Thinking whether you should keep on running with an abdominal strain?
Then you have come to the right place.
Abdominal strains, whether you got one from lifting too much weight or working in the yard, really suck.
But the injury isn’t a death sentence.
In today’s article, I’ll dive into what abdominal strains are all about, the main symptoms, how to treat & prevent them so you can keep (return to) running pain-free.
Let’s get started.
What Is An Abdominal Strain?
Stomach pain could indicate many possible problems. One of the most common ones is what’s known as an abdominal strain.
The condition refers to any overstretching, tearing, or rupturing of one—or more—of the abdominal muscles.
When you experience an abdominal strain, any one of the main muscles within your abdomen can be injured which results in harsh pain while coughing, sneezing, deep breathing, laughing, or any other trunk movement.
The strain can vary in severity ranging from a mild stretch to a complete rupture.
The condition typically happens during intense or excessive training. They could also strike when you make a sudden, fast movement like lifting something heavy, improper warm-up, sneezing, laughing too hard, or even coughing.
The Main Symptoms
The symptoms are quite easy to tell.
When you tore one of your abdominal muscles, you’ll experience discomfort and pain, especially during movement.
You’ll likely feel pain during laughing, coughing, and sneezing. In some cases, you might also notice swelling, bruised skin, or stiffness around the affected area, especially after prolonged sitting.
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Can You Run With An Abdominal Strain?
This is what brought you here, and the answer isn’t all black or white, as it really depends on the severity of your condition.
If you’re dealing with mild to moderate pain, feel free to keep training.
But if pain persists, especially if it’s getting worse or you see a lot of bruising, instead of running your usual route, “run” to the nearest ER to get checked.
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Grades of Severity
Understanding levels of severity can help you make a quick recovery.
Most abdominal strains are classified according to the severity of the injury.
The three categories include:
First Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain
Grade 1 consists of mild stretching of an abdominal muscle and can cause localized swelling, pain (especially with movements, such as deep breathing, sneezing, or coughing).
Only a few muscle fibers are mildly overstretched or torn. The muscle might be swollen and painful, but there’s no actual loss of strength and will recover on its own without further treatment.
Second Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain
Grade 2 consists of a moderate to relatively severe strain with more muscle fiber.
Depending on the number of fibers torn, grade 2 may cause serious pain, coupled with mild swelling and partial muscle weakness.
This is why it might be quite debilitating for runners, as you’re likely to experience sudden abdominal pain, localized swelling, noticeable tenderness, and redness.
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Third Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain
Grade 3 is the most severe injury. It consists of a severe strain in which one of the muscles has experienced a complete rupture either at its origin, insertion, or midsection.
This serious injury results in serious swelling, pain, bruising, as well as complete loss of muscle strength.
Left ignored, you might experience the symptoms of shock, including vomiting, nausea, profuse sweating, pale skin, rapid heart rate, and difficulty breathing. 911 is the answer!
Strain Vs. Abdominal Hernia
Though strains and hernias have a lot in common when it comes to symptoms, they aren’t the same.
In short, an abdominal hernia refers to the protrusion of an internal organ or body part through the tissue that contains it.
When you have a hernia, you’ll feel mild discomfort, pain, or a pressure sensation limited in the affected area. Pain gets worse with any movement that puts stress on the abdomen, such as running, core training, heavy lifting, or sitting up.
On the other hand, as I explained earlier, an abdominal strain is simply the overstretching, tearing, or rupturing of one of the four muscles within your abdomen.
Additional Resource – Here’s the full guide lower abdominal pain while running.
How To Treat Abdominal Strains
Here are the steps you need to take to help you soothe the pain of pulled stomach muscle.
This might go without saying, but many runners refuse to take time off simply because they think it’s not a serious injury. But you’re only making things worse by skipping on rest.
The truth is that not you’re using your abdominal muscles while sitting, standing up, and lifting heavy weights but during a run too.
Your abdominal muscles are some of the most important running muscles. They help you generate power, stay stable, maintain proper form—I can go on and on, but you get the picture—hopefully.
That’s why to ensure a swift recovery, limit your training for a few days until the pain decreases.
Ice therapy can help you soothe some of the stiffness caused by the injury.
The sooner you apply it to the affected area, the sooner you limit any internal bleeding; thus, the quicker you recover.
Most experts recommend applying cold for 15 to 20 minutes three to four times per day in the first 24 to 48 hours during the acute stage of the injury.
To help reduce inflammation and soothe the pain, consider taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen but always keep an eye on the side effects and timing.
Another measure to help soothe pressure and pain in the affected area is to use compression.
I’d recommend an abdominal brace or corset to provide you a constant compression. Choose one designed to manage abdominal strains without putting too much pressure.
In some cases, massaging the site of the strain may also help with recovery. This can be done by applying pressures on the tendon, where it attaches to the bone.
I don’t know much about the science, but it appears that massage may help realign new collagen fiber and limit the formation of adhesions and sticky bits in the tendon.
How To Prevent
The best way to manage abdominal strains is to not have them in the first place. Prevention is better than cure, as the old saying goes.
Take the following steps to protect yourself against abdominal strains while exercising.
As far as I can tell, the most common reason behind muscle strains during exercise boils down to a failure to warm up properly.
You can’t just jump into training without warming up—especially if you’re planning to do speedwork or something intense.
Instead, spend at least 10-15 minutes warming up.
I’d recommend you jogging slowly for five minutes to elevate your heart and breathing rates. Then perform a series of dynamic exercises, such as inchworms, leg swings, deep squats, lunges, and the sort—all of which will get your muscles ready for intense exercise.
A strong muscle is likely to tear or become compromised.
Check the following routines:
Build Proper Technique
Whether you’re doing sprints on the track or heavy squats in the gym, proper form cannot be ignored.
Proper posture also matters when you’re not exercising. More importantly, avoid prolonged sitting in one position—this places additional pressure on your abdominal muscles
When you try to lift a heavy object, engage your core, bend at the knees, then use your lower body muscles to lift, keeping the weight close to your body.
Stay Within Your Fitness Level
Want to prevent trouble in the future? Avoid overworking your muscles.
If you’re taking up exercise for the first time, whether it’s running, weight lifting, whatever, start slowly and build it gradually to more intense training.
Don’t try to bite off more than one can chew —or else you hurt yourself, and that’s just bad.
Consult your Doctor
Consult your doctor in case of pain hasn’t faded in spite of taking some of the above measures.
They might recommend an ultrasound in order to check if there’s just a tear or an ongoing hernia.
Next, your doctor’s advice about running with abdominal strain will depend on the nature, location, severity of the tear, as well as your fitness and health levels.