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Abdominal Muscle Strain

(Pulled Muscle in Abdomen; Strain, Abdominal Muscle)
  • Definition

    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.
  • Causes

    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 an 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

    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
  • Diagnosis

    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
  • Treatment

    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.
  • Prevention

    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

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


    Canadian Physiotherapy Association

    Public Health Agency of Canada


    Abdominal muscles explained. Better Health Channel website. Available at: Updated June 2015. Accessed February 29, 2016.

    Johns Hopkins sports medicine patient guide to muscle strain. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Accessed February 29, 2016.

    Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: Published 2011. Accessed February 29, 2016.

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

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