Damaged abdominal muscles can make everyday activities such as lifting, twisting or getting out of a chair a painful challenge. Injured ab muscles may be damaged further if you don't seek appropriate treatment, so consult your physician as soon as the injury occurs.
Your primary abdominal muscles consist of your rectus abdominus, internal obliques and external obliques. The rectus abdominus are the most prominent muscles and are typically seen as the "six pack" in people with developed abs. The function of the rectus abdominus is to flex the spine in movements such as the sit-up. Your internal and external obliques are used for twisting motions like swinging a golf club or baseball bat.
A muscle strain to your abdominal region typically occurs in three separate degrees or grades. In a first-degree strain, you will have moderate damage to a few muscles. A second-degree strain will produce damage to a larger number of muscles, and a third degree strain is a tear or rupture of the actual muscle.
When you suffer a grade one abdominal strain, you will feel cramping and tightness and some mild discomfort after the fact. A grade two strain involves more immediate pain and pain during a stretch or contraction of your abdominals, which may also be tender to the touch. A grade three strain will produce an immediate stabbing or burning-type pain, and you will be unable to move around without considerable discomfort. Grade two and three strains may result in bruising, and a grade three strain may cause tissue to bulge out through the muscles. This is also known as a hernia.
Damage to your abdominal muscles is often caused during an athletic event, usually by quick, whole body movements that include a change of direction. Common activities that result in abdominal damage include weight lifting, rowing, gymnastics, pole vaulting or throwing events.
If you suffer a tear of rupture in your abdominal muscles, you will often require surgery and up to three months of rehabilitation to be back to full strength, according to Physio Room, a website devoted to injury and healing information. For lesser injuries, applying ice for 20 minutes every few hours will help relieve the pain and lessen swelling.