• Abdominal Muscle Strain

    (Pulled Muscle in Abdomen; Strain, Abdominal Muscle)


    An abdominal muscle strain is a partial or full tear of the small muscle fibers in the abdomen. The abdominal muscles are grouped around the abdomen and trunk. They make up the core muscles in our body.


    Abdominal muscle strain is caused by:
    • Activity that the muscle is not ready for
    • Excessive exercise
    • Improper technique while playing sports
    • Lifting heavy objects
    • Sharply twisting the body
    Abdominal Muscles—Side View
    Abdominal muscle and pelvis
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Risk Factors

    These factors increase your chance of developing abdominal muscle strain:
    • Improper technique during sports activities, especially running and jumping
    • Previous strain or injury to the area
    • Muscle fatigue
    • Tight abdominal muscles


    Symptoms may include:
    • Muscle pain or soreness immediately after an injury
    • Stiffness and discomfort
    • Problems flexing or pain while stretching the muscle
    • Pain when touching the area
    • Muscle spasms
    • Swelling or bruising


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:
    • Grade 1—Some stretching with micro tearing of muscle fibers
    • Grade 2—Partial tearing of muscle fibers
    • Grade 3—Complete tearing of muscle fibers; this may also be called a rupture or avulsion


    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Recovery time ranges depending on the grade of your injury. Treatment steps may include:

    Supportive Care

    Your muscle will need time to heal. Supportive care may involve:
    • Rest—Activities may need to be restricted. Normal activities will be gradually reintroduced.
    • Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling. Heat or cold may be advised throughout recovery if they provide benefits.
    Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.

    Physical Therapy

    A physical therapist will assess the muscles. An exercise program will be created to help recovery and to strengthen the muscles.


    To help reduce your chance of getting another abdominal muscle strain, take the following steps:
    • Do not overexert yourself while exercising.
    • Get proper training for sports and exercises.
    • Do exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles.
    • Learn how to properly lift heavy objects.
    • If you are tired, stop exercising.


    American Council on Exercise http://www.acefitness.org

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://www.familydoctor.org


    Canadian Physiotherapy Association http://www.physiotherapy.ca

    Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca


    Abdominal muscles explained. Better Health Channel website. Available at: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Abdominal%5Fmuscles?open. Updated December 2012. Accessed March 10, 2015.

    Johns Hopkins sports medicine patient guide to muscle strain. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsortho.org/muscle%5Fstrain.html. Accessed March 10, 2015.

    Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/sprains-strains-and-tears.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed March 10, 2015.

    10/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.