Oblique Muscle Strain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery

What are Oblique Muscles?

Oblique muscles are the group of abdominal muscles mainly and are vigorously active in athletes and people who do regular exercises. These oblique muscles are utilized for maintaining balance, different types of activities or movements or strength. Besides, these muscles also functions in lifting heavy objects or vigorous exercises, so both men and women may experience severe oblique muscle strain and pain. Hence, it is important to keep the knowledge about the signs and symptoms of oblique muscle strain or where these muscles are located and finally how to treat a strained Oblique Muscle without further damage. However, if oblique muscle strain symptoms persists or remain untreated it may result in worsening and chronic pain.

What Can Cause Oblique Muscle Strain?

What Can Cause Oblique Muscle Strain?

The abdominal oblique muscles generally functions at the time of bending forward or sidewise or sometimes during twist movement around waist line. Any sudden forceful movements are responsible for oblique muscle strain. Any kind of high-intensity exercises like crunches or sit-ups or any sort of sports like baseball, tennis or golf can cause Oblique Muscle Strain. In short, exhausted or overused muscles or any type of abdominal injury or trauma can cause oblique muscle strain which may include the following:

  • Chronic coughing or sneezing spells can cause oblique muscle strain
  • Sitting for long time at one place
  • At the time of lifting heavy materials, there is a chance of straining the oblique muscles
  • Abdominal exercises without preparations
  • Unimproved posture
  • Direct punches or anything hitting the abdomen directly can also cause oblique muscle stain
  • During rowing, paddling, raking soil or bowling in cricket
  • Wear and tear of abdomen or any type of surgery in abdominal region resulting in formation of wounded tissues.

What are the Symptoms of Oblique Muscle Strain?

  • A strenuous injury in any of the abdominal oblique muscles either due to overstretching or partly torn can cause severe oblique muscle pain as well as muscle weakening. Oblique muscle strain can show symptoms like stiffness and aching. This oblique muscle strain can ultimately result in shooting pain in the lower chest region followed by the side of the abdominal portion and increases more by twisting or bending the trunk forcefully. The severe pain can cause wear and tear of muscle fibers of the trunk.
  • After a strain happens, oblique muscles make you experience severe stiffness once you wake up from the sleep in the morning. This oblique muscle strain is too stiff to resist you from doing daily works.
  • Oblique muscle pain usually generates during contraction and relaxation of muscles and even during resting time.
  • Minor oblique muscle strain results in worst pain only at the time of extreme exercises or any physical activities, whereas severe strain of the oblique muscle causes swelling, bruising or weakening of adjacent oblique muscles of the trunk. Sometimes it may happen that one may feel severe tender sensation or elevated pain in chest or abdomen at the time of laughing, deep breathing or coughing and sneezing.

Treatment for Oblique Muscle Strain

Treatment for Oblique Muscle Strain

Ice Compression Treatment for Oblique Muscle Strain

Putting ice on the strained area helps to prevent pain and inflammation by limiting the blood flow to that injured region. However, never put ice directly on the skin over Oblique Muscle which may result in ice burns. Try to use either ice pack or crushed ice within some cloth or packet. This ice pack is suitable for the first 48 hours of injury then shift to heat treatment. Ice pack need to be applied for 10-20 minutes and then applied again every 3-4 hours. In case if your skin turns red or pink color avoid using ice pack immediately. You can also put compression bandage over the affected area to reduce pain.

Heat Treatment for Oblique Muscle Strain

Avoid using heat treatment within 72 hours of injury. After 3 days of using ice compression, you can shift to heat application on the injured oblique muscle using hot bath or hot water bottle or just heating bag. Heat helps the strained oblique muscles to relax completely and stimulate nutrients and blood flow to the affected tissues thereby helps in healing process. Do not apply heat treatment directly on the skin which may result in burns; rather wrap up the heated bottle or pad in some towel and apply for just 10-20 minutes and leave 1 hour gap before reapplication.

Massage and Rest to Treat Oblique Muscle Strain

Typical sports massage also helps in the healing of abdominal oblique muscle strains. You can also go for cross friction massages mainly on the tendon muscles which help in realignment of collagen fibers. Massages also improve blood circulation and relaxation of tight muscles.

Beneficial Exercises for Oblique Muscle Strain

Although the below exercises are good for healing up of muscle strains but before starting them, consider consulting a doctor. Some of these exercises are:

  • Stretching Exercises for Abdominal Oblique Muscle Strain: Stand and keep your feet shoulder-width apart and then bend in reverse direction to touch your feet. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then come to the normal position.
  • Planking Exercises for Oblique Muscle Strain: In a push-up position, put your hands under your shoulder and place both feet hip-width apart with neck and spine in one line; this position helps to compress gluteal muscle. Hold this position for 20 seconds and then come to original position.
  • Side Planking Exercises for Oblique Muscle Strain: You have to bend knees and lie on your injured side and lift up with the help of the arm on that side and rest in this position for 20-25 seconds.
  • Upward face Exercises for Oblique Muscle Strain: Lie down facing the floor and extend both the legs. Then place both the hands in parallel just below the shoulders and push your upper part and arch your back without disturbing the legs. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds.

Medicines to Treat Oblique Muscle Strain

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Aceclofenac or Diclofenac help to decrease swelling, inflammation and pain associated with oblique muscle strain. However, follow medications as per doctor’s advice only.

Rest is the best option to cure oblique muscle strains. Try to rest as much as possible to fasten the healing process of the strained oblique muscles and avoid any type of activities or movement that can accelerate your oblique muscle injury.

Warning Signs to Notice for Oblique Muscle Strain

Few warning signs are mentioned below which might lead to oblique muscle strain in future:

  • If you are unable to walk in proper steps due to any sort of pain.
  • Numb Sensation in the trunk or abdominal region.
  • Not able to fold your joints.
  • Any kind of discomfort or burning feelings in the urinary tract, abdomen and groin area.
  • Pain in the back or in the ribs during deep breathing.

If you are facing any of the above signs then don’t ignore these medical conditions and rush to physician as soon as possible. All these warning sign may cause strain in oblique muscle of the abdomen or rectus abdominal muscles. Mild sprains and strains can be treated at home only.

Ways to Deal with Oblique Muscle Strain

  • Recovery Period for Oblique Muscle Strain: Oblique muscle strain is actually very much painful and takes more than 3-4 weeks to heal up. If the oblique muscle injury is more and pain is severe then healing process takes several weeks. However, one can take immediate medical help if following signs are noticed:
    • If you don’t get relief after 24 hours home remedy.
    • Popping sound while bending joints.
    • Not able to move or walk.
    • Severe pain along with swelling or increased body temperature.
  • Prescribed Medications: Always try to follow doctor’s instruction and prescribed medication such as NSAIDs, other muscles relaxants analgesic or any type of pain management medications for devastating injuries of the oblique muscles. In case, the oblique muscle pain doesn’t subside with these, seek help immediately.
  • Surgery: In case of torn oblique muscle or severe injuries or if the oblique muscle injury doesn’t heal up appropriately, doctor may prescribe surgery.
  • Rehabilitation: Physiotherapy or rehabilitation is sometimes required in healing up of strained oblique muscle. During rehabilitation procedures don’t try to operate or drive any machinery or vehicle.


Oblique muscle strain is one of the most common medical ailments that may not require medical or surgical aid unless the oblique muscle injury is in severe conditions. The only simple way to heal this strained oblique muscle is to take enough rest, pain medications and few home remedies like ice compression or heating treatment. However, if the condition worsens with critical symptoms then urgently seek for medical attention.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 3, 2018

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