What are the Symptoms of Abdominal Strain?

Dan Cavallari

An abdominal strain will exhibit many of the same symptoms of any other type of muscle strain, except the pain will often be isolated to the stomach muscles. An abdominal strain occurs when any of the muscles in the abdominal area are stretched beyond their normal means, resulting in slight tearing of the muscle fibers. In more severe cases, the muscle may tear apart altogether, or rupture, and need to be surgically repaired. In most cases, however, an abdominal strain can be treated with rest, ice, and light stretching.

An anatomical illustration including some of the abdominal muscles.
An anatomical illustration including some of the abdominal muscles.

Twisting motions can often lead to an abdominal strain, especially if the twisting motion is performed repeatedly or beyond the muscle's ability to stretch. When the muscle strains, the muscle fibers endure several slight tears. A mild strain may cause only slight discomfort and will not restrict movement, while a moderate to severe strain will restrict movement, cause a feeling of weakness in the muscles, and even lead to bruising or swelling. Tenderness almost always follows an abdominal strain, and the muscle may feel tight or achy for days after the injury occurs. In the most severe cases, the strain may cause intense pain; most often, a strain followed by such pain is actually a rupture and should be treated by a doctor.

Pain in the stomach muscles may be a symptom of abdominal strain.
Pain in the stomach muscles may be a symptom of abdominal strain.

To treat an abdominal strain, ice should be applied to the injury immediately after it occurs. This will help keep swelling down, thereby preventing some pain and promoting recovery. Several days to several weeks of rest may be necessary depending on the severity of the injury, in which time twisting motions and heavy lifting should be avoided. After several days of rest, the muscles can be lightly stretched. If pain is felt during this stretching, the injured person should stop immediately and let the muscles rest more.

When no pain is felt in the injured muscle, it is time to begin rebuilding strength in that muscle. An exercise program can be developed to work the abdominal muscles, and as a precaution, the workout should start slow and easy, then build from there. Starting with too much exercise or too much weight-bearing at once can lead to re-injury of the already weakened muscle. Over the counter painkillers can be taken to help reduce pain during and after the injury occurs; if the pain is severe, one might consider visiting a doctor to obtain a prescription for a stronger painkiller.

Lifting boxes or other heavy objects should be avoided if an abdominal strain is suspected.
Lifting boxes or other heavy objects should be avoided if an abdominal strain is suspected.

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