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Abdominal Muscle Strain

(Pulled Muscle in Abdomen; Strain, Abdominal Muscle)

How to Say It: ab-DOM-in-uhl MUSS-el str-AY-n

Definition

An abdominal muscle strain is a partial or full tear of the small muscle fibers in the abdomen.

Causes

This problem may be caused by:

  • An 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

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Playing certain sports, such as football or tennis
  • Previous strain or injury to the area
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Tight abdominal muscles

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Pain that may be worse when sneezing, coughing, or twisting the body
  • Pain when touching the area
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Muscle spasms

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

Most people get better in a few weeks. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. This may be done with:

Initial Care

The muscle will need time to heal. Supportive care may include:

  • Rest to give the area time to heal
  • Ice packs to ease pain and swelling

Medicine may also be given to ease pain and swelling.

Physical Therapy

An exercise program will be created to promote strength, flexibility, and range of motion.

Prevention

The risk of this problem may be lowered by:

  • Using the right techniques when playing sports or doing things like lifting heavy objects
  • Stretching and strengthening the abdominal muscles
  • Resting when muscles are tired
RESOURCES:

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

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

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

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

REFERENCES:

Muscle strain (pulled muscle). Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopaedic-surgery/specialty-areas/sports-medicine/conditions-we-treat/muscle-strains.html. Accessed September 15, 2021.

Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/sprains-strains-and-tears.pdf?sfvrsn=5b229fcf_2. Accessed September 15, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 9/15/2021