The adductors, those fanlike muscles in the groin and upper thigh, are responsible for pulling your legs to-gether. There are few sports that demand such movement (equestrian sports come to mind—it’s the adduc-tors that allow riders to tighten their legs against the horse—and soccer, where much of the kicking forcecomes from these muscles), but people experience adductor problems because the muscles have another jobas well: they work to stabilize the hip. Ballet dancers use their adductors a lot as pulling-up muscles, verysubtle rotators. And the adductors change their function depending on how much you flex or extend your hip.They’re good-sized muscles, and they’re used, and abused, more than you might imagine.

Some adductor injuries can be awful. Although stretching and strengthening probably will help mostadductor problems, the rest seem never to get better. Some people hurt for years without relief. They mayimprove, but whenever they get to a certain level in their activity, back comes the pain again. These cases area mystery to everyone involved.

+ What to do about it + Stretching and strengthening the muscles is the best bet. You can stretch theadductors in a number of ways. If you’re standing, simply pull your leg out from your body—the farther thepull, the longer the stretch. To strengthen, pull the leg back to the midline and then beyond, crossing your legsin front of you. An inner tube looped around a table leg can provide resistance, as can someone holding on toyour leg.

While the adductors are best stretched and strengthened with the knees and hips straight, as whenstanding or lying down (this places the muscles in the position in which they’re actually used), you can alsogain some benefit by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together. Hold yourfeet with one hand and with the other gently push against the injured leg—the inside of the leg, not the knee.The longer the push, the greater the stretch. To strengthen, pull the leg back against the resistance of yourhand. You can do contract-relax exercises in this way as well.

If the muscles don’t respond, see a doctor. You may be in that 50 percent or so whose injury is a bearto treat. If so, you and your doctor can struggle through the dark together.

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