Abdominal Strain Injury

Abdominal pain may be due to a Stomach muscle strain sustained during sport. Alternatively it is not uncommon to sustain an Abdominal strain during stomach exercises.

A muscle strain refers to a tear within the muscle. Usually the muscle is forcibly stretched beyond its limits and the muscle tissue becomes torn. Depending upon its severity it is classified as a first, second or third degree strain:
• a first degree strain is damage to a few muscle fibres
• a second degree strain is damage to a more extensive number of muscle fibres
• a third degree strain is a complete rupture of the muscle itself



The Abdominal muscle group comprises the Rectus Abdominus, Internal Obliques and External Obliques. Of these, the Rectus Abdominus is most prominent, and can be seen in some individuals as a 'six pack'. The function of the Rectus Abdominus muscle is to flex the spine, as demonstrated during a sit up. The Internal Obliques and External Obliques work together to produce twisting movements of the trunk. These muscles can be damaged during a sudden contraction, such as when twisting in an uncoordinated manner.

Abdominal Strain Signs & Symptoms
With a grade one Abdominal muscle strain the signs of injury may not be present until after the activity is over. There may be a sensation of cramp or tightness and a slight feeling of pain when the muscles are stretched or contracted.

With a grade two Abdominal muscle strain there is immediate pain which is more severe than the pain of a grade one injury. It is confirmed by pain on stretch and contraction of the muscle. A grade two Abdominal strain is usually sore to touch.

With a grade three Abdominal strain there is an immediate burning or stabbing pain and the athlete is unable to move without pain. The muscle is completely torn and there may be a bulge of soft tissue through the muscle layer - this is known as a hernia. In the case of grade two and three injuries, a bruise may appear after a few days below the injury, caused by bleeding within the tissues.

Abdominal Strain Treatment
The immediate treatment for any muscle injury consists of rest, ice and compression. Ice packs can be applied for periods of twenty minutes every couple of hours (never apply ice directly to the skin as it can cause an ice burn). The Ice packs relieve pain and reduce bleeding in the damaged tissue.

Resting may be the common sense approach, but it is one that is often ignored by competitive athletes. This is unwise, since it does not take much to turn a grade one strain into a grade two, or a grade two strain into a grade three. As a general rule, grade one injuries should be rested from sporting activity for about 3 weeks and grade two injuries for about 4 to 6 weeks. In the case of a complete rupture, the muscle may have to be repaired surgically and the rehabilitation afterwards will take about 3 months. Warm up prior to matches and training is thought to decrease muscle stretch injuries because the muscle is more extensible when the tissue temperature has been increased by one or two degrees. A good warm up should last at least 20 minutes - starting gently and finishing at full pace activity.