"It's been bothering him noticeably the last couple days," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We thought it was wise to get it settled down right now."
An All-Star last season, Russell is batting .241 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs. The Cubs announced the move before Friday's game against the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.
Chicago also called up left-handed pitcher Rob Zastryzny from Triple-A Iowa. Zastryzny made one appearance for the Cubs in May and pitched in eight games for them last season.
Asked why the Cubs would call up a pitcher with the roster move, Maddon was fairly blunt.
"Our pitching got beat up the last two days," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.