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An abdominal muscle strain is common in athletes and people who engage in a lot of heavy lifting as a part of their job, but the injuries can affect anyone. Some people experience abdominal strain injuries when they lift shopping or even just by sitting up suddenly and awkwardly. The injury occurs if the muscle is stretched beyond its normal limits to the point that it becomes torn.
If you strain your abdomen, you should rest and compress the affected injury. Many doctors recommend using ice (applied using a bag or wrapped in a towel) to bring down the swelling around the area, but there are some doctors who feel that using ice is not a good idea because ice impairs blood flow and can slow down the healing process. Contact your doctor for advice if you are not sure what you should do.
You should rest the injury for at least two weeks, although some injuries can take one to three months to repair, and you will need to carefully and gradually rehabilitate the muscles during that time.
In most cases, abdominal strains occur as a part of an exercise or a traumatic event, so you will know that you have damaged something and the diagnosis should be easy. The symptoms of strained abdominal muscles are usually pain when attempting to perform a sit-up and/or pain when bending backwards or stretching your abdominal muscles.
If you think you have strained your abdomen and the injury does not get better within a week or two, consult a doctor specialising in sports injuries or a physiotherapist for advice.
You can reduce the likelihood of suffering abdominal strains and other injuries by warming up properly before sport and cooling down properly afterwards. You should try to stay hydrated during exercise, and try to eat something that contains some carbohydrates a while before you exercise. If your exercise session is going to last more than an hour, consider using an energy drink instead of water to replenish your energy stores.
You can strengthen you core muscles using a Swiss ball. This will make you more resilient against injury. In addition, you can reduce the chances of suffering a serious injury by paying careful attention to the form with which you perform exercises. Poor form is risky for any exercise, but the risk of injury is more severe with core exercises because if they are not performed correctly, then you could injure not just your abdominal muscles but also your back. It is much better for you to do an exercise slowly, with lower weight, than to try to move through the repetition with a weight that is too heavy for you.