Feeling a muscle spasm in your abdomen can be a mildly annoying experience or a downright painful one. In many cases, abdominal muscle spasms can be prevented by making changes in your eating and drinking habits, as well as your exercise. If the cramps continue despite taking preventive measures, consult a doctor.
Abdominal Muscle Spasms
A muscle spasm, also known as a muscle cramp, is a forceful, involuntary contraction. Abdominal muscles are particularly prone to spasms because they are so short and tend to stay contracted when doing exercises such as situps.
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A mild spasm is felt as a dull pulling or fluttering sensation, while a severe spasm feels like a sharp, stabbing pain. If the contraction of the muscle is severe enough, it can form a lump under the skin because the muscle is knotted.
Causes of Muscle Spasms
Muscle soreness can feel similar to muscle spasms. According to Harvard Health Publishing, muscle soreness that lasts for a day or two after a workout likely means you did more than you should have. Sudden sharp pain or pain that lasts longer than a few days is not normal workout soreness and should be evaluated by a doctor.
The exact cause of muscle spasms is not clear, but certain conditions are known to precipitate them. Common conditions include dehydration, muscle fatigue, electrolyte imbalances or deficiencies, and lack of a proper warmup.
Holding your abdominal muscles in one position for a long period of time can also increase the likelihood they will spasm. In some cases, an underlying medical condition or prescription medication is the cause.
Treatment for Muscle Spasms
As soon as you feel your abdominal muscle start to spasm, grab the affected area and massage it until the spasm goes away. Stretching your muscles by gently twisting side to side or leaning backward may also help. Drink water or a beverage enhanced with electrolytes to help you hydrate. Eating a banana, which is high in the electrolyte potassium, may also help.
Apply heat to relax tight abdominal muscles, and apply cold if your muscles are sore or tender. If the spasm is severe or doesn't respond to self-care measures, seek medical attention.
Prevention of Stomach Muscle Spasms
To avoid stomach muscle spasms, warm up your body and stretch your abdominal muscles before doing situps. Performing five to 10 minutes of light cardio is an effective whole-body warmup.
Drink water or a sports drink enhanced with electrolytes before and after performing situps, particularly if you have been sweating a lot.
Eat a nutrient-dense diet to ensure you get plenty of electrolytes, particularly potassium and magnesium. Taking a multivitamin can also help ensure proper nutrients to help prevent abdominal muscle spasms.
Avoid overexertion by cutting back on reps or stop your situp routine if your muscles get fatigued or sore. Talk with a certified trainer to make sure you are using proper form, and talk to your doctor if you are taking medications to verify that muscle spasms aren't a side effect. If you continue to experience spasms, consult a doctor.
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.