Abdominal strain – Inflammation or rupture of the stomach muscles

What is inflammation of the stomach muscles?

It is usually the Rectus abdominus muscle which is damaged in an abdominal strain but other muscles in the stomach area (Internal obliques, External obliques) can be affected. Ruptures occur in weightlifters, throwers, gymnasts, rowers, wrestlers and pole vaulters and other sports which involve fast whole body movements and changes of direction. If the athlete returns to training before the injury is allowed to heal fully then repeated injuries may occur.

Symptoms include:

Tenderness and inflammation over an area of the rectus abdominis (usually at the bottom).

A sudden sharp pain in the abdominal muscles which would indicate a rupture.

An increase in pain when the abdominal muscles are contracted e.g. doing a stomach crunch.

What can the athlete do about it?

Rest until there is no pain.

Use a heat retainer and apply heat for example with a hot water bottle (after the first 48 hours in the case of a suspected rupture).

See sports injury professional who can advise on rehabilitation.

What can a sports injury specialist or doctor do?

Prescribe anti-inflammatory medication e.g. ibuprofen.

Use ultrasound and laser treatment.

Prescribe a full rehabilitation programme to avoid re-injury.

Give you a steroid injection if there is inflammation of the tendon followed by rest for 2 weeks.

Operate if it is bad enough for long enough.

If you rest as soon as there is sign of injury then it should not take more than a couple of weeks to heal. If you have ruptured the muscle the healing time will depend on how bad the strain is.

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