Muscle Strain in the Abdomen

A muscle strain is a stretching or tearing of the muscle fibers. It is also called a pulled muscle. The 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 tender or 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. You can make an ice pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes and then wrapping it with a thin towel. Be careful not to injure your skin with the ice treatments. Ice should never be applied directly to skin. Continue the use of ice packs for relief of pain and swelling as needed. After 48 hours, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, or alternate ice and heat.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. If you have liver or kidney disease, a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, 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 seek medical advice

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

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

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

  • Vomiting

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

  • Blood in the urine

  • Unexpected vaginal bleeding in women

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