Abdominal tenderness, or point tenderness in
your abdomen, is when pressure on an area of your abdomen causes pain. It may
also feel sore and tender. If the
removal of pressure causes pain, then that’s known as rebound tenderness or
Blumberg sign. Point tenderness is often a sign that something is wrong with
one or more organs in the area.
When to seek
All disorders that cause abdominal point
tenderness are medical emergencies. Seek emergency medical help if you have abdominal
tenderness, especially if you also have a fever. Untreated abdominal point
tenderness can be life-threatening. Some conditions that may cause abdominal
- Appendicitis can result in a ruptured appendix and peritonitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the abdomen).
- An ectopic pregnancy can cause
severe blood loss, which can be fatal.
- A twisted fallopian tube or
pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause pelvic scarring and infertility.
- Infections in the digestive tract
(diverticulitis) can be
Common causes of abdominal point tenderness
Abdominal point tenderness is generally a
sign of inflammation or other acute processes in one or more organs. The organs
are located around the tender area. Acute processes mean sudden pressure caused
by something. For example, twisted or blocked organs can cause point
Some common causes of abdominal point
- appendicitis: swelling of the appendix,
a small pouch attached to the large intestines, which usually occurs when the
appendix becomes blocked by feces traveling through the intestines
- abdominal abscess: a pocket of infected
fluid and pus inside the belly, caused by a burst appendix, intestine, or
ovary; inflammatory bowel disease; or infection
- Meckel diverticulum: a remnant of the
umbilical cord that creates a small bulge on the small intestine that can cause
bleeding or intestinal obstruction later in life (occurs in about 2 percent of
the U.S. population)
- diverticulitis: inflammation of the inner
lining of the intestines
causes for women include:
hernia: a condition that occurs when part of the membrane lining the
abdominal cavity or intestines bursts through a weak spot in the abdominal
- twisted fallopian tube: a rare condition in which
one or both fallopian tubes twist on the tissues that surround them
- ruptured ovarian
sometimes cysts form on the ovaries where follicles form and these cysts may
- ruptured ectopic pregnancy: a life-threatening
pregnancy condition in which the fetus begins to form outside the uterus, and
the sac of fluid holding the fetus bursts
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): an 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 that go along with abdominal point
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- pale stools
- distended abdomen
- missed periods
What to expect from the doctor
Your doctor will take a complete medical
history and perform a physical examination. They’ll want to know about all the
symptoms you have and when they started. Your doctor will also want to know
what makes your symptoms feel better or worse.
Parts of the abdomen
Your doctor can examine the area by touch. The
region where there’s pain may show an issue with certain organs. For example:
- right upper quadrant (liver and gallbladder)
- left upper quadrant (stomach and duodenum)
- right lower quadrant (appendix)
- left lower quadrant (final segment of colon or digestive tract)
The most well-known type of point tenderness
is McBurney point. It is located in the right lower quadrant, in the area of
your appendix. Point tenderness over McBurney point means your appendix is very
inflamed. At this point, your appendix is at risk for rupturing.
Problems with pelvic organs, including the
ovaries and fallopian tubes, can also cause right or left lower quadrant
You may need to take the following tests to
help determine the cause of abdominal point tenderness:
noninvasive test that uses X-rays to examine your abdominal organs, which can
help find cysts and other abdominal irregularities
computed tomography (CT) scan: a noninvasive test that uses X-rays to make
high resolution images of your abdominal organs to locate structural abnormalities
- complete blood count (CBC): a blood test that helps
assess your general health (An elevated white blood cell count tells the doctor
that inflammation is present, indicating infection or disease.)
protein test: a blood test that is positive when inflammation is present
- serum progesterone test: a blood test for
pregnancy, which is more sensitive than a urine pregnancy test, can help
determine if you are experiencing ectopic pregnancy
- abdominal or pelvic ultrasound: a noninvasive test that
uses sound waves to make images of abdominal and pelvic organs, which can help
locate hernias, cysts, or ectopic pregnancies
Treatment for abdominal point tenderness
depends on the underlying cause. Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen for abdominal pain as this
increases your risk for stomach ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. It may
also worsen your condition.
For appendicitis, you may get medicine and
fluids through a port in a vein in your hand or arm (intravenous antibiotics).
You may also have an appendectomy. This is the surgical removal of the appendix through your abdomen.
You may need surgery to remove part of the
colon if it’s obstructed.
Hernias, a twisted fallopian tube, and
ectopic pregnancies may also need surgery to correct such structural
Your doctor may perform a laparoscopic
examination if you are very ill and tests
don’t show which organ is causing abdominal point tenderness. A laparoscopic
examination is a surgical procedure that requires general anesthesia. It
involves inserting a laparoscope (a thin tube with a light attached to it) into
the abdomen through a small incision in the skin. It allows doctors to see
which organ inside your abdomen or pelvis is causing the problem.
Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can cause
severe dehydration and low blood pressure. If you’ve been experiencing vomiting
and diarrhea, you may also get fluids and electrolytes intravenously. Your
doctor will introduce these fluids through a vein in your arm or hand. These
fluids help maintain your blood pressure and acid-base balance.
Severe dehydration can cause dangerously low
blood pressure (shock). Shock reduces blood flow to
all vital organs. It can also damage your kidneys, heart, and brain.
Once you’ve addressed the main cause of your
abdominal tenderness, you can help ease any other symptoms with some simple
The following tips can help reduce the
- Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad to the tender area to help
ease abdominal soreness.
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and deep
breathing. Stress can worsen inflammation and tenderness.
Seeing your doctor for regular checkups is
the best method of prevention. Some causes can’t be prevented, but you can help
your body fight off infections. You can:
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet.
- Eat smaller meals throughout the
- Get at least seven to eight hours
of sleep a night.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a
- Drink water frequently.
- Practice safe sex to decrease
your risk for pelvic inflammatory diseases.
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