Dedicated runners will usually find themselves hurt at some point in their lives, be it something as minor as a pulled muscle or serious as a ruptured ligament. Occasionally, runners will suffer a tear in their abdominal wall muscles, also known as a hernia. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, runners most often suffer from what's referred to as athletic pubalgia, or sports hernia.
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Sports hernias most often occur in sports where you plant a foot and torque your body in any particular direction; however, sports hernias can also occur in runners gradually over long periods of time. The soft tissue in the lower abdomen begins to slightly tear or pull apart. Traditional "inguinal hernias" often occur when you attempt to lift something too heavy and create a large tear in the intestinal wall. The primary difference between an inguinal hernia and a sports hernia is that the intestines push out against the opening with an inguinal hernia.
You will usually feel immediate pain in the area of the abdominal tear after suffering the injury. This pain may subside with rest and several days of a sedentary lifestyle, but upon returning to your regular exercise routine the pain will most likely come back. What makes sports hernias so difficult to detect is that they don't produce a bulge, unlike an inguinal hernia. Twisting or jarring movements like running or changing direction may cause the pain to worsen.
If you feel you may have a hernia that was caused by running, make an appointment to see your primary care physician immediately. Upwards of 90 percent of sports hernias won't require surgery, according to the AAOS. Icing the area for the first seven to 10 days may help reduce pain and inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen as well. Physical therapy designed to build supporting muscle along the abdominal wall will almost certainly be necessary for four to six weeks.
Sports hernias often occur due to a weakness in the core muscles. Exercising your core muscles to increase strength and stability is the most effective way to prevent a tear from occurring. Plyometric-based training using medicine balls or just your body weight are excellent and safe ways to build core muscles. Medicine ball twists, lower back extensions and oblique exercises are all effective movements to build core strength.