Sharp pains in your abdomen can be as minor as gastrointestinal gas, or as serious as appendicitis. Movements such as stretching or twisting of your torso and abdomen may aggravate your symptoms. Treatment varies based on the cause, but may include rest, over-the-counter medications and in some cases surgery. Consult your doctor for worsening or persistent pain.
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A forceful contraction of your abdominal muscles like during sneezing or coughing can result in an abdominal strain. Overstretching and a sudden twisting motion may also lead to a torn abdominal muscle. A strain may be a partial tear or a complete rupture and the severity of the tear affects the severity of your pain, which may be sharp at times. Additional symptoms include muscle spasms, muscle weakness and tenderness over the injury. Movement such as stretching and twisting of your torso may further aggravate your symptoms.
Abdominal hernia occurs when part of your intestines protrudes through your abdominal wall and muscles. An abdominal surgery; previous injuries, including a muscle strain; a family history of hernia; and pregnancy all increase your risk of developing a hernia. Activities like stretching and twisting may increase your pain and cause more damage. Additional symptoms include a visible bulge in your abdomen and nausea and vomiting if your hernia is severe. Potential complications include loss of blood flow to part of your intestine and peritonitis, or inflammation of your abdominal cavity.
Entrapment or compression of certain nerves could cause sharp abdominal pain. Stretching and twisting of your back, torso and hips may further compress your nerves. A herniated or prolapsed disc in your mid-back or thoracic spine may also lead to sharp abdominal pain. Other symptoms include back pain and numbness or tingling. On the other hand, a 2009 article in the "Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England" reported that most thoracic herniated discs are symptom-free, with less than 4 percent of sufferers experiencing symptoms.
Gas build-up in your gastrointestinal tract may cause sharp pains and bloating in your abdomen. Movements like twisting of your torso might increase your discomfort. Other causes of abdominal pain include a displaced lower rib or bruising or bleeding underneath your skin. Appendicitis also causes sharp pain from your belly button down to the right side of your lower abdomen. Appendicitis may lead to a loss of appetite, vomiting and a low-grade fever as well.
For muscle strains rest and ice are typically helpful. Your physician may recommend a compression wrap, anti-inflammatory drugs or physical therapy, depending on your injury and its severity. To alleviate gas, you can try over-the-counter medications with the approval of your doctor, and you can try changes to your diet to avoid gassy foods. Surgery may be necessary for severe muscle strains, abdominal hernias, a thoracic herniated disc, nerve entrapments and appendicitis.
- Summit Medical Group; Abdominal Muscle Strain; Pierre Rouzier, M.D.
- “American Family Physician”; The Abdominal Wall: An Overlooked Source of Pain; Saud Suleiman, M.D., et al.; April 2001
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Appendicitis
- “The Journal of the American Medical Association”; Abdominal Hernia; Ryszard M. Pluta, M.D., P.h.D; May 2011
- “Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England”; Thoracic Disc Prolapse Presenting with Abdominal Pain: Case Report and Review of the Literature; Nikolaos Papdakos, et al.; 2009
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.