Niggling Groin Strain? Get an X-Ray!

12 02 2016

Around three years ago now, I started with a ‘niggling groin strain’ – I decided to google it, as you do. At first, I didn’t find the right information, despite looking in the right places, i.e. medical websites and things like running forums to find how people were recovering from such an injury (or not, as the case may be). But you need to do a lot of googling sometimes to find the real answers…

(No photos as I’m sure you don’t want to see my legs!)๐Ÿ˜†
The apparent ‘niggling groin strain’ started one day when I set off to walk home from nightshift. One of my legs felt decidedly odd and didn’t seem to be moving properly – it felt a bit like it had grown longer than the other and there wasn’t room to put it down properly. I now assume that was the initial stiffening.

It was very sudden indeed. I’d gone from having truly great and uncomplaining legs – the perfect walking companions in fact – to, from then on, struggling to walk properly at all. The pain wasn’t particularly noticeable though so I promptly went into ‘ignore’ mode. I tried alternating between trying to rest it for a day and then getting fed up and just walking and hoping it would ‘wear in’, which it did to a certain extent each walk.

After my initial set of googling, I accepted it as something annoying which would no doubt clear up eventually… I was very wrong! When it didn’t clear up towards the end of the second year and had started to be accompanied by other, seemingly unconnected leg problems, I finally went to the docs. I have to say they didn’t know the answers either and just sent me for physio.

The physio helped a bit… I’d gone in spring when I was struggling with getting fit after a not-as-active winter period. By the summer, I was out bagging my big hills in Scotland again and doing long days without too many problems.

The next spring the groin strain worsened again as I tried to get fit and I set about another bout of googling when I was bored at work one day. I’d also been comparing notes with very many other walkers and fellow walking bloggers – we all seemed to having the same problem, same symptoms, same reasons for flaring up – everything! By now my leg was collapsing at the hip whenever it felt like it and I had excruciating pain in my shins after a big day.

This time I found some completely different information. I can’t remember where but there was a suggestion my problems could be an arthritic hip joint. I thought this was rubbish as I apparently would never get arthritis as I have had osteoporosis since my very early 30s and you’re not supposed to get both. I’d even tried to confirm that last fact with the doctor but, unfortunately, he said it was rare but was possible.

The doctor this time was a very newly qualified, young doctor and he was extremely concerned when I said my hip collapsed when it ‘felt like it’. He suggested I should be referred for a hip x-ray as he suspected the hip was wearing out. Surely I should be feeling pain in my hip then? Apparently not.

While I waited for my x-ray, I ended up talking to a few people who had had hip replacements, some of them in their 20s. All confirmed the exact symptoms I was having as being indicative of a badly worn hip. Those symptoms are not obviously related but the absolute definite signs are:

Shin pain – this is because your worn hip is causing the tendons to try to rip off your shin bones – nasty if it manages! This seems to be the number 1 symptom and really does hurt!

Apparent and niggling groin strain – this is because the instability from the worn joint is pulling outwards on your groin muscles.

Sudden collapses of your hip joint when moving, especially when starting to move after being stood.

Stiffness at the start of a walk and again as you approach the end if you are building up your distance…

Knee trouble – your hip is giving it hell while it isn’t working. Problems tend to migrate down your leg and affect many parts of it.

Jerky movement of the hip joint when walking – stand naked in front of a mirror and walk on the spot. You may well see one hip working smoothly, as it should, and your other instead of doing an up and down movement, doing several intermediate wobbles for each step. You don’t notice this when walking – only in front of the mirror.

When you get the devastating diagnosis from your x-ray results, what can you do? Well, it possibly varies between people but I was caught while it was only half-worn out and the following is working extremely well for me.

Physio really is key. I have never had a medic or physio suggest walking poles to me. The reason I think physio is key is that you must get your muscles balanced and working together strongly and correctly – each muscle group has an opposite group to balance them out. The muscle which wasn’t doing a full job in my case was my gluteus maximus (glute) – a little bit of work and it’s as strong as iron now. This is a main protector of your hip joint as your surrounding muscles are to any of your joints. Strengthening that has made a huge improvement to my mobility and ability. In my opinion, using walking poles makes you lazy about using your muscles – with dire results. Don’t forget, we weren’t designed to walk with such aids.

