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Physical Therapy for Abdominal Strains

Abdominal strains happen when any of the muscles in the front part of your abdominal wall is stretched beyond its limit or torn because of overstretching or overexertion. Complete tearing of the muscle is called a ruptured muscle. An abdominal strain is sometimes called pulled abdominal muscle.

Although anyone can have an abdominal strain, the condition is particularly common in sports injuries.


The most common causes of abdominal strains are
  • Overstretching of the muscle from sudden backward bending of the trunk like being tackled in football
  • Sudden trunk twisting such as swinging a bat in baseball
  • Doing exercises improperly
  • Overexertion when lifting heavy weights


The most common symptom of an abdominal strain is pain at the site of the injury. If you have tearing of your abdominal muscle, you may experience swelling and bruising. Your trunk movement may be limited by extreme pain. Your pain may worsen if you laugh, cough or sneeze. Others may experience muscle weakness or muscle spasms.

If you are unsure of the severity of your abdominal injury, don't hesitate to consult your health care provider.

Home treatments for abdominal strains

Mild abdominal strains can be effectively managed with RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) therapy. Immediately stop your activity and rest. Apply ice (wrapped in towel) for 20 minutes at a time. Continue applying ice every 3 to 4 hours during the first two days following your injury or until your symptoms subside. Apply compression bandage or have a professionally trained person to properly do it for you.

You can begin gentle trunk range of motion exercises, stretching and progressive strengthening exercises once your symptoms have cleared up. Your physical therapist can help you decide on what appropriate exercises to perform.

Physical Therapy Treatment Options for Abdominal Strains

Your physical will likely ask about your activity where you felt your abdominal pain and your past medical history. He or she will also conduct a thorough evaluation and examination. From the results of your evaluation and your stated goals, your physical therapist will create a comprehensive rehabilitation program based on your specific needs and goals.

Physical therapy treatment options depend on the severity of your injury, specific problems and your goals, which may include a combination of any of the following
  • Ice / heat therapy
  • Electrotherapeutic modality like TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
  • Gentle range of motion exercises
  • Stretching exercises
  • Stabilization exercises / Core exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Conditioning exercises
  • Work or sport-specific exercises
  • Postural training
  • Proper body mechanics
  • Patient education with emphasis on precautions and injury prevention

Your physical therapist will also provide you with a home management and exercise program to help speed up your recovery from abdominal strain.

See Also

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Conditions / Injuries | Physical Therapy | Health and Wellness

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