What causes abdominal muscle spasm?

Like any other muscle in the human body, your abdominal muscles can have spasms 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. Abnormal abdominal spasms may also be caused by acute disorders of the organs located within the abdomen, particularly the intestines.

Gastrointestinal causes of abdominal muscle spasm

Abdominal muscle spasm may be caused by gastrointestinal disorders including:

  • Colic
  • Diverticulitis (inflammation of an abnormal pocket in the colon)
  • Hernia
  • Intussusception (a condition in which one part of the intestine collapses into another part)

Other possible causes of abdominal muscle spasm

Abdominal muscle spasm can also be caused by other conditions including:

Serious or life-threatening causes of abdominal muscle spasm

In some cases, abdominal muscle spasm may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These conditions include:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Aortic dissection
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Intestinal ischemia (loss of blood supply to the intestines that can lead to death of intestinal tissue)
  • Perforated bowel

Questions for diagnosing the cause of abdominal muscle spasm

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your abdominal muscle spasm including:

  • How long have you had these abdominal muscle spasms? How often do they occur?
  • Have you noticed anything that seems related to their occurrence?
  • Have you experienced any abdominal pain or bloating?
  • Have you seen any changes in your bowel movements or habits?
  • Have you had any bleeding from your rectum or blood in your urine?
  • Have you had any kind of stomach upset or heartburn?
  • How much alcohol do you drink?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of abdominal muscle spasm?

In most cases, abdominal muscle spasms related to exercise or muscle strain are not serious. However, because abnormal abdominal spasms can be due to serious underlying conditions, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying condition is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Deterioration of bowel function
  • Intestinal obstruction and rupture of the intestine
  • Rupture of an aortic aneurysm
  • Sepsis (a life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
  • Shock


  1. Muscle cramps. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003193.htm.
  2. Abdominal pain. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003120.htm.


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 betwe... Read more about abdominal muscle spasmintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with abdominal muscle spasm?

Abdominal muscle spasm may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur along with abdominal muscle spasm

Abdominal muscle spasm may accompany other symptoms that affect the gastrointestinal system including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 29, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

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