An abdominal muscle strain, or pulled stomach muscle, is often an overuse injury. It occurs when muscles in the stomach stretch or tear. Football and tennis players are prone to this injury. But anyone can strain the abdominal muscles. Muscle strains get better over time with rest. Core-strengthening exercise can help prevent pulled muscles.
An abdominal muscle strain occurs when you tear or overly stretch muscles in the stomach. An abdominal muscle strain and pulled stomach muscle are the same condition.
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The abdominal (stomach) muscles are part of the musculoskeletal system. These muscles on the front of the body, between the pelvis and ribs, support the trunk (midsection), hold organs in place and help you move.
Your abdominal muscles and your back muscles are core muscles that support and stabilize the spine. They work together to help you sit, stand, walk, exercise and more.
Several groups of muscles make up the abdominal muscles:
An abdominal muscle strain can affect any abdominal muscle. You may have:
Hernias occur when an organ pushes through a weak spot in a muscle. They typically appear in the groin, the area between the abdomen and upper thigh. An abdominal muscle strain may increase your risk of getting a hernia.
A hernia and a pulled stomach muscle can both cause abdominal pain. Hernias cause a lump or bulge at the hernia site, which may ache or burn. A hernia can also cause constipation or nausea and vomiting (abdominal strains don’t cause these problems). A hernia won’t go away without treatment, but an abdominal muscle strain gets better with rest.
A pulled stomach muscle is often an overuse injury. Repetitive movements, usually in sports or other physical activity, cause the muscle to stretch or tear.
Other causes include:
Anyone can pull a stomach muscle, but certain activities increase your risk. People who play sports like football and tennis that require a lot of reaching and side-to-side trunk movements are more likely to develop this problem.
Your healthcare provider can diagnose a pulled stomach muscle based on symptoms and a physical exam. Depending on the cause of the injury and your symptoms, you may get:
Abdominal muscle strains get better over time with rest. These steps can help:
Giving your abdominal muscles a rest from certain activities can lower your chances of pulling a stomach muscle. You can also:
Most people can return to their activities after giving the abdominal muscles time to rest and heal.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
An abdominal muscle strain, or pulled stomach muscle, will get better with time, rest and the appropriate treatments. It’s important to take steps to strengthen abdominal and core muscles to prevent straining the muscle again or pulling a different stomach muscle. Your healthcare provider can offer suggestions to lower your risk of an abdominal muscle strain.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/15/2021.
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