Muscle Strain in the Abdomen

A muscle strain is a stretching or tearing of the muscle fibers. It's also called a pulled muscle. The belly (abdomen) is protected by a thick wall of muscle in the front and sides. These muscles help with twisting and bending forward. Too much coughing, lifting heavy objects, or sudden jerking movements can sometimes cause a muscle strain in the abdomen. This causes pain that is worse when you move. The area may also feel sore. Or it may look swollen and bruised.

Home care

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 6 hours. Do this for the first 24 to 48 hours. To make an ice pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag with a thin towel before using. Be careful not to injure your skin with the ice treatments. Never apply ice directly to skin. Keep using ice packs to ease pain and swelling as needed. After 48 to 72 hours, or as directed by your healthcare provider, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes a few times a day. Or switch off between ice and heat.

  • Use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may work better than acetaminophen. If you have liver or kidney disease, a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or take a blood thinner, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Weakness, lightheaded, or faint

  • Chest pain

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain gets worse or moves to the right lower belly, just below the waistline

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Chills

  • Vomiting

  • Severe belly pain that spreads to the back or toward the groin

  • Blood in the urine

  • Unexpected vaginal bleeding

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