Keeping moving – this is also key. My mother has been terribly arthritic for years and in great pain. But she always managed until she broke her ankle one year and was laid up. She put on weight and ‘seized up’ and has never regained her health or fitness since. My walking buddy Richard also has a worn hip and knee and he also finds that he must walk every single day and that the first half hour is painful and slow before he wears in. When he does wear in, he can go like a bomb as I can testify.

Keep the weight off – that is fairly obvious for any worn leg joint. This can also apply to not carrying too much on the hill as that is the same as being overweight as far as your body is concerned.

Stretching first thing in a morning. I have a very short routine I perform while I’m waiting for some hot water in the bathroom in a morning. As it comes from the garage downstairs, it’s a few minutes before I get some so the exercises are a good use of the time!

The stretches I do are as follows: Pulling each leg up to my opposite shoulder (or as near as possible to it) several times – probably about 5 repetitions each leg.

I then follow this by pulling my leg up to my shoulder and moving each foot around in circles in each direction (probably about 8 rotations in each direction per foot) – I started this as I started with ankle problems as well. It’s amazing how much moving your ankle around works your hip though…

Now things are starting to loosen up a bit after the preceding exercises, I do about 5 of the following for each leg – these are the crucial ones. Without helping with your hands and keeping your core absolutely still (this won’t work for the bad hip at first but soon comes) move your knee outwards as far as you can. Hold this for a few seconds. You can also do this exercise with both legs at once before you get out of bed if you prefer.

Sorry if this post is a bit long and from a non-medic but I have studied this for a while via various medical professionals, medical websites and, most importantly, fellow sufferers. The docs don’t know everything and everyone is slightly different so talking to other sufferers can yield great advice. I hope this is helpful to other wearing-out walkers…

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26 responses

8 03 2016
surfnslide

Interesting post and comments that ring true with me. I have knackered knees and plantar fasciitis in one foot. I also find walking on hard flat ground to be instantly painful when hill walking is tolerable. Also car journeys after a hike are bad news. I’ve just tolerate and manage the pain as best I can but by the sounds of it I’m not doing too badly compared to others. Old age comes to us all ๐Ÿ™‚

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9 03 2016
mountaincoward

I’m really getting to the stage where I can’t do a long car journey at all after even a small walk unfortunately. Now I just go straight home on the day I’m due back. The shin pain was so bad I couldn’t concentrate on driving!

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2 03 2016
fedup

Google is a great source of info once you’ve trawled through hundreds of pages of absolute twaddle!

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2 03 2016
mountaincoward

there are a few medical websites I use regularly written by either English or American doctors. I’m amazed they have time to put their knowledge out there but thankful they do – maybe they’re retired doctors but they’re knowledge seems up to date.

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26 02 2016
Paul Shorrock

I’ve had problems with sciatica for more than half a year now. A referral to the physio was a good start, and when specific exercises weren’t doing the job she offered an alternative of acupuncture – the result is amazing! I’ve managed to drop the industrial quantities of pain relief I was taking on prescription, and although I’m still suffering discomfort, at least it’s bearable. What’s more, as the physio is NHS I get the acupuncture treatment free!

What’s strange though is that I can have a long mountain day on rough ground carrying 7-10 kilos without any great discomfort, but still hurt a bit on a flat, steady cycleway when walking the dog!

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26 02 2016
mountaincoward

I’ve always held the belief that flat, steady, hard surfaces are the key to injury myself. If you’re on a softer, uneven surface, you’re using all your muscles at different times and I think the stresses get balanced all over your legs during the walk instead of hitting the same muscles the same way.

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14 02 2016
Mark

Sounds like you got some proper help. My advice is don’t Google, the web is jammed up with anecdotal rubbish. Go and see professionals who deal with the issues on a regular basis and who you can trust. Diagnostics is the key.

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19 02 2016
mountaincoward

Unfortunately, I find that GPs fall down on diagnostics which is why I never go to a doctor about anything unless I’ve got a pretty good idea what it is myself. Just a fault of them being ‘general’ practitioners rather than specialists (which I obviously need to see the GP first to get to see).

