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Groin Pain and the Upper Leg

The “groin” refers to the grouping of muscles that join the legs to the abdomen. A number of problems can cause pain in the groin area, the most common being muscle strains. While many of the common internal causes of groin pain generate from the abdomen or reproductive organs, there are some causes of groin pain that can originate in the leg, such as a femoral hernia.

A hernia occurs when tissue pokes out through its casing. This is most common in the abdomen, however sometimes a small bit of intestine can poke through the wall of the femoral canal, located just below the inguinal joint in the groin. The femoral canal houses the femoral artery (the major artery leading from the trunk of the body into the leg), as well as veins and nerves. Women are roughly three times more likely to suffer a femoral hernia than men.

The exact cause of femoral hernias is often unknown and varies from person to person. Some people are born with a weakened femoral canal, leaving them more susceptible to herniation. Others experience a weakening of the femoral canal over time. Placing too much strain on the walls of the femoral canal can certainly contribute to its weakening. Some common sources of overstraining include: childbirth, straining to move bowels while constipated, chronic coughing, enlarged prostate, lifting excessively heavy amounts, and being overweight.

Small to moderately sized hernias often do not yield symptoms, leading to the patient frequently being unaware of the problem. Large hernias, however, are more noticeable. The patient may experience pain on the affected side of the groin and may notice a visible bulge in the groin area, near the upper thigh. The patient may even experience pain in the hip. The pain and bulging may become more noticeable when lifting heavy objects, standing, or straining in some other way. In severe cases, the hernia may obstruct intestines, reducing blood flow – this serious situation is known as strangulation or strangulated hernia. Strangulation can lead to severe tissue damage and tissue death. Contact a doctor immediately if you begin to experience stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting – an emergency procedure may be necessary.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam to diagnose a hernia. He may include X-Rays, MRIs, or ultrasounds in his examination. Smaller hernias may not require treatment, while large hernias generally require surgery to repair.