Abdominal Strain: A painful situation
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An injury is the damage or harm caused by an external force to the structure and functions of the body. Abdominal strain is an injury caused by twisting or straining the ligaments of the abdomen. It is not uncommon to sustain an abdominal strain during stomach exercises. This kind of injury is commonly known as muscle pull and is the outcome of applying unusual pressure on the abs.  Abdominal muscles tend to be strained during forceful activities such as lifting heavy weights, exercising for various sports such as bodybuilding, weightlifting, resistance etc., during strenuous activity and by exerting too muscle pressure on the abdomen. Though the strain mostly results in microscopic tears within the muscle, severe injuries occasionally lead to the rupture of the muscle from its attachment. Depending upon its severity it is classified as a first, second or third degree strain:

Degrees of Strain:

First degree strain: This involves the damage of a few muscle fibers and does not come into notice until the muscles are stretched or contracted. It is accompanied by mild tightness or spasms in the midsection. 

Second degree strain: This includes the damage to a more extensive number of fibers and is characterized by pain on stretching or touching the muscles.

Third degree strain: This is the outcome of the rupture of the abdominal muscles and is accompanied by severe pain due to which an individual might be unable to move. The muscle is completely torn and there is a visible bulge of soft tissue through the muscles known as hernia.

Straining the Abs:

The Abdominal muscle group comprises of the Rectus Abdominus, Internal Obliques and External Obliques. The Rectus Abdominus is the most important abs muscle and plays an important role in flexing the spine. Muscular damage can occur when sudden force is applied to these muscles in an uncoordinated fashion. Abdominal strain is most common in weight lifters, throwers, bodybuilders, gymnasts, wrestlers, rowers, boxers, etc. It is marked by tenderness and inflammation over an area of the rectus abdominus (usually at the bottom) accompanied by a sharp pain in the abdominal muscles or an increase in pain when the muscles are contracted e.g. while doing a stomach crunch or push-ups. A sudden sharp pain in the injured muscles of the abdomen indicates a rupture. The pain makes it hard to flex the muscles and also causes swelling and bruising.
Treatment for Abdominal Strain

In case an abdominal strain injury takes place it is recommended that the individual is given immediate rest and is treated with ice and compression in order to reduce the pain and minimize the bleeding. It is essential for the ice to be wrapped in a cloth before application. It is unadvisable to apply ice directly to the skin as this may result in an ice burn. The treatment with ice packs must be given at regular intervals of every two hours for twenty minutes. The individual must be made to rest in order to avoid further damage.

A grade one strain can turn into a grade two strain, or a grade two strain can turn to a grade three strain if the injury is ignored and proper rest is not taken. All grade one injuries must be rested for about 3 weeks, grade two injuries for 4 to 6 weeks and grade three injuries may take about three months to get completely healed. 

Prevention of Abdominal Strain:

The best way to prevent abdominal strains is by maintaining well toned abs and warming them up prior to performing any exercises such as weightlifting, power lifting, bodybuilding exercises, etc.  7 to 10 minutes warm up is ideal for you comprising of running, push-ups, sit-ups, crunches or by using the treadmill, stationary bikes or steppers. Warming up reduces the body’s susceptibility to injury and increases your performance.  However, it is recommended that you avoid over exercising the body in order to prevent any muscular damage and perform all exercises under the guidance of a professional trainer in order to avail maximum benefits.