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
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:
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.
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: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Abdominal_muscles?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_strain.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.
Last reviewed March 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.