Abdominal discomfort

Abdominal muscle strain

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What is abdominal muscle strain?

Abdominal muscle strain
Abdominal muscle strain

The abdominal cavity is lined, protected and supported by the abdominal muscles. When an abdominal muscle is pulled or torn, the injury occurs, giving rise to a condition called abdominal muscle strain.

The muscles are contractile elements of the body. Their contractility and expandability is limited to a certain extent. If a muscle is contracted or expanded beyond its ability, it is injured or torn causing strain.
Most of the time microscopic tears result but severe injury may cause the muscle to break away from its attachment (muscle rupture).

What are the causes?

The muscle strain is always a result of over activity of muscle; other causes may be:

  • Excessive exercise
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Twisting the body in a sharp improper fashion
  • Making inappropriate body moves that during sports
  • Muscle movement in the area that is already injured or strained
  • Fatigued muscle
  • Tightened abdominal muscles.

Grading the abdominal muscle injury:

  • Grade I: mild type of injury. No disability occurs and daily life activities may be performed. Takes 2-3 weeks to recover.
  • Grade II: moderate injury and discomfort. Activities (like twisting) may be limited. Takes 3-6 weeks to recover.
  • Grade III: severe injury that causes a great deal of pain even with normal activities. Muscle spasm occurs with bruising. Takes about 3 mnths to recover.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain: because of muscle injury
  • Pain related to spasm
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Pain with movement (while flexing or stretching the muscle)
  • Tenderness at the site of injury
  • Swelling
  • Bruising (due to rupture of blood vessels supplying the muscle)

Remember that abdominal muscle contraction is not only because of strain. It may also appear when the organs in the abdominal cavity (like appendix or stomach) are inflamed. The muscle spasm in this case is called guarding and is assumed by the body as a protective phenomenon.

Inflammation of muscles surrounding the stomach:

The muscles rectus abdominis, internal and external oblique and rectus abdominis surround the stomach (also the whole abdomen). Out of these muscles, the first one: rectus abdominis is usually injured. Injury occurs when weightlifting, throwing and wrestling etc.


The treatment requires:

  • Rest: which is important to let the muscle heal and avoid any further injury. Shun from any activities that put extra stress on your muscles. Say yes to rest and no to sports until complete healing.
  • Ice: place an ice pack for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for first 48 hours after injury. The ice should not directly be applied to the skin and wrapped in a towel before applying. This will make the swelling disappear and the bruise to resolve.

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