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What Causes Pulled Abdominal Muscles After Exercise

author image Frank Yemi
Frank Yemi has been a professional writer since 2007, and has contributed to several health and fitness magazines. He has worked as a medical fact checker and sports nutritionist in the United Kingdom. Yemi holds a Bachelor of Science in medical physiology, as well as a Master of Science in applied sports nutrition.
What Causes Pulled Abdominal Muscles After Exercise
A woman is doing abdominal exercises in the gym. Photo Credit razyph/iStock/Getty Images

An abdominal pull or tear is an injury to the muscle fibers of the abdomen. This injury occurs when your abdominal muscles are stretched too far through various lifting or twisting movements, which leads to the muscle tissue being partially or fully torn. Your abdominal muscles are a significant part of your core anatomy and they're utilized for everything from breathing to walking and urinating. The significance of the abdominal muscles in everyday activity makes this form of muscle tear distressing. Consult your physian if severe pain persists.

Common Causes

A common cause for abdominal muscle pulls is performing vigorous exercises without adequate preparation. For instance, putting too much weight on an ab crunch machine without warming up prior to the exercise can increase your chances of a muscle tear. Sharply twisting your body or using an improper technique during crunches or situps can also lead to a muscle pull.

During or After Exercise?

You may experience an abdominal muscle pull during exercise but only recognize the pain after completing your workout. High-intensity exercise can cause the release of adrenaline in the body, which may help temporarily dull pain. When the adrenaline wears off, you feel the pain and assume you pulled your abdominal muscles after exercising. Intensive workouts also should be followed by 24 to 48 hours of rest; excessive exercise without adequate muscle recovery can increase your chances of pulling your muscles after exercise even after you've left the gym, such as when lifting a heavy object at home.

How to Recognize It

An abdominal pull is often painful to touch, and you may notice swelling or bruising, according to the NYU Langone Medical Center. Other symptoms may include stiffness, muscle spasms and pain when trying to flex or engage your abdominal muscles. An abdominal muscle pull may be difficult to differentiate from other injuries or conditions such as a wall hernia or appendicitis, which is why it is important to consult a doctor when you experience severe pain or large swelling.

Treating a Muscle Pull

Abdominal muscles are difficult to rest, because we use them for functional movements such as standing up or simply walking. While resting, you can apply an ice pack to the muscle tear for about 20 minutes, three or four times a day. Avoid putting the ice directly on your skin by wrapping it in a towel. A doctor may prescribe over-the-counter pain relief medication or prescription-grade pain relievers. When the muscle pull heals, ease back into exercise with extra warm-up time and a heat pack applied to your abdominal muscles.

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