ZocdocAnswersWhy does my lower abdomen hurt while running?

Question

Why does my lower abdomen hurt while running?

I enjoy running to improve my overall conditioning, but I notice that sometimes I get a pain in my lower abdomen on the right-hand side. I was talking with my sister who is an avid exerciser and was told that the problem was related to not having enough oxygen. My sister also said that the pains were cramps. Because I also have high blood pressure, I thought regular exercise would help improve my heart rate and help lower my blood pressure, but I am concerned about having a heart attack while exercising.

Answer

Regular exercise is always a good thing, as long as your doctor has told you that your heart is healthy enough for exercise and you do not over-exert yourself. Pain in the lower abdomen during exercise can be related to a few different things, which is why you should see a primary care doctor or general surgeon. Probably the most common is just the kind of vague crampy abdominal pain everyone gets when they really push themselves exercising. The jury is out as to exactly why this happens and it is not really all that well studied. Some say that it is due to exertion of the diaphragm (the muscle the expands your lungs) during rapid breathing. Often this type of pain will improve as you become more fit from a regular exercise regimen. Another possibility is that the pain could be an actual cramp of one of the muscles that form the boundary of the abdomen. This can happen when muscles are working hard enough to use up all the energy molecules in the muscle cells, causing them to be unable to release from a state of contraction. This can be caused by over-exertion, abnormalities in electrolytes, or poor oxygen delivery (this is uncommon, but when it happens it is either due to decreased blood flow or decreased oxygenation of the blood). The final common reason for exercise-related lower abdominal pain is also why you should take a trip to your primary care doctor to discuss these symptoms. Sometimes vague lower abdominal pain during exercise can be the result of a hernia. A hernia is any defect in the abdominal wall. Large hernias cause a bulge in the groin, but small hernias may have no associated bulge and can only be diagnosed by your doctor. Hernias should be diagnosed and treated promptly by a healthcare professional, because occasionally intestine can get trapped in a hernia requiring emergency surgery. It is most likely that your symptoms are something benign, but you should see a primary care doctor or general surgeon who can check to make sure you do not have a hernia or that there are any other factors in your specific situation that may suggest a medical problem.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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