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Cross Training For Runners

Running with an Abdominal Strain: How to Safely Return to the Road

9 Mins read

Got a pesky abdominal strain that’s been cramping your running style?

Well, my friend, fret no more because I’ve got some valuable insights to share with you.

You see, abdominal strains are no walk in the park, whether they sneak up on you after lifting heavy weights or working tirelessly in the yard.

But fear not, for I’m here to shed some light on this dreaded injury and provide you with the knowledge you need to conquer it.

In today’s article, we’ll unravel the mysteries surrounding abdominal strains, from their elusive symptoms to effective treatment and prevention methods.

Ready? Let’s hit the ground running!

What Is An Abdominal Strain?

Abdominal strain are an unwelcome guest that can wreak havoc on your running journey. You see, when it comes to stomach pain, an abdominal strain is one of the usual suspects.

Picture this: your hardworking abdominal muscles, stretching, tearing, or even taking the plunge and completely rupturing. Ouch!

And the pain? It’s no joke.

Imagine a sharp sensation that strikes when you cough, sneeze, take a deep breath, laugh, or even make a simple movement involving your trunk. It’s enough to make you cringe. These strains come in various flavors, ranging from a mild stretch that gives you a little trouble to a full-blown rupture that knocks the wind out of your sails.

Now, let’s talk about how these sneaky strains make their grand entrance. They often crash the party during intense or excessive training sessions, catching you off guard like an unexpected twist in a thrilling plot. But they’re not limited to the gym.

Oh no, these troublemakers can strike when you least expect it—think lifting something heavy without proper form, skipping that crucial warm-up routine, or even engaging in a fit of laughter that leaves you clutching your side.

Heck, they might even ambush you when you’re innocently coughing or sneezing. Talk about adding insult to injury!

The Main Symptoms

When you tear one of those hardworking abdominal muscles, your body has a way of making its presence known.

Picture this: you’ll start experiencing a delightful combination of discomfort and pain, particularly when you’re on the move. It’s like having an unwelcome guest that just won’t leave your party.

Laughing, coughing, and sneezing become bittersweet experiences, as they come with an added side dish of sharp, stabbing pain. It’s as if your body is playing a cruel joke on you, reminding you of your strained muscles at every opportunity.

But that’s not all—oh no, there may be some other sneaky signs hiding beneath the surface. Look closely, and you might notice swelling, as if your body is puffing up like an angry blowfish, showing off its battle scars.

And let’s not forget the lovely shades of purple and blue that might grace your skin, creating a living canvas of bruised artwork.

As if that’s not enough, you might also experience stiffness around the affected area, especially after an extended session of sitting, as if your muscles are staging a mini-revolt, reminding you that they’re not too happy with the situation.

So, my friend, if you’re nodding along, recognizing these telltale symptoms, it’s time to address the issue head-on. But fear not, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll not only delve into the signs of an abdominal strain but also explore effective strategies to alleviate the discomfort and speed up your recovery.

Additional resource – Your guide to runners cough

Can You Run With An Abdominal Strain?

Ah, the burning question on every runner’s mind: Can you continue pounding the pavement with an abdominal strain? Well, my friend, the answer isn’t as clear-cut as black or white—more like a swirling shade of gray. It all boils down to the severity of your condition, the delicate balance between pushing through the pain and prioritizing your recovery.

Now, if you find yourself grappling with a mild to moderate level of discomfort, you might just be in luck. Feel free to lace up those running shoes and hit the road, albeit with caution. Think of it as a dance with your body, an intricate tango where you listen closely to its signals and adjust your moves accordingly. You see, running can actually stimulate blood flow to the injured area, promoting healing and providing a gentle massage to those protesting muscles.

However, my friend, I must interject with a word of caution. If the pain persists, taking on a more menacing form that refuses to back down, it’s time to reevaluate your game plan. If you notice a dramatic escalation in pain or an explosion of colorful bruising, it’s time to put a temporary halt to your running endeavors.

Instead of stubbornly forging ahead on your usual route, it’s time to take a detour—straight to the nearest emergency room. Let the experts examine you, uncover the secrets hidden beneath the surface, and guide you towards a proper course of action. Sometimes, a brief pause can be the key to long-term success.

Additional Resource – Why Do I sweat too much while running?

Grades of Severity

Let’s delve into the different shades of severity when it comes to abdominal strains. Picture it like a spectrum of pain, ranging from a gentle breeze to a full-blown storm.

Understanding these grades of severity will be your compass on the road to a speedy recovery.

First Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain

First up, we have the gentle whisper known as a First Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain. Think of it as a mild stretch, a gentle reminder that you may have pushed your abdominal muscles a tad too far. In this case, only a handful of muscle fibers are affected, causing localized swelling and pain. Ah, the sneezes, coughs, and deep breaths that bring forth discomfort.

