Abdominal Strain; How to Prevent and Remedy
Part of our Protect Your Parts Series, keep the abs safe and sexy!
Athletes, performers, dancers and anyone else who is active on a regular basis frequently experience the pain of a muscle strain or tear. Anyone can be subject to the occasional sprain or strain, and the less physically active you are, the higher the likelihood that you may pull a muscle when you engage in physical activity. These injuries typically occur when the muscle is not properly warmed up before activity, or if the muscle is overextended during use. Muscle strain occurs when tears occur in the muscle tissue, causing pain and damage to the muscle. A muscle tear can refer to either a rip in the tissue of the muscle itself, or the muscle tearing away from the tendons and ligaments which anchor it to bone and other tissues. Microscopic tears frequently occur during strenuous activity, and are actually a normal part of the process of building healthy muscle tissue – as the muscle tissue recovers and repairs, the muscle itself will grow bigger and stronger. However, if the tears are too large or too numerous, the muscle is considered to be injured; this injury is typically referred to as a strained or “pulled” muscle.
Abdominal muscle strains or tears can be some of the most difficult injuries from which to recover. Abdominal muscles are involved in many of the body’s movements, and are crucial for proper balance and posture; if these muscles are injured, rehabilitation can be a very difficult and lengthy process. Therefore, it is important to take steps to avoid abdominal injuries. Warming-up and doing active/dynamic stretching (stretching that involves moving through a range of motion in comparison to static stretching where you hold the stretch) before exercising is crucial. An ideal warm-up would included similar exercises or mimicking the exercise that will be performed in the activity following with light or body-weight resistance to properly prepare the body for the upcoming work. As with any physical activity, stop if you start to feel any unusual pain or extreme discomfort in the abdominal area, or anywhere else. Additionally, if your abdominal workout is not very strenuous then yes you may work them out everyday, but if you feel significant soreness in the muscle area, then you should give them at least 24 hours rest before you use them again. This is also good advise for any muscle group.
If you do suffer an abdominal strain or tear, there are steps you can take to hasten your recovery and prevent any further injury. Avoid lifting or twisting, and try to use the affected muscles as little as possible. Apply ice to the area to reduce pain and inflammation (always keep a layer of cloth, such as clothing or a towel, between ice and skin to avoid frostbite); if there is no inflammation, alternate the ice with heat, to relax the muscles and increase circulation in the affected area. An electric heating pad or microwavable rice pack are ideal for this purpose. The length of the recovery period varies on the severity of the injury, and it may be anywhere from a few days to several weeks before you will be completely healed. When you feel as if you’re ready for physical activity and exercise again, make sure that you start slow, and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort. As with any injury, it’s always best to consult a doctor to ensure that you’re taking all of the necessary steps for a 100% recovery, with no lasting ill effects.