Abdominal Rigidity General Signs and Symptoms

  • Abdominal Rigidity [Abdominal Muscle Spasm, Involuntary Guarding]

Distinguishing voluntary from involuntary abdominal rigidity is a must for accurate assessment. Review this comparison so that you can quickly tell the two apart.


• Usually symmetrical
• More rigid on inspiration (expiration causes muscle relaxation)
• Eased by relaxation techniques, such as positioning the patient comfortably and talking to him in a calm, soothing manner
• Painless when the patient sits up using his abdominal muscles alone


  • • Usually asymmetrical
    • Equally rigid on inspiration and expiration
    • Unaffected by relaxation techniques
    • Painful when the patient sits up using his abdominal muscles alone
  • Detected by palpation, abdominal rigidity refers to abnormal muscle tension or inflexibility of the abdomen. Rigidity may be voluntary or involuntary.
  • Involuntary rigidity most commonly results from GI disorders,
  • involuntary rigidity reflects potentially life-threatening peritoneal irritation or inflammation

Abdominal Rigidity History and Physical Examination

  • Find out when the abdominal rigidity began. Is it associated with abdominal pain? If so, did the pain begin at the same time?
  • Determine whether the abdominal rigidity is localized or generalized. Is it always present? Has its site changed or remained constant?
  • any types of aggravating or alleviating factors, such as position changes, coughing, vomiting, elimination, and walking.
  • Inspect the abdomen for peristaltic waves, which may be visible in very thin patients
  • Finally, check for poor skin turgor and dry mucous membranes, which indicate dehydration.

Abdominal Rigidity Medical Cause(s)

  •  Abdominal aortic aneurysm (dissecting). Mild to moderate abdominal rigidity occurs with abdominal aortic aneurysm, a life-threatening disorder
  • Peritonitis. Depending on the cause of peritonitis, abdominal rigidity may be localized or generalized.
  • Mesenteric artery ischemia. A life-threatening disorder, mesenteric artery ischemia is characterized by 2 to 3 days of persistent, low-grade abdominal pain and diarrhea leading to sudden, severe abdominal pain and rigidity
  • Insect toxins. Insect stings and bites, especially black widow spider bites, release toxins that can produce generalized, cramping abdominal pain, usually accompanied by rigidity


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