Factors influencing exercise-related transient abdominal pain

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 May;34(5):745-9. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200205000-00003.


Purpose: Exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP) is a widely experienced but poorly understood problem. This study examined the influence of age, gender, body mass index (BMI), training status, and sporting activity on the experience of ETAP and shoulder tip pain (STP). STP may occur as a result of referred pain from tissues innervated by the phrenic nerve; these tissues are implicated in theories proposed to explain ETAP.

Methods: A total of 965 regular sporting participants were surveyed from six sporting activities: running, swimming, cycling, aerobics, basketball, and horse riding.

Results: The prevalence (r = -0.28, P < 0.01) and severity (r = -0.17, P < 0.01) of ETAP decreased with age. Gender, BMI, and training status had no affect on the prevalence or severity of ETAP, but respondents who trained more frequently reported experiencing ETAP less often. Younger respondents were more inclined than the older respondents to report ETAP on the left side of the abdomen (P < 0.05). The prevalence (r = -0.11, P < 0.01) and severity (r = -0.37, P < 0.01) of STP decreased with age. STP was described as more severe (r = 0.23, P < 0.05) by respondents with high BMI values. Gender and training status had no influence on the experience of STP. Controlling for all other factors, ETAP was respectively 10.5 and 9 times more common (P < 0.01) in running and horse riding than cycling. STP was 13 times more common in running than cycling.

Conclusion: Training status alters the frequency of occurrence of ETAP but has little effect on the incidence or severity of the pain. Further, ETAP and STP decrease with age but are not related to gender or BMI.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology
  • Abdominal Pain / etiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Cramp / epidemiology
  • Muscle Cramp / etiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sports*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires