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How you can avoid injuring the adductor muscles when running

For runners, straining the adductor muscles can lead to groin pain. If untreated, it can result in a more serious injury. Here's how you can avoid it

Don't ignore a proper warm up before your run.
Don't ignore a proper warm up before your run. (Istockphoto)

Two weeks ago, I decided to go for a long weekend run. The weather was fine, and it seemed like a good idea. Except that by the time I had run about 11km, I felt a weird pain in my pelvic region. I stopped, stretched a bit, and once I felt good again, I continued running and finished after hitting 13km. The next day, however, the pain had returned and it made squatting or even walking feel a bit weird. I realised, after a lot of research, that I had injured my adductor muscles. 

The hip joints that we use for running and other activities, do more than just allow forward and backward movement. They also facilitate a wide range of movement, including outwards, inwards and rotational moves. A few muscles help us in these movements, including the adductors, which pull the thighs together and rotate the upper leg inwards, as well as stabilise the hip. An adductor injury is fairly common, and can be understood through some tell-tale signs, including pain in the inner thigh, swelling, bruising, decreased strength in the upper legs, a snapping sound and difficulty in walking or running.

Also Read: Common running injuries and how to avoid them

Why exactly does it happen? Why did it happen to me? Was it the distance? Was it improper gait? I asked an expert.

“Adductor strain can happen in runners due to practicing on uneven surfaces, running very fast or changing direction too quickly while running. It can also happen if you are running from side to side. Improper warm up can also lead to pain in adductor muscles and can lead to muscle tear as well. Besides this, excessive and over enthusiastic training can also lead to adductor injuries in runners,” explained Dr Subhash Jangid, director and Unit Head, Bone and Joint Institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram.

Also Read: Why it's important to warm up before your workout

What I had done, though, was slightly different, but equally dangerous for runners. “Many people don’t give sufficient time for recovery in between training and this can lead to adductor strain as well. Plenty of runners increase their mileage rapidly and that leads to lot of problems including adductor strain. Always follow the 10% rule, that means you should never increase your mileage by more than 10% per week,” Jangid said.

I have learnt my lesson and have created a plan which allows me to increase my weekly mileage slowly. But just doing that isn’t enough. Because the underlying concern of an injury needs to be addressed. “One should build strength and flexibility with proper training. Always start slow when you are starting the practice after a break. Proper diet and adequate supplements will remain an integral part of the training.  If you are suffering from adductor strain, identify the cause and take remedial measures,” said Jangid. He also advised that in such cases, one should take adequate rest, apply cold compression, and, if required, take anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication. 

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A good way to stretch the muscles is the lotus pose or padmasana. Sit on the floor/ yoga mat, bend your legs slowly, roll your left ankle and place it on the right thigh. Similarly guide your right ankle to sit on the left thigh. Before you start your run, do warm up. Include adductor-specific warm up as well, such as leg swings and leg cradles. Avoid over extension while running and instead increase your cadence (the number of steps you take in a minute). 

There is also no one-size-fits-all treatment to any sports injury. In the case of an adductor injury, the recovery time can vary from person to person. A grade 1 tear can subside within a week with proper rest. A grade 2 tear requires two to three weeks and must include proper rest from running as well as strengthening exercises. A grade 3 tear, by far the slowest to heal, can take between six to eight weeks and might require a doctor’s intervention as well. However, the best remedy for each of these is prevention. Make sure you do your warm up properly, increase your distances slowly, and, most importantly, ensure that your running form is correct and not an invitation for fresh injuries. 

Also Read: Why it's important to cool down after a workout

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