Why Do Your Ribs Hurt After Doing Situps?

Woman doing sit-ups
A woman is doing abdominal exercises. (Image: PIKSEL/iStock/Getty Images)

When participating in any exercise program, you will experience a fair amount of soreness, especially when you are first starting out. The important part is to know the difference between normal muscle soreness and pain from an injury. Often muscle soreness can escalate into injury when it is not cared for in the proper way; however, and it's important to listen to your body and know when to take appropriate action like rest, or even see a doctor.

Knowing the Difference Between Sore or Something More

It can often be difficult to pinpoint the origin of muscle soreness. Soreness that presents with insidious onset, no discernible mechanism of injury, diffuse muscular discomfort, and a general feeling of pleasure and relief with gentle stretching is generally indicative of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. This is normal and should be treated with ice, stretching, rest, and modified activity. The best way to get rid of DOMS is to continue moving and use physical activity to flush the muscles out. If you experience sharp, focal pain that increases with stretching and activity and does not resolve after several days of rest, you should seek medical consultation, as this can indicate a more serious injury.

Rib Soreness with Abdominal Exercises

If you experience soreness in your ribs after physical activity, it can be the result of the abdominal muscle exertion. The rectus abdominus, oblique, and transverse abdominus muscles, all the major muscles of the anterior abdominal area, all attach to the ribs and costal cartilage surrounding the ribs. When you perform strenuous core exercises, the muscles pull on their attachment sites, using them as levers, and become engorged with blood and acidic byproduct. As a result, they pull on their attachment sites after your exercises have ended. This can cause residual bone soreness on the ribs after activity that focuses on core strength, such as situps, and should subside after a few days at the most.

Preventing Future Soreness

In order to prevent a future in ongoing muscle soreness there is a couple of precautions one can take. Stretching before strenuous activity after a light warm-up is important to open the muscles to their full length potential in a gentle way. Physical activity is the best way to warm up muscles and prepare them for exertion. After a warm-up of several minutes, stretching every major muscle that will be used for 30 to 60 seconds each will protect them from damage and enhance flexibility, thus preventing future injuries and increasing your range of motion. Stretching after activity is as imperative to your physical fitness as pre-workout stretching and should be performed for an equal amount of time. To learn how to stretch accurately and thoroughly, enlist the help of an athletic trainer, physical therapist, or yoga professional who can help you tailor your stretching program to your personal needs. Consider adding yoga to your fitness regime for overall increase in total body flexibility as well as increases in endurance, balance, and strength training for smaller, often forgotten, muscles that assist in stabilization and posture.

Working Out Without the Doubt

Listening to your body is a very important factor for anybody leading an active lifestyle. Paying attention to the signals it's sending you can mean the difference between a strong and productive workout and a disabling injury. Take notice of the frequency of your pain, when you feel it, the type of pain--burning, stinging, dull ache, sharp, shooting, etc.--and what makes your discomfort worse or better. This will help you to get a better idea of your ailment and will be helpful should you need to seek further medical attention.

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