Abdominal Tenderness

What is abdominal tenderness?

Abdominal tenderness, which can also be called, abdominal point tenderness occurs whenever pressure on a particular part of your abdomen causes you pain.

It usually comes with feelings of soreness and tenderness. There is another part to this, more like the exact opposite phenomenon and it is called Blumberg sign, otherwise called rebound tenderness. In Blumberg’s sign, pain is felt in the abdomen when there is a removal of pressure. Can you spot the difference and similarity between the two?  Removal, or application of a stimulus, which is pressure, causes the same response – pain – in the two instances.

Alright, let us move on with our choice article today – Abdominal tenderness and its causes.

Let us look at some of the common causes of abdominal tenderness. Before I go ahead with this, I want you to note that point tenderness is often a sign of inflammation of one or more internal organs around the abdomen.  The sudden pressure which is usually referred to as acute processes, on any abdominal organs can also induce pains. It shows that there is an underlying medical emergency especially if the pains persist, that is, if it keeps reoccurring. It indirectly points to a problem in one or more organs located in the abdominal region.  For instance, abdominal abscess, diverticulitis, Meckel’s diverticulum, ectopic pregnancy, appendicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), etc. are often associated with point tenderness.

McBurney point is the most common type of abdominal tenderness and it usually is an indication of inflammation in the pelvis. This is usually diagnosed from the region of the right lower quadrant.

You should, therefore, see it as an emergency and so visit a doctor for further investigation.


Abdominal Tenderness

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Causes of abdominal tenderness

A ruptured ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is seen when a fetus forms outside the uterus. But really, this is a life-threatening situation for the mother especially when the fluid-filled sac containing the fetus bursts.

An inguinal hernia

This is a state caused when a particular spot in muscles holding the intestine or abdomen becomes weak. This results in the bursting of the membrane.

Ruptured ovarian cyst 

Cysts can coexist with the follicles in the ovaries. When they burst, pains can also burst in the abdomen

Twisted fallopian tube

This occurs when the fallopian tubes twist on the tissues surrounding them

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) 

Infection of a woman’s reproductive organs, often the complication of several kinds of STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea

These conditions are all linked with some sort of inflammation. Inflammation causes swelling, which creates pressure inside the abdomen and results in tenderness.


Symptoms of abdominal tenderness

Symptoms associated with abdominal tenderness include; abdominal pain, distended abdomen, nausea, appetite loss, fainting, vomiting, nausea, bloating, constipation, fever, diarrhea, jaundice, pale stools, missed periods, etc.


Diagnosis and tests for abdominal tenderness

Your doctor will begin by examining your abdomen. Different regions based on the different organs located within the abdomen will be checked. These regions and the organs located there are; right lower quadrant (appendix), left lower quadrant (the final segment of the colon or digestive tract), left upper quadrant (stomach and duodenum), and right upper quadrant (liver and gallbladder).

  1. Abdominal ultrasound: It is otherwise called pelvic ultrasound. This ultrasound takes images of the organs of the abdomen by using sound waves. It is non-invasive. Ectopic pregnancies, hernias, or cysts can be detected.

  2. Abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan: Here, high-resolution images of abdominal organs are taken using X-rays. It is also non-invasive.

  3. Abdominal X-ray: X-rays are used to check abdominal organs.  Abdominal irregularities can be diagnosed.

  4. C-reactive protein test: It is a blood test used to confirm the presence of inflammation. It is usually positive when inflammation is present.

  5. Complete blood count (CBC):  When this test is carried out, an elevated leucocyte, also known as white blood cell count, informs that there is an underlying inflammation

  6. Serum progesterone test: It diagnoses ectopic pregnancy using progesterone level in the blood as a yardstick.


Treatment for point tenderness

The treatment depends on the underlying cause. Your doctor may ask you to avoid medications like naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin for up to 2 weeks. Why? Because they can increase your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and stomach ulcers. It may also aggravate your condition.


In the case of appendicitis, you may be given medications and fluids intravenously. Your doctor may also recommend an appendectomy.  An appendectomy is the surgical removal of your appendix.

You may also have to take out part of your colon if it is obstructed.

Ectopic pregnancy and hernias may be repaired with surgery to correct the structural abnormalities.

In other instances, your doctor may order a laparoscopic examination if you are very sick, and tests fail to disclose the actual cause of your point tenderness. A laparoscopic examination can only be done under anesthesia.

Your doctor will insert a laparoscope into your abdomen. The laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in your skin. With it, your doctor can have a clear view of the inside of your pelvis or abdomen to see what’s causing the problem.

Other treatments

Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting can cause low blood pressure and severe dehydration. If you’ve been vomiting for a long time, or you have severe diarrhea, your doctor may administer fluids and electrolytes intravenously.

The fluids will be introduced through a vein in your hand or arm. These fluids are essential for maintaining your acid-base balance and blood pressure.

Severe dehydration can cause your blood pressure to fall to very low levels. This condition is known as shock. The shock causes a shortage of blood supply to vital organs. It also damages the heart, kidneys, and the brain.

Home remedies

After addressing the main cause of your tender abdomen, you will be able to relieve other symptoms with basic home treatments.

You can reduce inflammation with the following tips:

  • Apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to the tender area to relieve soreness.
  • Take an OTC pain reliever, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen should be taken with caution as it can increase your risk of stomach bleeding if taken excessively.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga. Stress aggravates inflammation and tenderness.


How to prevent abdominal tenderness

The best way to prevent abdominal tenderness is by going for regular checkups. Some causes are not preventable, but you can always give your body a fighting chance against infections. The following tips might help:

  • Eat healthily
  • Do not binge eat
  • Sleep for at least 7-8 hours per night
  • Exercises for at least 30 minutes daily
  • Drink enough water every day.

Use condoms during sex to minimize your risk of pelvic inflammatory diseases.