Your abdominal muscles can become sore if they are overworked, exercised too hard or when dealing with a stomach flu. However, chronic abdominal muscle pain can also signal an underlying medical condition. In addition, conditions affecting internal organs or structures that do not have their own pain receptors, may cause pain in the abdominal muscles. This means pain may be felt in the stomach area, even though that is not where the problem is. Since there are so many conditions that can cause abdominal muscle pain, it is best to get a proper diagnosis, which often requires specific tests.
Indigestion is a general term that describes a variety of conditions that cause generalized symptoms, including abdominal muscle pain or discomfort. The pain may be dull or burning. It can be localized to the abdomen or radiate into the chest or throat. Abdominal muscle pain related to indigestion may or may not be accompanied by a feeling of fullness, bloating, cramping or muscle spasms.
While occasional occurrences of indigestion may not be serious, chronic indigestion may be a warning sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease, cancer or a blockage in an organ, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. A physician will need to perform a physical exam and run a series of tests to determine the cause of indigestion and the best treatment approach.
Appendicitis is an inflammation or infection of the appendix, a small pouch between the abdomen and large intestine. If the appendix becomes blocked, it can rupture and cause severe abdominal muscle pain that requires emergency surgery. However, some cases come on more slowly and start with dull generalized pain, loss of appetite, fatigue and fever, symptoms that get worse over time.
If appendicitis is caught and treated before the appendix ruptures, recovery is faster, according to the National Institutes of Health. Since having an appendix is not necessary for survival, doctors will remove the appendix surgically to resolve the symptoms.
The pancreas is a gland near the abdomen that produces digestive enzymes and hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. Pancreatitis, an inflammation of this gland, causes symptoms such as abdominal muscle pain and cramping that may come on suddenly or gradually. Many conditions and diseases can cause pancreatitis, and severe cases usually require hospitalization.
If pancreatitis is suspected, look for upper abdominal muscle pain that radiates into the back. With pancreatitis, the stomach muscles might be tender to the touch. Additional warning signs include nausea, vomiting and indigestion. A combination of medication, pain management techniques and surgery may be necessary to fully manage symptoms.
Sometimes abdominal pain signals an injury or problem with the abdominal wall. This is the case with a spigelian hernia, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. This type of hernia causes muscles of the abdomen or part of the intestines to push into the abdominal cavity.
Lifting heavy objects, performing forceful twisting and bending movements, and straining to cough or go to the bathroom can cause hernias. Symptoms include generalized or dull abdominal pain, vomiting and difficulty with bowel movements.