After a strenuous abdominal workout, your stomach muscles may feel sore, tight and irritated. You may also experience sore abs after playing sports as many of these utilize your core.
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Muscle soreness is normal after a good workout. It normally starts a few hours after your workout and fades within a few days. Don't suffer while you wait — instead, relieve your sore stomach muscles with home remedies and over-the-counter care.
Rest and Adjust Workout Intensity
If you are extremely sore or your muscles are painful, rest for a few days before returning to your workout routine. Avoid strenuous exercise and deep tissue massage.
Having a sore core after workout is likely due to doing too much for your fitness level or from doing a new type of exercise your body isn't used to.
Reduce your workout to one set of core exercises and build up to adding additional sets as your soreness decreases after each workout. Alternatively, do fewer repetitions per set during your core workout.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness from exercise is believed to be caused by small tears in the muscle fibers. When your body heals these tears, it makes your muscles stronger and better able to handle the stress of a workout.
An over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, will help reduce muscle swelling and relieve pain and soreness. Acetaminophen will also help to reduce pain. Follow the recommended dosage instructions on the bottle.
Prolonged use of NSAIDs may cause stomach problems. Summit Medical Group recommends not taking the medication for more than 10 days. Consult your doctor if you are still experiencing pain.
Heat and Cold for Sore Abs
A hot bath or heating pad will help to soothe and relax sore stomach muscles and reduce stiffness. You can also use a washcloth soaked in warm water or a hot water bottle. Do not apply heat if you have inflammation or swelling. A light massage may also help.
While heat may feel more soothing, a cold compress or cool shower or bath is the better option for healing the cause of the soreness and decreasing inflammation, states the National Kidney Foundation. Apply cold for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Stretch Your Core Muscles
Walking or light stretching helps relieve sore abs and increase your mobility. Try ab stretches such as touching your toes and carefully twisting from side to side after you exercise to reduce muscle pain afterward. Cool down after your workout with a walk or light jog and stretching to help prevent severe soreness.
Read more: Why Does Stretching Relieve Sore Muscles
Consult Your Physician
Normal muscle soreness should start to improve after a few days. If it stays the same or gets worse, contact your doctor. You should also seek medical attention if the muscle soreness is so severe that you cannot complete normal daily activities. You may have a more serious condition like a muscle strain or tear that can take six weeks to heal.
If you experience pain that starts during your workout or is located in the joints, stop exercising immediately and consult your doctor as this is not normal muscle soreness.
Read more: Sore Muscles? 8 Tips to Ease the Pain