But fret not, my friend, as there is a silver lining. No actual loss of strength accompanies this grade, and with a little time and self-care, your body will bounce back to its former glory.

Second Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain

Now, let’s turn up the intensity a notch with the Second Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain. Here, we’re dealing with a more moderate to severe strain, where a greater number of muscle fibers have endured the battle.

Brace yourself for serious pain coupled with a hint of swelling and partial muscle weakness. For runners, this grade can be particularly debilitating, launching a surprise attack of sudden abdominal pain, tender to the touch, accompanied by an unwelcome guest called redness. But fear not, for knowledge is power, and armed with this understanding, you can navigate the stormy seas of grade 2 with resilience and determination.

Additional Resource – Running while constipated.

Third Degree Abdominal Muscle Strain

This is the pinnacle of severity, where one of the abdominal muscles has experienced a complete rupture. Picture it as a tempest unleashed, causing serious swelling, intense pain, and bruising.

And alas, the muscle’s strength has vanished into thin air. It’s a dire situation, my friend, and one that requires immediate attention. Should you choose to ignore the warning signs, you might find yourself in the clutches of shock, with its accompanying troupe of vomiting, nausea, profuse sweating, pale skin, a rapid heart rate, and the struggle to catch your breath.

In such dire circumstances, my dear friend, remember that 911 is the answer, as professional help is needed to steer you towards safety.

Strain Vs. Abdominal Hernia

Let’s unravel the difference between two similar yet distinct entities: strains and hernias. Think of them as two characters in the grand narrative of abdominal discomfort, each with their own story to tell.

First, let’s shine the spotlight on our protagonist, the abdominal hernia. Picture it as a daring escape artist, a renegade organ breaking free from its confines.

An abdominal hernia occurs when an internal organ or body part boldly protrudes through the tissue that should be containing it. This act of rebellion brings about mild discomfort, pain, or a peculiar pressure sensation localized to the affected area. But here’s the twist, my friend—movement becomes the antagonist, intensifying the pain with every step you take.

Whether it’s running, engaging in core training, hoisting heavy objects, or simply trying to sit up, the stress on your abdomen triggers a symphony of discomfort.

Now, let’s shift gears and shift our focus to our second character, the abdominal strain. Imagine it as a mischievous jester, wreaking havoc within the kingdom of your abdominal muscles. Unlike our renegade hernia, an abdominal strain doesn’t involve organs making a grand escape.

Instead, it’s a tale of overstretching, tearing, or even rupturing one of the four mighty muscles within your abdomen.

When an abdominal strain takes center stage, you’ll experience a different kind of sensation. It’s a performance of discomfort, pain, and yes, even agony, limited to the area of strain. Picture it as a localized battle, where the affected muscle cries out in protest.

Additional Resource – Here’s the full guide lower abdominal pain while running.

abdominal strain 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.


First and foremost, my friend, it’s crucial to embrace the concept of rest. Yes, I know it’s tempting to brush off the injury as a mere inconvenience, but trust me when I say that skipping on rest will only exacerbate the situation.

You see, your abdominal muscles are not just busy during runs; they play a pivotal role in your everyday movements, from sitting to standing and even lifting heavy weights.

They are the unsung heroes of your running journey, providing power, stability, and maintaining proper form. So, for the sake of your recovery, grant yourself a few days of respite and allow your body the time it needs to heal.

Apply Ice

Now, let’s talk about the power of ice therapy. Picture it as a soothing balm for your strained muscles. By applying ice to the affected area promptly, you can alleviate stiffness and limit any internal bleeding, expediting your recovery process.

Experts recommend embracing the chilly embrace of ice for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day, during the initial 24 to 48 hours of the injury’s acute stage. Embrace the coolness, my friend, and let it work its magic.

OTC Medicine

When it comes to combating inflammation and finding relief from the persistent ache, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can be your trusted companions.

Consider the likes of ibuprofen, but do keep a watchful eye on potential side effects and ensure you follow the recommended timing. It’s a delicate balance, my friend, harnessing the power of medicine while staying mindful of its impact.


And now, let us wrap ourselves in the comforting embrace of compression. Imagine it as a gentle hug for your troubled abdomen, a supportive corset or brace designed specifically to manage abdominal strains.

Seek out one that provides constant compression, offering relief from the pressure and pain without overwhelming your healing muscles. Remember, my dear friend, the key is to find the perfect balance, offering support without suffocation.


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 Abdominal Strains In Runners

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.

Warm Up

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.

Get Strong

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

What’s more?

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.

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