Abdominal rigidity: What are the causes?

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Abdominal rigidity is characterized by stiffness of the stomach muscles that worsens if the abdomen is touched. It is a spontaneous response to prevent discomfort brought about by pressure on the abdomen which is also called as guarding.

As an involuntary muscular response, there is no control over it. Take note that it might be an indication that the body is attempting to protect itself from pain. It can also be an indication of a serious and even life-threatening medical ailment. If an individual has abdominal rigidity, a doctor must be consulted right away.

Connection with abdominal pain

Conditions that trigger abdominal pain can trigger guarding.

Always bear in mind that abdominal rigidity and pain occur together often. Conditions that trigger abdominal pain can trigger guarding. Conditions affecting the abdominal organs can trigger pain. One of the usual abdominal causes of rigidity is appendicitis.

Symptoms that accompany abdominal rigidity

Abdominal rigidity is always considered as a medical emergency. The severe symptoms that might indicate a dangerous situation include black tarry stools, vomiting blood, rectal bleeding and fainting or inability of drink or eat.

Other symptoms such as increased abdominal girth, severe vomiting and shock are also indications of an emergency.

Symptoms such as nausea, tenderness, yellowish skin (jaundice), sensation of fullness after eating small amounts of food and appetite loss should also be monitored if they arise.


The treatment is based on the cause of the abdominal rigidity. Even though minor conditions might only require self-care, monitoring and prescription antibiotics, the serious causes of abdominal rigidity require aggressive forms of treatment.

Some of the aggressive forms of treatment might include intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration, intravenous antibiotics, nasogastric tube for nourishment or surgical intervention.

What are the possible complications?

If the causes of abdominal rigidity are left untreated, it can be deadly. It is important to note that infection in the abdomen will allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This leads to a drastic drop in the blood pressure. Severe loss of blood can also lead to death.

Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance from continuous vomiting can cause shock, dangerous heart rhythm issues and kidney failure.

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