Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Lower Spine News

Motor Control of Abdominal Muscle Linked to Groin Pain

Studies of patients with low back and sacroiliac (SI) joint pain have shown the effect of the abdominal muscles on chronic pain. In particular, the transversus abdominis (TrA) that wraps around the abdomen is important. Back and SI pain are linked to changes in the timing of the contractions of this muscle. Maybe groin pain can also be linked to the TrA muscle.

In this study, a group of 10 Australian football players with chronic groin pain were examined. EMG (electrical readings) of the three parts of the abdominal muscles were measured while raising the leg off a table. Each person was tested while lying down on his back.

The TrA was one of the abdominal muscles tested. The results were compared to a group of 12 subjects who were healthy and free of any groin pain. The authors report a delayed response in the TrA muscle contraction for the injured football players compared to the healthy subjects.

This study couldn't answer the question of which came first: groin pain or delayed muscle contraction? It's possible that pain causes a change in motor control of the TrA. The results of this study at least help physical therapists manage patients with chronic groin pain. Giving patients an exercise program to restore neuromotor control of the TrA is a good first step.


Sallie M. Cowan, et al. Delayed Onset of Transverse Abdominus in Long-Standing Groin Pain. In Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. December 2004. Vol. 36. No. 12. Pp. 2040-2045.

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