I spend a lot of time googling medical stuff and have found, if you stick to scientific studies (which can be dry reading) and medical websites who aren’t trying to sell you something, there’s some good advice out there. I always read a lot of different sources and compare them too.

Everything I get from the doctors, physio, x-rays, DEXA scans or other things are all things I’ve requested myself rather than anything I’ve ever been offered. That stems from my studies before I go to see them. I’ve never had them complain about it – I think they prefer it if you’ve ‘genned up’ on things first.

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20 02 2016
Mark

In the NHS there’s often a tendency for clinicians to act as gatekeepers. Basically services are rationed so those most at need and who can benefit most from treatment get it. Despite being a nurse I try not to over estimate my understanding of the complex A&P and other issues effecting the symptoms which has led me to seek help. Maintaining an open mind on the matter is usually my best resource!

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20 02 2016
mountaincoward

Yeah, I know my mother said she got more attention taken of her for her arthritis because, although she was ‘an old dear’, she walked in like a determined and active old dear!

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13 02 2016
underswansea

Hi Carol, are you and I related? – ‘I promptly went into ignore mode’ and ‘hoping it would wear in’. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt! ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, you offer up some good advice. Take care, Bob

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14 02 2016
mountaincoward

I think a lot of us stick our head in the sand and hope medical stuff will go away. Probably a dangerous approach though!

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13 02 2016
tessapark1969

Good luck with it. Keeping the weight off has always been my issue – I’m naturally big which doesn’t help (long line of fatties lol)

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14 02 2016
mountaincoward

At least you’re doing the right things to try to keep it off. To be honest, if I ever have to give up my walking, I’ll end up a huge blob as I love my food too much, especially my puds! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Being tall helps enormously in keeping weight off though.

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13 02 2016
McEff

Thanks for that, Carol, and I hope things are improving for you. There’s some useful information here. I am a great believer in keeping active, and keeping muscles and tendons supple as we get older.
Cheers, Alen

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13 02 2016
mountaincoward

I might be writing another post sometime about ways to keep your legs moving while driving on very long journeys (like I do regularly).

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13 02 2016
McEff

I’ll look forward to that. Do a couple of paragraphs on how to stretch your back when you get out of the driver’s seat.

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13 02 2016
mountaincoward

It does involve the back slightly as I’ve started having trouble with disintegration of my spine too

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13 02 2016
McEff

Sad to hear that. Keep plodding on!

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14 02 2016
mountaincoward

It’s okay, I’ve got a gun for if I end up not being able to do anything! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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12 02 2016
Robinho Outdoors

Good luck with the recovery. I’m struggling with lower back and hip pain at the moment. Got my physio appointment next week. Totally agree with stretching and keep moving. The pulling your knee towards your shoulder definitely helps the hip too.

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13 02 2016
mountaincoward

Thanks Robin. I’ve actually found that, now I do my little stretching routine every morning, I don’t actually have to do any of the physio’s exercises (although my morning routine is based on what she told me). But you really do have to keep moving – if I don’t walk every day, I suffer.

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12 02 2016
smackedpentax

This is a great help Carol, and I am pleased that it hasn’t stopped you from hiking. We are all getting older and it is good to know what to look for should it happen…I had a knee op last June and the physio and especially exercise really helped.

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13 02 2016
mountaincoward

I just wish I could convince my mother. She’s really just given up lately. I suppose it’s her age but it’s sad. I remember when she used to come out on the hills with me ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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12 02 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

Being honest I’m amazed you can still do really long days over Munros Carol. Myself and Alex can hardly get out the car after a big day up the lesser hills and the thought of doing two Munros in one day now fills me with horror. It’s why I vary my outings so much as my knees start to complain badly if I do too many steep hill days without a break in-between.
On our last outing we were just pondering on how many hill years we had left in us as 20 to 30 good hill days would finish Alex’s Corbett’s and Donald’s list.
Roll on that day :o)

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13 02 2016
mountaincoward

I can’t imagine doing Donalds – I don’t even know what the criteria is! I won’t be doing the Corbetts either as I don’t think I have that many actual hill days left in me either – I’ve only done 30 so far! I’ll be doing some of the best ones though ๐Ÿ™‚

By the way though, I find driving after a walk really wrecks my legs. I try not to walk on my driving-home day any more…

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