Right Upper Quadrant Pain During Exercise

The adage of "no pain, no gain" does not apply to any sharp or sudden pain that occurs during exercise. In fact, any pain that lasts beyond a day or so, or occurs with no change in your workout, should be evaluated by a health care provider. In general, though, pain in the midsection during exercise is most often due to muscle strain.

Never ingnore acute pain during exercise. (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images)


Right upper quadrant pain is pain that occurs in the stomach area below the ribcage on your ride side. The pain can be sharp or dull, can start suddenly or build slowly. To get an accurate diagnosis from your health care provider, note how the pain starts and how you characterize it.

Muscle Strain

The most likely cause of right upper quadrant pain during exercise is a strained or overworked muscle. Strained muscles occur when the tissue of the muscle tears or over-stretches, causing pain. This can happen to any muscle, including the internal and external obliques which extend up through the upper abdomen. Crunches done improperly can cause injury to the obliques. Additionally, a chronic strain can occur when you repeat a specific motion for a long period of time, such as swinging a golf club or playing tennis.

Other Causes

Upper right quadrant pain can also be caused by infection or inflammation of the digestive tract. Exercising can exacerbate the inflammation, causing pain. Affected organs can include the pancreas, the stomach or the colon. Additionally, if you have gallstones, they may become painful during vigorous exercise; however, it is unlikely that pain would be the only symptom in these cases, and you may also have nausea or a fever. If your upper right quadrant pain is accompanied by other symptoms, seek treatment from a health care provider.


Treat a muscle strain with rest and over-the-counter pain medications. Use ice on the affected area for 15 minutes at a time, every two or three hours. There is no need to awaken during the night to ice the injury, but try to sleep in a chair or recliner that doesn't allow much movement to give the injured muscle a chance to rest. Most muscle strains take several weeks to heal, but seek medical intervention if your pain does not diminish after a couple of days. Once the pain isn't as intense, do light stretches to help heal the injury.

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