Physiotherapy for Abdominal & Groin Injuries

Being bipedal creatures, we place a lot of strain and pressure on our abdominal wall and groin by simply remaining upright. When referring to the abdomen and groin we’re talking about a network of muscles and ligaments that extend from your belly to below your hips, all vital to maintaining balance, posture, and healthy gait. Any kind of injury in these areas is often quite debilitating as it affects basics of life, namely walking and standing up. Physiotherapy is absolutely key in restoring functional mobility and quality life.

Common abdominal and groin injuries

Good examples of commonly occurring abdominal and groin injuries include:

  • Abdominal strain – is quite tricky to diagnose because it can present with what feels like stomach ache. A strain is muscle tear that occurs when said muscle is forced beyond its capacity. These fit into any one of three categories. First degree strains are very minimal and localised to a few muscle fibres. Second degree strains affect more fibres, and third degree strains are ruptures of the whole muscle. First and second degree strains can present with a milder pain, however a third degree injury will result in an immediate and extremely sharp pain and an inability to move. Third degree injuries also can result in a hernia, or a bulge of soft tissue poking through.
  • Gilmore’s Groin (sports hernia) – a consequence of kicking, this condition involves soft tissue damage to a sheet of tendons belonging to a set of abdominal muscles called the Internal and External Obliques. The result is a symptomatic pain during twisting and turning that radiates towards the testicles. Both movement and anything causing abdominal pressure like sneezing or coughing will cause pain. This condition is quite difficult to diagnose and is often caught by physios of some experience in the field.
  • Inguinal hernia – Not unlike Gilmore’s Groin, Inguinal hernias often occur in people playing kicking sports where you twist your hips powerfully. A hernia, as discussed before, is a protrusion of soft tissue, and in this instance it occurs in a weak section of the abdomen called the Inguinal region. Typically abdominal muscles become elastic prior to herniation.
  • IlioPsoas Syndrome – The IlioPsoas muscle is in fact composed of two different muscles, the Iliacus and Psoas, both of which are found in front of the hip and quite deep within the thigh. This is the muscle involved in flexing the hip (hence why this type of injury is known generally as a hip flexor injury) and hence in kicking. This syndrome is a combination of the inflammation of the IlioPsoas bursa (a small sac of fluid lubricating the tendon’s movement over bone) and of the IlioPsoas tendon. The condition will often present in pain within the hip and stiffness.

Physiotherapeutic management of abdominal and groin injury

Some abdominal and groin conditions like Gilmore’s Groin and the Inguinal hernia are difficult to diagnose as they present with generalised symptoms that are easily mistaken for back injury or the like. Physiotherapists with experience in the field are very qualified to distinguish between such injuries because of the nature of their assessment, exploring the precise nature of the injury in the context of your patient history.

While some conditions like herniation require surgery or other medical treatments, there are a number of physiotherapeutic measures your physiotherapist will use to aid your recovery. The first stage will be applying compression and an ice pack to lower swelling and limit any bleeding, your physio will often recommend wearing warm compression shorts.

Again the key stages of physio rehabilitation include strengthening the muscle. Six week programmes are typical in which exercises are gradually increased in intensity, recruiting more muscles and strengthening the injured area and its supporting structures. Common physiotherapeutic tools used here are resistance bands, and Swiss balls. Both pieces of equipment are used to strengthen the core, in particular the Swiss ball, which is essentially a large inflated ball upon which exercises are performed. The instability introduced by moving on a large ball forces muscles in your core and legs to work to keep balance.

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