Swelling in the abdomen after exercise can signal a serious injury or medical condition that requires a doctor's attention. It's important to understand what causes abdominal swelling after you exercise -- and how it can be treated and prevented.
Swelling can appear as a visible bulge in the abdomen. It can be accompanied by discomfort, tenderness, nausea, vomiting, bruising and skin warmth. In addition, the skin of the abdomen can appear bruised or discolored. You can also notice mild to extreme pain, limited stability or even loss of mobility. These symptoms can begin minutes after exercise and can last for more than 72 hours.
Swelling in the abdominals can be caused by several conditions. Muscle overuse, in which you overwork muscles and don't take adequate breaks, can cause swelling, inflammation and pain. In addition, sprains and strains can occur in the muscles and tendons of the abdomen, resulting in swelling. It can also be due to a hernia, a condition in which the internal body contents protrude through the abdominal muscles, according to The Merck Manuals. You can also develop swelling in the abdomen due to water retention.
To treat abdominal swelling, rest your body, avoiding exercising until the symptoms dissipate. This helps prevent further swelling and injury. Wrap a cold pack in a towel and apply it gently to your skin to reduce inflammation and any pain. If you suspect water retention, drink more water to flush out the digestive system and kidneys. If you develop a hernia, you must seek medical attention to have it surgically repaired by a doctor.
To prevent swelling in the abdomen after exercise, the Merck Manuals website recommends warming up before you exercise. Warming up helps physically warm up and stretch your muscles, including the abdominals. This makes them stronger and less susceptible to injury. In addition, it's important to cool down after exercise, allowing your heart rate and muscles to gradually return to normal. Do not overwork the abdominal muscles. Take breaks as needed and allow 48 hours to pass between abdominal workouts.