An abdominal muscle strain, also known as an abs strain, is an injury to one of the abdominal wall muscles.
A muscle strain occurs when a muscle is stretched too far. When this happens, the muscle fibers are torn. Most commonly, strains cause microscopic or tiny tears in the muscle. Occasionally, in a serious injury, a muscle can rupture or break from its attachment.
Here’s a detailed look at the symptoms of a pulled abdominal muscle, as well as tips for preventing and treating this type of injury.
The abdominal wall is made up of several muscles, including:
- Rectus abdominis: The muscle in the front of the abdomen that when well developed gives you a “six pack” look
- Internal and external obliques: wraps around the sides of the body to help you flex
Symptoms of a pulled abdominal muscle include:
- immediate pain in the injured muscle area
- Difficulty flexing the muscle due to this pain
- Muscle spasms in injured muscles
- swelling and bruising
Abdominal strains are sometimes confused with epigastric hernias. This condition is when abdominal tissue passes through the abdominal muscles. Although the symptoms are similar, a hernia usually causes a bulge on the surface of the abdomen.
Abdominal muscle strains are graded according to the severity of the injury:
- Class I (mild): mild discomfort, usually not restricting activity
- Class II (moderate): Moderate discomfort that may limit the ability to perform activities such as bending or twisting movements
- Grade III (severe): Severe injury that causes pain with normal activities, usually with muscle spasms and bruising
when to see a doctor
Doctors and physical therapists can recommend treatments that can speed up your recovery. You should be evaluated by a doctor if:
- you have symptoms of severe abdominal strain
- Your injury affects daily activities such as walking, sitting or sleeping
- You are not sure if you have an abdominal strain or other condition
- Your symptoms won’t get better soon
Treatment of abdominal muscle injuries can be difficult. There is no way to clamp the abdomen, and it is nearly impossible to fully rest these muscles.
That said, the most important step after a pulled abdominal muscle is to allow the muscle to relax so the inflammation can subside.
The following can help:
- Avoid exercise to allow the injured muscle to heal.
- Avoid activities that cause abdominal muscle pain or cramping.
- Practice gentle stretches. It should not be painful or excessive as this may slow down the healing process.
- Apply ice to the injured area during the acute phase or for the first 48 hours after the injury. Applying ice after activity can also be helpful.
- Warm up to relax muscles before activity.
Is ice or heat better for injuries?
How to prevent re-injury
Once the injury is fully healed, you can avoid another strain by practicing some common-sense prevention techniques.
- Do not use excessive force when exercising.
- Avoid sports with explosive, “twitching” movements.
- Focus on isometric resistance exercises to strengthen your core muscles with steady and controlled movements.
- Avoid hyperextending your back (bending too far back) when lifting weights.
- If you have to cough or sneeze, tighten your core muscles.
A pulled or pulled abdominal muscle can cause pain ranging from mild discomfort to muscle cramps and bruising. Because of the inability to splint, the best treatments are rest, gentle stretching, ice after activity, and heat before activity. Additionally, using some common-sense strategies during exercise can help prevent abdominal strains.
It can take time to recover from a pulled abdominal muscle, but it is possible. Some people find treatments such as ultrasound, therapeutic massage, and specific exercises to be particularly helpful. You should see your doctor to determine if these are appropriate for your condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Causes Abdominal Spasms?
Abdominal muscle cramps and cramps can be caused by muscle overuse and damage, low calcium and potassium levels, dehydration, alcoholism, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), certain medications, pregnancy, menstruation, and kidney failure. Warming up your muscles every 15 minutes, stretching properly, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting enough potassium and calcium in your diet may help prevent more severe muscle cramps in the future.
Where is the rectus abdominis?
The rectus abdominis is located at the front of the abdomen. When this muscle is strong and well developed, it is responsible for the “six pack” appearance. It is also called “abs”.
What causes an oblique muscle strain?
Oblique muscle strains, sometimes called “lateral” strains, are usually caused by a sudden, forceful twisting motion, such as that seen by baseball pitchers or javelin throwers. This strain can cause acute pain and tenderness in the obliques and lower back. The obliques are located on the left and right sides of the rectus abdominis.
3 Physical Therapy Abdominal Exercises