Not only adults but children also complain about occasional abdominal muscle spasms. A number of diseases and disorders can cause abdominal spasms. The sudden involuntary (that you cannot control) contraction of the abdominal muscles, which leads to mild or severe pain in the abdomen is referred to as 'spasm'. The pain can be experienced for a short period or it may continue over an extended period. It is necessary to find out the reason behind muscle cramps. Correct diagnosis helps design proper treatment.
Causes of Abdominal Muscle Spasms
The simple reason behind involuntary muscle contraction is strained or stretched muscle. But many times, there can be an underlying disease or disorder of the organs located in the abdominal cavity. Sudden constriction of a hollow organ like stomach, liver, gallbladder, small or large intestine, pancreas and appendix may cause stabbing pain or spasms. Spasms in the upper abdomen will be related to the disorder in any of the organs located in the upper cavity, while lower abdominal pain and cramps will be generally due to the digestive / reproductive / excretory system disorders. The spasms may affect the function of the organs situated in the cavity. Here is an overview of common causes of frequent spasms and pain in the abdomen.
- Digestive System Diseases: Multiple digestive system diseases like flatulence, acid reflux disease, indigestion, heartburn, cancer, hiatal hernia, tumors, gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach), alcoholic liver diseases, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, Crohn's disease (inflammation of the ileum, a part of the small intestine), diverticulitis (inflammation of a diverticulum in the digestive tract, especially in the colon), spleen problems, and cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder), etc., can lead to abdominal muscle spasms.
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, changing shape of the uterus, hormonal changes, stress and overexercise can lead to pain in the lower abdomen and cramps. In early pregnancy, implantation of embryo or miscarriage can lead to such cramps. Ectopic pregnancy can also lead to abdominal spasms. Labor pain due to severe repeated contractions of the uterus, is another obvious and very common cause of severe abdominal cramps during childbirth.
- Overexercise and Bad Posture: Overexercise, performing weightlifting exercises in a wrong way or performing any kind of exercise that is not suitable for your body can lead to cramps and pain in the abdomen. Adoption of an awry posture while sitting for prolonged periods can also give rise to painful spasms.
- Abdominal Migraine: The abdominal migraine symptoms, though very rare, are observed mostly in children belonging to the age group of 5-9. Some chemical changes related to histamine and serotonin, trigger an abdominal migraine attack and can cause severe pain and cramps.
- Food Allergy: Any type of food which is not suitable for your body (condition known as food intolerance) can cause indigestion, bloating and pain. For example, lactose intolerance, celiac disease (the person cannot tolerate gluten, wheat protein). As a result of a severe reaction, spasms are experienced by the person after consumption of wrong food, excess food or an allergen.
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): Infection in the urinary tract is sometimes responsible for pelvic pain followed by shooting abdominal cramps. Formation of kidney stones may obstruct the path of urine and may lead to infection (UTI), pain and cramps.
- Gallstones: Formation of gallstones in the gallbladder can obstruct the path of bile and accumulation of bile can lead to infection. It can cause pain in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen. The pain may spread towards the shoulder, lower back and right or lower abdomen.
- Obstruction in the Digestive Tract: Any type of hernia, internal bleeding, ulcers, a growing tumor in an organ in the abdomen can cause sharp pain and occasional cramps. The tumor can be benign or malignant.
- Bacterial or Viral Infections: Bacterial or viral infections leading to typhoid, jaundice, cholera, leptospirosis and food poisoning may lead to severe pain and spasms.
- Constipation: Hardening of stools and difficulty in passing stools is called 'constipation' which can lead to excessive pressure on abdominal muscles, resulting in pain and cramps.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea is the most common cause of spasms in the abdominal area. It is common in infants, children and adults.
- Ovarian Cysts and Fibroids : In women, an ovarian cyst or uterine fibroids can lead to severe cramps in the lower abdomen.
- Menstruation: Women frequently suffer from severe menstrual cramps before or during menstruation.
- Appendicitis: Inflammation of the appendix is a common cause of sharp abdominal pain and spasms.
The treatment for spasms and pain in abdomen may vary from person to person, depending upon the cause and overall health of the person. In case of minor causes (for example, excessive gas), home remedies like consumption of lemon and ginger or asafetida help relieve the pain. Following a high fiber diet, elimination of fast food from diet, avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol / drugs can help avoid most digestive system problems. Drinking plenty of water and healthy liquids, consuming foods rich in probiotic bacteria that help maintain the health of the intestinal flora can help relieve symptoms of constipation. Ginger root tea works wonders for abdominal spasms. However, continual onslaughts of such spasms should not be overlooked and medical intervention should be sought as early as practicable.
You should consult your physician if you often suffer from pain and cramps in the abdomen. Only after knowing your medical history and the type of symptoms experienced by you, the physician would be able to determine the course of the treatment. Prescribed pain killers and other medication can help relieve the pain and other symptoms. A balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle can help you lead a healthy life.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.