Abdominal tenderness is a type of pain that someone experiences when they apply pressure to their abdomen. It can occur due to various illnesses, or if a person experiences a physical blow to their abdomen.
According to an article that features in the International Journal of General Medicine, abdominal pain is the most common reason that people go to the emergency room.
A person may experience abdominal tenderness for several different reasons. The abdomen contains the digestive and reproductive organs, so tenderness in the area tends to relate to these organs.
In this article, we cover several possible causes of abdominal tenderness. We also discuss symptoms and treatment.
Appendicitis occurs when a person's appendix becomes inflamed.
The appendix is a small pouch linked to the large intestine. It is not yet clear whether it has a function, or what that function might be.
Symptoms of appendicitis include:
- severe pain near the belly button, which moves downward and to the right, getting worse over a few hours
- loss of appetite
- feeling and being sick
- diarrhea or constipation
- swelling in the abdomen
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), to treat appendicitis, a healthcare professional will perform surgery to remove the person's appendix.
This condition can occur due to:
- a bacterial infection
- damage to the stomach lining
- an autoimmune response
Gastritis can cause pain in the upper part of the abdomen. A person may also feel and be sick. However, some people with gastritis do not experience any symptoms.
The condition can sometimes trigger bleeding in the stomach. This is a serious issue and may result in a person experiencing the following symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- feeling faint
- blood in their vomit
- tarry, black stools
- blood in their stools
- feeling weak
- appearing pale
A doctor can treat the symptoms of gastritis by prescribing antacids to reduce the amount of acid in a person's stomach. However, a doctor also needs to treat the underlying cause of a person's gastritis to make sure that it does not reoccur.
This might involve prescribing a person antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection, or advising them on substances to avoid consuming that might be causing their gastritis.
In diverticulitis, small sacks push out from a person's colon. If these sacks, called diverticula, cause a person problems, a doctor may diagnose diverticulitis.
It is unclear why some people develop diverticula. Most people who develop them will not experience any symptoms, but some will experience swelling and pain in their abdomen if their diverticula become inflamed. A person with diverticulitis may also experience:
- diarrhea or constipation
- a fever
- feeling or being sick
According to the NIDDK, treatments for diverticulitis may include eating more fiber or taking fiber supplements, taking certain medications, or taking probiotics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes ongoing inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. This is the route that food takes as it passes through a person's body.
Two conditions fall under IBD: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The main difference between them is that Crohn's disease can affect the whole of the gastrointestinal tract, whereas ulcerative colitis only affects the colon and rectum.
IBD can cause a person to experience pain in their abdomen. They may also experience:
- frequent diarrhea
- blood in their stools
- weight loss
It is not clear why some people have IBD and others do not. Experts believe that IBD occurs due to a problem with a person's immune system. Environmental factors, genetics, or a combination of these can trigger the condition.
A doctor may prescribe various medications to treat IBD. A person may also need surgery to remove parts of the gastrointestinal tract that the IBD has damaged.
Abdominal tenderness may occur if a person has sustained an injury to their abdomen while playing sports.
According to an article that appears in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, the abdomen is vulnerable to injury due to its size and location on a person's body, and because it does not have a protective structure around it.
According to the article, serious injuries can include a hernia, in which a part of the intestine sticks out through the abdominal wall.
Other injuries can include muscle damage, in which the muscles of a person's abdomen are strained or torn by a physical blow, and organ damage, in which one of a person's abdominal organs can experience trauma or start to bleed.
If a person receives a blow to the abdomen while playing sports, it is important for someone with medical training to check their vital signs and for rebound tenderness.
The rebound test involves putting pressure on a person's abdomen for a few seconds then quickly letting go. If the person feels pain on release, they may have damage to an organ and need urgent medical attention.
There are many possible causes of abdominal tenderness. Due to this, diagnosing the issue precisely can take a medical professional some time.
According to an article in the International Journal of General Medicine, misdiagnosis can also be an issue.
Once a doctor has determined the cause of a person's abdominal tenderness, they can then make sure that the person is getting the best treatment for the underlying issue and ease any symptoms they are experiencing.