Musculoskeletal system

Oblique strain: 8 Causes, 8 Symptoms & 6 Treatments

The oblique strain is associated with the oblique muscles. Oblique muscles are a bunch of abdominal muscles. The oblique muscles form the connections of the body parts; the upper part joins with the ribs while the lower part is connected with the hip portion.

These muscles are important for the sideways movement of the body and the twisting of the trunk.

There are two types of oblique muscles:

External oblique muscles:

These muscles are located at the outer portion of the body just below the skin.

Internal oblique muscles:

These are located on the inner side of the external oblique muscles on both the sides.

Oblique muscles are helpful in various body movements and are used while a person is involved in sports activities or work conditions which are associated with heavy weight lifting. Therefore, it is observed that the sports people are prone to an oblique strain.

Causes of Oblique Strain:

oblique strain
Oblique strain
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Oblique muscle strain is caused due to some sudden heavyweight activity which results in a sudden pressure on the side muscles. These may be a result of some sports like tennis, golf baseball etc. or may be a result of strenuous workout out which includes sit-ups or crunches.

Apart from these, there could be reasons associated with an injury to the abdomen which could be caused because of some accident. Some of the general cause of oblique strain includes:

  • Persistent sneezing and coughing by the person
  • Sitting at one particular position for long hours
  • Lifting of heavy weights
  • Abdominal exercises without proper guidance or training.
  • Irregular posture of the person
  • Injury to the person caused due to some accident
  • Activities like rowing, paddling, and swimming.
  • Post-surgery which could result in some wound after the surgery.

Symptoms of oblique strain:

Every type of strain is different in the symptoms it produces as well as the location where the oblique muscle pain is occurring. Some of the Symptoms associated particularly with oblique strains are:

  • Stiffness in the body usually early in the morning when you wake up
  • Aching
  • Shooting pain located at the lower portion of the abdomen.
  • Pain in the abdomen usually while bending or twisting of the body
  • The weakening of the abdominal muscles
  • Swelling near the sides or the abdomen area
  • Bruising
  • Pain when a person sneezes, coughs, laughs or during deep breathing.
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Oblique strain usually results from the relaxation and contraction of the side muscles. Especially the pain in case of minor strains is high as the person tries to engage in his normal workout, these results in the breakage of the microscopic fibres located in the abdomen area.

The pain due to an oblique strain is sometimes that the daily activities associated with them also suffer a lot and a person is not able to perform his regular exercises or able to perform in his work. This is often accompanied by swelling and bruising at the site of strain.

Treatment of Oblique Strain:

There are various ways of treating a side strain. The treatment option varies with the medical practitioner and the person. One person might get the positive effect from one treatment way while the other person might benefit from another treatment way. Some of the treatment ways are mentioned below:

RIC techniques:

RIC means rest, ice and compression.

Rest: It involves taking a break from the strenuous physical activities as they could interfere with the healing process and can also result in worsening the situation.

Ice: Ice is an effective remedy for the treatment of strains. Ice compress should not be applied directly to the affected part as directly applying may result in cold burns. Ice should be packed in a towel or a cloth and then applied to the affected area.

Compression: Compression involves tying an elastic bandage over the affected area. Wrapping a bandage helps in faster healing of the affected area.


Heat should not be applied to the affected area for the first 72 hours. However, after the 72 hours, heat can be similarly applied to the affected part as it is done for the ice water.

Heat should also be applied using a hot water bottle wrapped in a cloth or a towel, or one can apply a heating pad to the affected area.

The process can be used for 15-20 minutes and should be repeated after an hour.


A deep tissue massage can also help in the healing of the area. Massage can help in realigning of the collagen tissues, increasing the blood flow to the affected area and help in relaxing the muscles.

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However, it is important that the massage is carried out by an expert who knows the technique of it, else, it might cause more harm than doing good.


Mild exercises and stretches can also aid the healing process. These exercises should be done after there is an initial recovery of the body and should be done after consultation and guidance from the doctor. Exercises such as stretches, push-ups, and yoga have been found useful in the recovery.

Some of the exercises that have been found useful for oblique strain are:

Side plank:

This involves lying down on the injured side and lifting the knees and the arms up. The body in this position should be help for 20 seconds before going to rest position.


This involves standing with the feet part. Raising and bending the hand from the side of the injury to the other side. You should hold this position for around 30 seconds and then release and come to rest.

Upward facing dog:

This involves lying on the floor with legs stretched and the hands parallel to the shoulders. Push the upper body up while the legs are remaining on the floor. The body should be arched while doing this exercise and should be held for 10-30 seconds in that position.

Pelvic Tilt:

This involves lying on the back, bending the knees and keeping the feet flat on the floor. This involves pulling the belly button towards the spine and pushing the lower back towards the floor. This involves holding the position for 15 seconds and then relaxing. The exercise can be repeated 15-20 times.

Other exercises include Abdominal drawing in manoeuvre, partial curl, Dead bug posture, diagonal curl etc. However, you should do the exercises with the medical advice, and should check for the right postures, doing wrong postures can result in harm to the body and could make the condition worse.

One should also follow some diet after the exercise which can help in the faster healing of the oblique strain. One can consume some energy drink or shakes which can help in faster recovery.

The drink could be a smoothie with fruit or a milkshake. One can have a drink which is rich in both carbohydrates and proteins resulting in faster recovery from the strains.

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One should also increase the intake of water while doing these exercises. Water should be taken before the workout, during the workout and after the workout.

Muscles mostly constitute water, so it is essential to have sufficient intake of water.

Over the counter medicines:

The doctor may also suggest some medications to reduce the swelling, inflammation, and pain associated with it. The doctor may prescribe Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for relief from the associated pain with the oblique strain.


Back braces are used to provide support to the oblique muscles. Back brace can help provide support to the back and the oblique muscles.

These are especially useful for the people who can’t take a break from the daily work, and their regular job will include some amount of bending or lifting. This can help them continue the work and also help in the healing of the strain.

There is always a question regarding the time an oblique strain would take in healing. Some people recover faster, however, in some people, it takes a longer time. It depends on the level of injury as well as on the body type.

Generally, the recovery from the strain, if proper care is taken, happens in a couple of weeks. However, it might take 4-6 weeks in case the injury is serious. Since the time of recovery has a lot of variabilities, one should not compare, instead should consult a doctor in case of any doubt.

After the healing of the Oblique strain has taken place, the person can do his regular activities and come back to work.

One should not get stressed out because of the pain and discomfort associated with pain. Side strain is prevalent to have, and many people are suffering from these. Following doctor’s advice using the medications suggested and doing the exercises in a way directed by the doctor will help in the faster recovery of the person.

One should not rush for the recovery as it would lead only in prolonging the recovery time and in some instances even permanent damage.

As a preventive measure, one should practice proper postures while sitting, working and doing physical exercises. Health lifestyle practices also help in avoiding injuries to the body.


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  1. I fractured 4 ribs on my left side 5 weeks ago From a fall in the street. My husband says I may have injured my oblique. I still cannot take a deep breath without pain & it hurts to reach for anything from my left side.Swelling is still present in the area I fell on.Should I go back to my doctor or do what is suggested in your article?