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Abdominal Muscle Spasm


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is abdominal muscle spasm?

Abdominal muscle spasm, also known as abdominal rigidity, is a powerful, involuntary contraction of the muscles of the abdomen. During a spasm, the muscle will feel stiff and tender if you apply pressure. The major abdominal muscles include the transversus abdominus, the deepest layer of muscle, which stabilizes your trunk; the rectus abdominus, sometimes called the “six pack,” which runs between the ribs and the pubic bone and supports movements between the rib cage and the pelvis; and the internal and external oblique muscles, which provide support and are used when twisting the trunk.

Like any other muscles in the body, your abdominal muscles can have spasms that occur as a result of muscle strain during heavy use or overuse, fatigue, dehydration, and alcohol or drug use. Abdominal muscle strain is a common injury among athletes and can cause muscle spasms. However, because the colon and small intestine are the predominant organs in the lower abdomen, most abnormal abdominal spasms are due to acute disorders of the intestines, such as bowel obstruction, perforation, or diverticulitis. Other causes originating in the organs within the abdomen include gallstones, hernia, and ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

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Abdominal muscle spasms, especially when related to a known cause such as strenuous exercise, are usually not serious. However, because abdominal muscle spasm can sometimes indicate a serious disorder, you should contact your health care provider if you have any spasm that appears unrelated to overexertion or if an exercise-induced spasm does not stop quickly.

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Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have abdominal muscle spasms that are severe or if you experience persistent abdominal muscle spasms along with any of the following symptoms: green or bloody vomit; blood in the stool or urine; continuous severe pain in one area, especially below the navel or just below the ribs; chest pain; confusion; high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit); or shortness of breath.

Seek prompt medical care if your abdominal muscle spasm is persistent, recurrent, or causes you concern.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Aug 31, 2016

© 2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Muscle cramps. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Abdominal pain. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

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