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What Are Abdominal Spasms?

Abdominal spasms have numerous possible causes, from harmless to serious.
An inflammation of the appendix may cause abdominal spasms.
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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
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Abdominal spasms are typically a feeling of cramping in the abdomen caused by a rigid expansion of muscles. These spasms can vary from mild discomfort to moderate or severe pain. When the muscles of the abdomen constrict in such a way, the pain is generally felt in the upper or lower portion of the abdominal cavity. Abdominal spasms can be caused by a number of conditions, and generally, these aspects can range from harmless to serious disorders or disease.

Occasionally, an abdominal twitch might occur in healthy individuals who have overworked their abdominal, or ab, muscles. Sometimes in overstretching a group of ab muscles during exercise, a series of twitches and abdominal rigidity might occur. This is generally not serious and usually disappears after a short period of time and rest.

There are serious illnesses that could cause acute pain and abdominal spasms. Appendicitis, which is characterized by fever and pain in the lower abdomen, is caused by inflammation of the appendix. The pain can vary in individuals, but typically starts as a general pain in the lower right side of the abdominal wall. Nausea can be present as well. Not all lower abdominal spasms of the lower right side are caused by appendicitis; therefore, it is recommended to seek medical advice if the individual has unrelenting and unexplained pain, especially if it is accompanied by fever.

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Inflammation of the gallbladder can cause acute abdominal pain. These abdominal spasms are typically located in the upper right portion of the stomach under the rib cage. In the event of a severe gallbladder attack, other symptoms may be present, such as fever, bloating and nausea. It is common for these symptoms to occur after consuming greasy and fatty foods, as a diseased gallbladder might have difficulty in aiding with digestion.

Intestinal viruses often produce symptoms of abdominal spasms. After the virus runs its course, the pain generally subsides. Most often, individuals who have contracted an intestinal virus might suffer from stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, although symptoms tend to vary in many individuals. Along with the discomfort of stomach spasms, the individual may also experience a fever.

Also known to cause stomach distress are chronic illnesses classified as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Any of these conditions are known to cause moderate to severe spasms of the abdominal or intestinal tract. Conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are both associated with the disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), though not directly related, can produce symptoms that are similar, with bouts of cramping and abdominal spasms occurring.

Other minor causes can be attributed to pain in the abdominal area. Frequently, indigestion can cause abdominal spasms, especially after eating a heavy meal. Certain individuals can have a low tolerance for foods that are high in fat or grease and might experience such discomfort after consuming them. Individuals who are lactose-intolerant can experience stomach or abdominal cramps and spasms after eating dairy products, such as milk or ice cream.

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Discuss this Article

indigomoth
Post 3

@pastanaga - That only happens very rarely that a woman doesn't know that she's pregnant. Usually it becomes pretty obvious.

Honestly, for the most part, if someone is having sharp pains and even spasms in their gut it usually turns out to be gas.

I know people who were convinced they had appendicitis and it turned out to be gas. It can get very painful.

pastanaga
Post 2

@pleonasm - If you don't feel better soon I would go to the doctor and get checked out. There's always a chance that you could have torn something during your lesson and usually when you tear something in that area it needs to be sewn up to heal properly.

This might sound a bit crazy, but another thing that might need to be considered if the person suffering from abdominal spasms is a woman, is that she may actually be pregnant.

It's possible for women to get quite late into the pregnancy and not realize what is going on. They think their abdominal muscle spasms are just cramps and that they've gained a little bit of weight lately.

If any pain in your stomach gets bad, I wouldn't hesitate to go to a doctor. You could regret it if you don't.

pleonasm
Post 1

I managed to really hurt myself by going to a martial arts lesson the other day and pushing too hard. I'm not very fit and one of the first things the teacher asked me to do was to do a backroll, which seemed almost impossible for me. I tried and tried and tried and just could not get it to work. Finally I kind of let go and managed to push myself over. Then I continued with the lesson.

But I think in repeatedly trying to do that roll I managed to hurt my stomach muscles because I'm getting lower abdominal muscle spasms like you wouldn't believe. It just feels like overworked muscles, so I'm not worried, but I am quite annoyed with myself that I managed to do this. I think the only thing I can do is wait for it to heal.

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