Oblique Pain When Sitting: What It Is and How to Fix It

If you’ve been experiencing oblique pain from sitting at your desk all day, you’re likely in good company. While it may seem strange that your sides, stomach and back can be strained by sitting, it’s a common problem among office workers in particularly.

The pain is usually caused by your upper body movements while you sit. Such oblique pain can lead to worsening health conditions that can affect your day-to-day life.

Knowing the signs of oblique strain, though, as well as what to do to prevent and remedy it are important to ensure good health, comfort and more.

What Are My Obliques?

Your obliques are long muscles located in your mid to upper torso. These muscles assist you in stretching, turning, and twisting.

You have internal and external obliques that contract and relax at different times as you turn your body. Internal obliques are lower on your body, located right above your hips. The external obliques are located higher up near your rib cage. Both of your obliques are separated by the large muscle in the center of your stomach. This muscle is called the rectus abdominus.

Both sets of obliques are used whenever you twist or turn your body.

Why Does Sitting Cause Oblique Pain?

When we sit for long periods, we put a lot of the pressure of gravity onto our obliques to hold us up. We do this subconsciously, so many don’t even realize that these muscles are constantly working.

If you often twist, turn, and stretch to reach things from a sitting position, you could be straining and injuring your oblique muscles. This is especially true if you are consistently twisting your torso daily, resulting in strain over time.

Another factor that can add strain to your obliques is a poor posture that adds more weight to your sides rather than proper distribution across your upper body. It’s important to make sure you have the right chair and desk set-up to optimize your comfort and posture.

Studies conducted on oblique activity show that they activate during both sitting and standing. The muscles can grow exhausted from consistent positions where your lower body is static while your upper body moves side to side.

How to Prevent Oblique Pain

Oblique pain is preventable by regularly doing abdominal and oblique workouts, including core training like sit-ups and side stretches. Maintaining a regular fitness regime that incorporates your obliques will keep them from stiffening, as well.

However, do not overdo the workout. This can result in a strained oblique that will cause you pain and discomfort. These workouts must be done gently and without any intensive movements. A rigorous session of crunches, for example, can be considered trauma to the area and cause lasting damage.

How to Cure Oblique Pain

Physical therapy can be a huge help in relieving this pain and strengthening your obliques.

Medical professionals recommend utilizing the P.R.I.C.E. method — protection, rest, icing, compression and elevation. If you are experiencing oblique pain, the best way to remedy it is to stop using them and let your body be horizontal as much as possible.

Certain muscle exercises and gentle stretching help reduce pain and improve muscle tone, so you avoid re-injuring the same area. Resistance exercises and core exercises help with core stability and muscle tenderness.

Cold gel therapy and hot/cold packs are best for easing sharp rib pain and abdominal discomfort. Sometimes it is also recommended women wear a support brace to offset the weight their breasts place on the obliques. We recommend consulting a doctor before implementing any of these measures.

Consequences of Oblique Pain

Pain in your obliques can be symptomatic of something worse and can contribute to discomfort in other parts of your body. Leaving oblique pain untreated can result in severe discomfort or pain in your groin, bladder, urinary tract and testicles.

The discomfort in these areas can also lead to incontinence in some that require medical attention to remedy. It is vital to your well-being that you see a doctor about any of these symptoms to prevent more serious conditions from developing.

Ignoring sharp pains, stiffness and general sensitivity could mean you are ignoring the signs of something more serious.

Health Conditions Associated With Oblique Straining

oblique pain when sitting
Source: Shutterstock

Hernia

Hernias are a serious cause for concern and usually very painful. A hernia happens when an organ is partially pushed through, and this most commonly happens in the torso area.

If there are openings or weak spots in your abdominal wall or obliques, this can result in a hernia. Common feelings include sharp pains, extreme tenderness and a swollen area.

Muscle strain

People associate muscles strains and tears with playing sports and injuring a knee muscle, leg muscle or ankle muscle, but all of your muscles can suffer from a strain or tear, causing you a great deal of pain.

If a strain — especially a tear — is left untreated, it will only worsen and cause permanent damage to that muscle. Generally, rest and icing are recommended for remedying a strained muscle. A torn muscle should be left to relax and recover fully before resuming normal activities.

Anterior Cutaneous Nerve Entrapment Syndrome

This can occur in children and adults and causes acute abdominal pain in the nerves in the abdominal wall. The nerves are pinched or trapped within the abdominal wall.

The pain associated with anterior cutaneous nerve entrapment syndrome is described as a sharp pain over a small area. It causes tenderness and stiffness in the affected area that many ignore as just normal discomfort.

Ignoring these symptoms can lead to permanent damage to the abdominal wall. You must see a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms for extended periods.

Hematoma

A hematoma is essentially a really bad bruise. It can be indicative of serious underlying issues and may also be a symptom of extremely strained obliques. The blood pools underneath the skin, creating a lumpy, dark surface that is usually highly sensitive.

Like a normal bruise, a hematoma should fade over a short time. If it doesn’t, you should see a doctor to determine the cause of the pooling blood.

Conclusion

The list of possible health conditions associated with oblique pain is only a fraction of possible conditions oblique pain could be indicative of. If you experiencing oblique pain, you must assess your daily torso twists and movements.

Physical therapy exercises, consistent changing of positions at work and an awareness of the seriousness of oblique pain will help prevent an underlying issue from developing.

Oblique pain from sitting is a sign that you are putting excessive strain on your oblique muscles in your daily activities, and the worst thing to do is ignore the pain and expect it to resolve itself.

If your oblique pain is causing you daily discomfort and chronic pain, it may be time to visit a doctor to ensure there isn’t something more serious going on.

FAQs

Can I have oblique pain from standing all day?

Studies have found the oblique muscles are not put under as much strain from standing but are still strained. You can experience oblique pain from standing, but it is likely to be less prominent than pain from sitting.

What else causes oblique pain?

If you don’t sit or stand all day at work but have oblique pain, you may be wondering what could cause this.

Oblique pain can result from any of the following activities:

  • Rowing
  • Raking leaves
  • Chronic or persistent coughing
  • Lifting heavy loads
  • Using shovels or pitchforks
  • Playing golf or baseball

Oblique pain can also be directly caused by a harsh blow to the abdominal area resulting in a strain or tear.

How do I know it is oblique pain?

Sometimes it can be hard to know if you are straining your obliques. Many people chalk up the pain to soreness from ab workouts or stomach discomfort.

The symptoms of oblique straining include:

  • Stiffness in the morning
  • Consistent aches when moving or twisting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Sharp pains near the rib cage

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