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That Core is on Fire: Treatment Options for Pain in the Abs

By Martha Michael

Benefits of a Strong Core

Getting fired up at the gym sometimes leads to burning embers afterwards. It can be uncomfortable -- or even debilitating -- if pain to the muscles in your middle are left untreated.

When Your Core is Sore

If you leave the gym feeling like you won the war, but later feel like the victim of a scorched earth campaign, you may have "delayed onset muscle soreness," which can occur about 24-48 hours after working out. If it’s acute, you’re probably overdoing it, but if it’s relatively mild, it’s typically a sign your fitness technique is working, according to a Harvard University study.

To improve your strength and gain results, you can expect some level of soreness to your core. When you commit to a balanced regimen, core strength leads to better athletic performance, flexibility and overall fitness.

While trainers and yogis have core strength on the radar, they often emphasize abdominals while overlooking some of the accompanying muscle groups, including the pelvic, buttock, side and back muscles.

Like a tree, you need to build strength in the muscles surrounding the trunk to maintain the flexibility needed for a variety of movements. Your core is the center connecting your upper body to your lower body.

Benefits of a Strong Core

There’s nothing about having a strong core that’s bad.

Maximized Job Performance - Your core and your career may be more closely linked than you know. Jobs in some industries. such as manufacturing and construction, have an obvious need for muscle strength. But even administrative tasks from computer use to phone calling may be impacted by the health of your core. Sitting at a desk for long periods can affect your spine if you don’t use proper posture, which is made easier with a strong core. Benefits of good posture include:

  • Less wear on the spine
  • Better breathing
  • Confident appearance
  • Flattering silhouette

Athletics/hobbies - A stronger core makes virtually every sport easier to enjoy, from running and swimming to golf and tennis. The movements you need for racquet sports require both strength and flexibility, while gardening involves bending and lifting that is controlled in the trunk. When you’re puttering in the garage or doing housework, you’re likely to reach forward and move side to side, sometimes lifting and thrusting heavy objects such as a vacuum.

Everyday activities - Getting showered, putting on clothes and standing in line at the bank are all behaviors requiring work on the part of your abdominal muscles. While the activities seem mundane, your lifestyle suffers if you don’t make sure they’re handled, and you can’t tend to responsibilities if you’re injured.

Taking the Sore Out of the Core

If you found yourself boot camp bingeing or kicking up your cardio and now you’re paying the price, don’t worry -- treatment is available.

Abdominal soreness is part of the program, but there are methods for minimizing the pain, which is outlined in an article on the Arizona Republic’s website,

Stretching - It’s a good idea to spend time stretching both before and after your workout, but when you first get out there, be sure to warm up so you don’t get injured trying to stretch cold muscles. Your post-workout stretching is aimed at relieving strain in your core.

Men’s Health suggests the cobra pose used in yoga because it works on your glutes, abs and lower back. To begin, you lie face down with your hands under your shoulders and, using your arms, push your core off the ground, leaving your hips on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds; then repeat.

Ice - It’s easy enough to remember: When pain is heating up, use cold for relief. It’s a better treatment for soreness than a heating pad because lower temperatures close vessels, which reduces the lactic acid rushing in. You can even take an ice cold bath, but don’t submerge your chest because the cold water can cause injury.

Take your time - Recovery time for your muscles requires a break from your fitness routine. Stay at home for a few days so you don’t injure your abdominal muscles. If the pain doesn’t die down with a temporary breakup, see your chiropractor.

Chiropractic Core Care

Determining the cause of your abdominal pain is a necessary first step in getting relief from core soreness. By offering a detailed description of your fitness experience, your chiropractor can help diagnose the cause of your pain and give you feedback about the progress you’re making.

Devising an effective fitness plan may be part of your chiropractic care, and you may be advised to alter your workouts while receiving treatment. Your doctor of chiropractic can offer relief as well as identify the focal point of your pain.

Like a controlled burn, there’s a time and place for fire. A wildfire is a natural part of its ecosystem and the same is true for core-strengthening exercises. But you want to burn off the dead wood without burning the trunk beyond repair.

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