• Abdominal Muscle Strain

    (Pulled Muscle in Abdomen; Strain, Abdominal Muscle)


    An abdominal muscle strain is an injury that damages the internal structure of the abdominal muscles. Strains are rips or tears to a muscle. Most of the time, these rips or tears are tiny. They may cause some discomfort. When the damaged parts of the muscle pull away from each other, it is called a rupture.


    This condition is caused by an overexertion of the abdominal muscle, which can happen:
    • Doing an activity that the muscle is not ready for
    • Exercising excessively
    • Improperly performing exercises or sports activities
    • 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:
    • Not stretching properly before exercising
    • Overexerting muscles
    • Performing exercises and sports activities incorrectly (especially running and jumping)
    • Having weak back muscles
    • Being fatigued
    • Participating in vigorous activity
    • Exercising in cold weather
    Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.


    If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to abdominal muscle strain. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
    • 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 (in severe cases)
    If you have ruptured the muscle, you will feel intense pain.


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, looking for:
    • Tenderness over the area of the muscle
    • Pain, especially when the muscle is contracted (tensed)
    The doctor will grade the strain depending on how badly injured you are:
    • First degree—muscle fibers are injured; 2-3 weeks to recover
    • Second degree—a larger amount of muscle fibers are injured; 3-6 weeks to recover
    • Third degree—the muscle is ruptured, may require surgery; about 3 months to recover


    • After the injury, stop the activity right way.
    • Rest as needed.
    • Apply a cold pack for 15-20 minutes. Apply ice four times a day for 1-2 days.
    • Take pain medicines as directed by your doctor. Examples include acetaminophen and ibuprofen . Also available are topical pain medicines (eg, creams, patches) that are applied to the skin.
    • Begin gentle stretching when pain subsides.
    • If you do not improve in 1-2 days, call your doctor.
    • Ask your doctor when you can return to normal activity.
    • When you are feeling better, do exercises to slowly regain strength.
    • Use heat when returning to activity.


    To help reduce your chance of getting this condition, take the following steps:
    • Stretch before exercising and cool down after.
    • Do not overexert yourself while exercising.
    • Get proper training for sports and exercises.
    • Do exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Work with a personal trainer or physical therapist.
    • Learn how to properly lift heavy objects .
    • If you are tired, stop exercising.
    If you have a fever and abdominal pain, seek medical attention right away.


    American Orthopaedic Association http://www.aoassn.org/

    American Physical Therapy Association http://www.apta.org/


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

    Physical Therapy Canada http://www.physicaltherapy.ca/


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