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Ways to Treat an Abdominal Muscle Strain

by Patty Weasler, RN March 02, 2021 0 Comments

woman wearing abdominal support

Painful abdominal strains that are cause sharp side or abdomen pain with movement shouldn’t be ignored. An abdominal strain treatment plan should aim at giving the abdominal muscles time to heal, then building strength in this area. If you don’t address the problem, an abdominal strain can start to really affect your quality of life.

Mild to moderate abdominal strains can be treated at home with these simple remedies

Severe injuries that make normal activities like walking, sleeping, or standing painful should always be addressed with your doctor or medical professional

Resting Your Core

The top treatment for an abdominal strain is to rest the muscles. Stop doing movements and exercises that cause pain. Don’t lift heavy objects which will just aggravate the pulled muscle. The inflammation needs to subside and the muscle fibers that make up your core need time to heal.

Applying Compression

Compression can be used after straining your stomach muscles to prevent extra movement and to reduce swelling. The pressure of a back brace against your abdominal wall will give counterpressure that's help you to feel more secure when you do need to move around.

Practice Good Posture

An abdominal strain can be a wake-up call to your poor posture. Practicing good posture when you sit and stand will strengthen your core muscles and protect you from re-injury. Use a posture corrector to keep your shoulders straight and spine in alignment. Avoid slouching forward and try to engage your stomach muscles.

More on Good vs Bad Posture

Stretches & Exercises

After the initial injury phase has passed you can incorporate stretching and exercise into your treatment plan. Strengthening exercises will improve muscle strength and stretching will improve flexibility and range of motion. It’s important to warm-up before you begin to give your muscles time to adjust to the movement. Start slow with your exercise program and stop if you feel pain.

Effective Abdominal Exercises

Exercises to Improve Posture

Good Form When Exercising

Just exercising and stretching without a plan won’t cut it when you have an abdominal strain. You need to focus on slow, methodical movements that work the internal and external obliques and rectus abdominis muscles. Here are a few points to remember as you exercise:

  • Don’t perform any sharp, quick movements
  • Do perform isometric, controlled movements that focus on your core muscles
  • Don’t overextend your back when weightlifting
  • Bend at your knees

Cold Therapy

Using cold therapy with an ice pack is an easy and inexpensive treatment option. The cold will numb the pain and work to reduce swelling in the area. Place an ice pack over your injured muscle for 20 minutes at a time. Ice may be especially helpful after exercise or anytime your move around more than normal.

Heat Therapy

Heat is a great therapy when used in conjunction with cold and other treatments. A heating pad or hot water bottle can be placed on your injury to soothe soreness and relax the muscles. The warmth will encourage blood flow to the area which improves healing time. Use heat after the initial injury phase has passed or about 72 hours after the injury. Using heat too early on can increase swelling and pain.

Alternating Hot & Cold Therapy

OTC Pain Medication

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication like ibuprofen or naproxen can be used to fight pain and swelling after your injury. They are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and are generally considered safe for most people. Take note that these medications won’t fix your abdominal strain and should be used with other treatments. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you start a new medication.

Seek Professional Evaluation

An abdominal strain is no walk in the park. Your stomach muscles are used in just about everything you do from walking to sitting, to even coughing. If you are unsure how severe your injury is it’s best that you talk to a healthcare professional to get your injury evaluated. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy to guide you through the recovery phase and teach you how to and how not to move as you recover.

One key point to keep in mind is that an abdominal strain can be mistaken for a hernia. Hernias can become a medical emergency if soft tissue from the abdomen pushes through the hernia hole. If you have any questions about your injury reach out to your doctor for medical advice.

Treating & Preventing an Abdominal Strain

An abdominal strain is a painful injury that needs time and care to heal. Avoid lifting heavy objects and any movement that causes pain. Using pain medication, ice packs, and heat can soothe soreness and pain. If your injury is severe or not getting better then it’s time to put in a call to your doctor to evaluate your injury and determine the best course of action.


Abdominal Strain Products


Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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