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What is an Oblique Muscle Strain?

A rarely discussed but increasingly common sports injury is the oblique muscle strain. Oblique muscles are also often referred to as abdominal muscles. The internal oblique muscles are attached to the ribs and located between the ribs and the pelvis, while the external obliques lie closer to the skin surface.


Professional athletes frequently suffer oblique injuries, also sometimes referred to as “side strains,” when the oblique moves to a sudden state of contraction after being in a stretch position. The most common immediate symptom is a sharp pain near the chest, on the side of the body. Injured obliques could also cause a pulling sensation. A number of varying activities can strain these particular muscles, including bowling, javelin throwing, swinging a baseball bat, weight lifting, and even side sit-ups, just to name a few. Generally an oblique strain involves slight tears in the muscle, although the muscle can rupture in extreme cases.

Symptoms of an oblique strain can be multifaceted, including weakness, swelling, pain, and bruising, but sometimes breathing or laughing can aggravate symptoms. Diagnosis can be difficult due to the unique placement of the injury, but examination by a health care professional is encouraged, and an MRI or Ultrasound may be necessary to accurately pinpoint the location and severity of the injury.

Unfortunately, oblique strains are notoriously difficult to treat because the abdomen itself cannot be splinted. Additionally, the oblique muscles are active in almost any movement by the human body, so they rarely can be sufficiently rested. Rest and gentle stretching are the two most common natural treatments. A cortisone shot can be injected at or near the injury site to and expedite the healing process. Most athletes are sidelined for two to four weeks when oblique injuries strike, in order to fully allow for recuperation.


The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.