Flank pain as the result of a pulled or torn muscle can develop on one or both sides of the body between the back and the upper abdomen. Although it is not typically a dangerous condition, it can worsen and become debilitating if left untreated. This makes it important to understand what can cause a pulled or torn muscle in the flank area and how it can be treated.
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Pain from tearing or pulling a muscle in the flank area can vary from a mild twinge to an extreme ache. Pain can worsen during physical activities such as sprinting, laughing or coughing. Additional symptoms can include swelling, bruising, muscle spasms, weakness, muscle cramping and stiffness in the abdomen. You can also notice limited mobility or trouble moving the muscles in the abdomen. You can sometimes feel or hear a popping sound at the time of injury.
Pulling or straining a flank muscle occurs when you stretch the muscles in the abdomen abruptly or unusually far. It can develop while lifting a heavy object , if you lose your footing on a slippery surface, jump awkwardly or throw something. Tears and pulls can also develop from prolonged and repetitive movements of the flank muscles, which can occur during activities or sports such as gymnastics.
Compress your abdomen with an elastic bandage. This will help reduce movement and treat inflammation and pain. Avoid exercise, sports and physical activity until the pain subsides. Place an ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables against the injured area for 20 minutes at a time. This will help constrict the blood vessels and reduce swelling and pain. If needed, wrap a bandage around the ice pack to hold it in place.
See a doctor if pain lasts for more than two weeks, you can’t move or twist your abdomen, experience numbness or see red streaks spreading across the skin of your abdomen or side. These could be symptoms of a serious medical condition or infection. Failing to warm up prior to a workout or exercising even when your muscles are fatigued can make you more susceptible to a muscle pull or tear in the flank area.