by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


American Council on Exercise 

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians 


Canadian Physiotherapy Association 

Public Health Agency of Canada 


Muscle strain (pulled muscle). Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Accessed September 15, 2021.

Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: Accessed September 15, 2021.

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