some bruising of the soft muscle tissue. Common reasons for injury-related groin pain are a blow to the genital region, hip problems, or running long distances that puts extra strain on your pubic area.7

Pulled muscles

A pulled muscle is another reason for women having acute sudden pain in their groin or chronic pelvic pain when walking.

Pulling a groin muscle isn’t always connected with muscles in your legs. Dr. Blahd on WebMD says that pulling or lifting heavy object can pull abdominal muscles resulting in groin pain.7

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction

Problems with women’s sacroiliac joint (or SI joint) can cause pelvic pain and can also be felt in the lower back and buttocks. Your sacroiliac joint connect the bottom of your spine (the sacrum) to your pelvis (iliac crest).

According to physiotherapists, it’s not known exactly what causes SI joint dysfunction that results in pain in your lumbar and pelvic regions. However, it seems that if there is too much movement in the sacroiliac joint, pain will spread from the lower back to the groin. You may feel pain in your buttocks, lower back, and the pain may be felt all the way down your leg.8

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction causes groin pain in women more than in men. This can cause chronic pelvic and lower back pain for many women that causes discomfort at night time. The groin pain can also cause shooting pains down your leg or stiffness in your hip movement. You can read more about the sacroiliac joint in my article about sacrum pain or sacroiliac joint pain: causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Sacroiliitis

A source of groin, lower back pain, and buttock pain in women is sacroiliitis, which is inflammation of the SI joint. The symptoms of sacroiliitis are similar to sacroiliac joint dysfunction and can cause pain from the groin that runs down just one leg or both legs.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the pain sacroiliitis causes is usually felt in the buttocks or lumbar region. However, groin pain and upper thigh pain are not uncommon. Standing in one place for a long time, climbing stairs, or taking large strides can aggravate the groin pain in women.

Back problems causing female groin pain

Female groin pain can also result from trapped nerves in the lower back area. This can cause pain on one side of the groin or thigh when resting, taking part in physical activity, or sitting down. Usually, the sciatic nerve is affected with this type of pain that starts in the lumbar region and can run the length of your leg.

Doctors from Harvard Health say that pain that is felt in the groin, buttocks, lower back, and legs is often the result of a compressed or injured sciatic nerve. The nerve damage can be caused by arthritis, injury, or overuse. The pain in the groin area will be a dull aching pain that feels like a burning sensation. Sciatica is also a cause of pelvic and buttock pain at night for many women.9

There are many effective ways of getting rid of sciatica at home. For example, you can use a tennis ball to relieve sciatic pain and help ease tension in your lower back. You could also try one of my great 10 tricks to outsmart sciatica or try techniques like yoga for sciatica and back pain.

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Infections that Cause Groin Pain in Women

Because there are many organs around your pelvic area and lower abdomen, inflammation, and infections in your bladder, urinary tract or kidney can also cause female groin pain.

Urinary tract infection

A common cause of groin pain in women is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Although UTIs can affect men and cause pelvic discomfort, infections of the urinary tract are more common in women than men. Of course, pain in the pelvic region won’t be the only symptom that women notice if they have a UTI.

According to doctors from the National Health Service, along with lower abdominal pain, you may have a frequent urge to pee and feel a burning sensation when passing urine. Very often, a UTI will cause your urine to look cloudy or dark and will usually have an unpleasant smell. If you have a UTI in your upper urinary tract, then you will have back pain as well as moderate to severe pain in your groin.10

One of the best ways to help prevent a urinary tract infection is to drink plenty of water. This will reduce the levels of acid in your urine and flush out toxins from your system. You can also try drinking baking soda and water to help get rid of the pain-causing acid in your urine. For more ways to treat a urinary infection, please read my article on natural home treatments for UTI pain.

Kidney infection

A source of groin pain, as well as flank pain in women, is a kidney infection. Like UTIs, kidney infections affect more women than men and can be a common reason for female pelvic pain.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic report that bacteria in your kidneys can cause inflammation and pain. The kidney pain will be felt in your groin, back or flank as well as mild to severe discomfort in the abdominal area under your ribs. The kidney infection will also cause a burning feeling when you urinate and the urine will smell bad.11

Among some of the best foods to boost your kidney health are watermelon, apples, lemon juice, and berries. You should also avoid many habits that can damage your kidneys.

Bladder disorder

Another reason for pain in the pelvic area for many women is a bladder disorder. For example, interstitial cystitis is a chronic bladder condition that causes bladder pressure and a frequent urge to pee.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, female pelvic pain caused by a bladder disorder is usually felt between the vagina and anus.12 A study from 1993 said that interstitial cystitis can cause severe groin pain and can disrupt sleep patterns because you have to urinate more.13

Other Reasons for Female Groin Pain

As well as infections, there are some other potentially serious causes of groin pain that can affect women as much as men.

Appendicitis

A dull ache that starts off in the middle of your abdomen and travels to your lower right side could be appendicitis. When your appendix becomes inflamed, it can enlarge and cause pain on your right groin and right abdomen. Usually, putting extra pressure on your right abdomen or coughing will make the pain worse.

The World Journal of Gastroenterology reported that acute appendicitis can cause swelling, tenderness, and inflammation in the right groin.14 Some of the other signs of appendicitis along with severe right-sided abdominal pain are vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, and a fever.

You should always see a doctor immediately for suspected appendicitis as it can quickly become a life-threatening condition.

