What are the Most Common Problems with the Inguinal Canal?

Sandra Koehler

The most common problems associated with the inguinal canal are round ligament pain, groin pulls, and hernias. These conditions are caused when there is damage to the structures of the inguinal canal, located in the pelvic area. Round ligament pain is when the band of fibers which support the uterus become stretched out, a common condition seen in pregnancy, which then causes pain in the pelvis. A hernia is an irregular distension of internal components into another area.

Wearing compression shorts can help prevent pain from an inguinal hernia.
Wearing compression shorts can help prevent pain from an inguinal hernia.

The passage which connects the abdomen to the genital area is called the inguinal canal. For men, this opening houses the cord-like threads known as the spermatic cord, which support the testes or reproductive organs. The round ligament runs through this space in women and supports the uterus.

Pregnancy may cause pain in the inguinal canal.
Pregnancy may cause pain in the inguinal canal.

Pain in this area and pelvis for women can be caused by a pulling of the round ligament. This is a common problem during pregnancy due to a stretching of the band's fiber when the uterus expands to accommodate the fetus. Round ligament pain can also be present due to strains causing micro-tears in the ligament, often experienced with forceful movements such as coughing or quick sudden movements.

An inguinal hernia occurs when the small intestine protrudes through the lower abdominal wall.
An inguinal hernia occurs when the small intestine protrudes through the lower abdominal wall.

A stretching of the supporting ligaments of the inguinal canal can occur with intense tightening or twisting of the groin area. This is commonly referred to as a groin strain or sports hernia. If inflammation with soreness in the pelvis or stiffness upon movement is experienced after strenuous exercise or if pain with excessive physical effort occurs, this could be a sign of an inguinal ligament strain or an inguinal hernia.

Surgery may be required to treat an inguinal hernia.
Surgery may be required to treat an inguinal hernia.

When material in the abdomen, usually part of the intestines, moves out of its position, it can project into the inguinal space or canal, creating an inguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia can cause a mass-like lump or bulge to appear in the pelvic area. This mass can also extend into the upper leg.

Soreness or pain in the pelvis following strenuous exercise may be a sign of an inguinal ligament strain.
Soreness or pain in the pelvis following strenuous exercise may be a sign of an inguinal ligament strain.

To prevent and treat an inguinal hernia, a comprehensive strengthening program of the core to help support and stabilize the trunk and hip area can decrease the amount of material pushing into the inguinal canal. If discomfort and pain continue with strenuous exercise, the use of compression shorts can often alleviate symptoms. In extreme cases where there is a large amount of abnormal material creating a bulge, surgical correction of the lump and repair of the ligaments may be necessary.

Overweight individuals may be susceptible to inguinal hernias.
Overweight individuals may be susceptible to inguinal hernias.
Chronic coughing may cause round ligament pain.
Chronic coughing may cause round ligament pain.
The inguinal canal is located in the pelvic area.
The inguinal canal is located in the pelvic area.

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