Severe abdominal pain can be worrying, especially when the cause of the pain is not clear. This type of pain is indicative of both an abdominal pull or an abdominal tear, but the two are not always so easy to distinguish. An abdominal pull refers to a pulled muscle in your abdomen, typically caused by intense or excessive exercising. It is very common among athletes and other similarly active individuals. When a muscle is overstretched, it will forcefully contract, weakening it and making it more susceptible to injury. An abdominal tear occurs when internal organs or their surrounding connective tissue "tears" through a vulnerable (weakened) area of the abdominal muscles. The vulnerable area may be there from birth or develop later on in life, and tears under repetitive physical stress or pressure. Here are 3 key points to consider when determining the differences between an abdominal pull and an abdominal tear: Symptomatic Differences The best way to determine the cause of abdominal pain, as far as self-diagnosis goes, is to pay careful and close attention to your symptoms. Both abdominal pulls and abdominal tears will typically manifest as pain in the abdomen that worsens with movement, but being able to identify any and all other co-occurring symptoms can help clear up some of the confusion. With a particularly severe abdominal pull, you may notice some visible bruising on your abdomen. You may also experience sudden muscle spasms and/or cramping as well as general muscle weakness and stiffness. With an abdominal tear, you may notice a visible bulge in the abdomen and may experience an aching and/or burning sensation. Abdominal symptoms may also be accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting. Different Causes Another helpful way to determine the cause of your abdominal pain is to think back to what might have caused your symptoms in the first place. Both pulls and tears can be caused by improper heavy lifting and persistent cough or sneezing. An abdominal pull can also be caused by intense exercising and by sudden fast movements. An abdominal tear can be caused by increased pressure on the abdomen and by diarrhea or constipation. Treatments & Recovery Times Once you identify the cause of the abdominal pain, it's important that you treat the pain properly in order to heal. For both pulls and tears, it's recommended that you make use of an abdominal binder and also apply ice to the affected areas regularly. For an abdominal pull, it is recommended that, in addition to ice, you also apply heat, alternating between the two as needed. There are also over-the-counter drugs available to help manage the symptoms and start the healing process. The pain will decrease as the muscle heals, the recovery time ranging from a few days to a few months depending on the severity of the injury. Typically, an abdominal tear requires surgery in which the abdominal wall is surgically repaired. Recovery time is estimated to be about 3 weeks, though high-intensity activities should be avoided. These are few of the telling factors that, with some consideration, can help point you toward the cause of your abdominal pain. Keep in mind that if you are experiencing extreme, prolonged pain, it's highly recommended that you speak to your doctor about your symptoms.