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Kidney stones

Kidney stones can cause groin pain in many women that can be so severe that it’s difficult to stand. Kidney stones are small calcium or other mineral deposits that form in your kidneys. If they start to move through your urinary tract, you may experience sharp, excruciating pains in your belly and pelvic area.

Dr. Jennifer Sobol on MedlinePlus says that groin pain, flank pain, and back pain are common symptoms of kidney stones. You may also notice that there is blood in your urine and have symptoms of a fever. Dr. Sobol recommends drinking plenty of water to help flush out mineral deposits from your urinary tract.

Drinking apple cider vinegar is just one of the ways to treat kidney stones naturally. Apple cider vinegar helps to dissolve the stones and can be a refreshing tonic to keep your kidneys and gastrointestinal system healthy.

Inguinal hernia

If you have right side groin pain or left side groin pain and you notice a bulge or lump, it could be an inguinal hernia. Hernias in the pelvic area can be caused by straining during bowel movements, pregnancy, or chronic coughing or sneezing.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, inguinal hernias that cause groin pain in women can occur in the connective tissue between the uterus and the pubic bone. Also, pregnancy can weaken a woman’s abdominal muscles and cause a painful inguinal hernia.15

For more information about hernias please read my article about the differences between pulled abdominal muscles and hernia.

How to Treat Female Groin Pain

If an underlying medical condition is to blame for pain and discomfort around your genital area or lower abdomen, then it’s important to treat these conditions to get rid of female groin pain.

However, there are many effective home treatments that can help to relieve general groin pain in women and men.

Cold treatment

If you have injured your upper leg, lower back, or damaged your pelvic muscles, applying an ice pack in the first hours after injury can help to numb the pain.

According to Doctor of Physical Therapy, Dr. Ross Brakeville, you should apply ice to your inner thigh to help reduce groin pain and swelling.16

How to Use:

This is how to make and apply a cold pack for treating groin pain caused by a pulled muscle, ligament, or tendon:

  • Put crushed ice cubes in a plastic bag, seal it tight, and cover with a thin towel.
  • Apply the ice pack to your painful groin area and hold there for 20 minutes.
  • Repeat every 3 or 4 hours to help prevent swelling and bleeding in the muscle tissue.
  • Use for up to 2 days to help treat the pain and promote healing.
  • If the pain continues after 2 days, you should switch to a heat pack.

Heat treatment

Heat packs are a great way to naturally treat female groin pain that is caused by your menstrual cycle, bladder infections, or when recovering from a pelvic muscle injury. Heat helps to boost blood flow to the damaged or inflamed tissue and helps speed up the healing process.

According to research published by a group of researchers, heat pads and warm packs can help to ease abdominal and groin pain. Heat helps to increase blood flow to the uterus and pelvic area and helps to decrease the amount of pain that women feel.17

How to use:

To help relieve any kind of lower abdominal pain in women or groin pain sustained after a pulled muscle, this is what you should do:

  1. Make your own heat pack at home by filling a sock with rice and tie it shut.
  2. Microwave the rice-filled sock for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Remove from the microwave (making sure it’s not too hot to handle).
  4. Hold the heat pack to your groin area for 20 minutes at a time.
  5. Repeat 3 times a day to help quickly get rid of the pain in your groin.

You can keep the heat pack hot by re-microwaving it for a minute. Or, instead of a filled sock, you could use a hot water bottle and place it on your upper leg area for treating pelvic and abdominal pain.

Other Ways to Get Rid of Female Groin Pain

There are other ways that many women have found useful to get relief from pain affecting their groin.

Stretching exercises are useful to prevent groin injuries and prevent pulling a tendon in your upper leg. You can also use a foam roller to relieve lower back pain and stop pinched nerves causing groin or leg pain.

Essential oils have pain-relieving properties and can be useful in helping to calm your mind and irritated sciatic nerves. For example, chamomile, lavender essential oil, and peppermint are great essential oils for muscle pain relief.

For other ideas on getting rid of lower back pain and helping to relieve pain in your groin, please read my article on the best home remedies for muscle soreness.

Female Groin Pain – When to See a Doctor

As this article points out, there are many different causes of female groin pain. Many times, the pain at the top of your legs in your crotch is just due to strain or daily wear and tear. However, sudden pelvic pain can be a cause for worry.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend getting prompt medical attention for severe groin pain that comes on suddenly. You should also speak to your doctor about groin pain if it becomes chronic and affects your daily activities.18

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

    1. MayoClinic. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
    2. MSDManuals. Adnexal torsion.
    3. JSLS. 2006 Jan-Mar; 10(1): 74–75.
    4. MayoClinic. Endometriosis.
    5. 2014 Mar;258(1769):15-9, 2.
    6. PatientInfo. Ectopic pregnancy.
    7. WebMD. Groin problems.
    8. Spine-health. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
    9. Drugs. Sciatica.
    10. NHS. Urinary tract infections.
    11. MayoClinic. Kidney infection.
    12. MayoClinic. Interstitial cystitis.
    13. Contracept Technol Update.1993 Oct;14(10 Suppl):1-2.
    14. World J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jul 14; 13(26): 3631–3633.
    15. MayoClinic. Inguinal hernia.
    16. WebMD. Groin pull.
    17. WebMD. Researchers test heading pads as a home
    18. MayoClinic. Pelvic pain.
    19. MayoClinic. Uterine fibroids.
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