Hardness in Lower Abdomen? Know All the Reasons!

Having trouble with your lower abdomen or seems like your lower abdomen is hard and painful? Are you out of track for having this pain? Then, you are not the only one dealing with it.

Lower abdominal hardness is a common problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s less harmful! 

So, what causes hardness in lower abdomen?

Abdominal Hardness is normally an involuntary process called “Guarding”. This process helps you to protect your abdomen from external pain. It could be caused by overeating or drinking carbonated beverages. Other causes, such as inflammatory bowel disease, can be more severe.

Here we will discuss ins and outs of lower abdominal rigidity. So, make sure to follow till the end!

What is Abdominal Hardness?

This is an involuntary process of abdominal muscles to prevent pain. 

This involuntary process is called “Guarding”. This is not the same as purposefully flexing your abdominal muscles or experiencing abdominal rigidity as a result of severe gas.

This is an involuntary process that can result in serious problems, even in life-threatening situations. Your fear of being touched in your abdomen may cause this problem sometimes. There will be no pain in such cases. 

hardness-in-lower-abdomen

Guarding indicates that your abdominal muscles are trying to protect your abdomen from external pain. It is the tensing of abdominal wall muscles to protect inflamed abdominal organs from pain or pressure. 

It is detected when we put any pressure on the abdomen and indicates that inflammation of the abdominal (peritoneal) surface may be present.

Lower abdominal hardness may occur with:

Causes of Hardness in Lower Abdomen

There are many factors that may cause lower abdominal hardness. These include: 

Exercise 

We most often do exercises to strengthen our lower abdominal muscles. Many sports also help to develop the muscles of our lower abdomen.

Abdominal rigidity or pain may occur while doing exercise in an inappropriate way. 

Exercises like crunches, squats and sit-ups may create muscle cramps and thus the abdomen may get swollen. Over time, your abdominal muscles may become tight.

Over Eating

Eating too much food is dangerous for health. If you lie down or sit just after eating, the situation may get worse. Also eating very fast creates problems while digesting as your stomach gets filled. 

In such cases, you may see stiffness in your abdominal muscle. 

over-eating

But these sorts of stiffness may go away after some time when the food gets digested properly. If the situation gets worse then you need to consult with doctors.

Taking Too Much Carbohydrate

Your lower abdomen can easily get stiff if you take too much carbohydrates. So, try to eat low carb foods.

Soft Drinks

Soft drinks create a lot of problems for our health. They contain “Carbonic Acids” which produce carbon-di-oxide inside our abdomen. This gas creates uneasiness and thus may create abdominal rigidity. 

Constipation

Constipation can be caused by a bowel movement problem, which results in an unpleasant feeling. Constipation can also be a reason for abdominal hardness.

Gastritis

Stomach ulcers create inflammation in the abdomen.The most common symptoms are bloating, pain, and abdominal hardness.

Tumor

Lower abdominal rigidity can be caused by a growing tumor. 

Tumors growing in the lower abdominal cavity may put pressure on adjacent organs and also may stretch the skin.They may also cause bloating, heaviness in the abdomen, and dull pain.

Peritonitis

Inflammation in the peritoneum can also cause hardening of the abdomen. Especially the lower one.

The peritoneum is a silk-like membrane which covers our abdomen’s internal organs. 

Viral, bacterial or fungal infections may happen in the peritoneum. Abdominal rigidity is commonly associated with peritonitis, which also causes fever, abdominal tenderness, nausea, and diarrhea.

peritonitis

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance is also a reason for abdominal rigidity. 

If you feel unable to digest the food you eat like dairy products, your abdomen may get hardened.

Well then, if your question was ‘Why may I have abdominal rigidity?’ then the above mentioned reasons are your answer! Along with these there can be other severe reasons as well, like inflammatory bowel disease.

Abdominal Hardness During Pregnancy

It is pretty much expected that your stomach gets stiff during pregnancy. It is generally caused by your uterus growing and putting pressure on the abdomen.

It can be more pronounced if you follow a low fiber diet during pregnancy. Drinking carbonated drinks also may cause abdominal stiffness, so try to avoid them in this stage.

Severe Symptoms to Know

Abdominal rigidity is normally a medical emergency. Severe symptoms indicating life-threatening conditions include:

  • Black, tarry stools
  • Vomiting blood
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Inability to eat and drink
  • Fainting

Other signs of an emergency include severe vomiting, increased abdominal girth, distended abdomen, shock, and low blood pressure.

Other symptoms to look for:

  • Tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Appetite loss
  • Feeling full after eating small amounts of food, also known as early satiety.

When to See a Doctor?

If you feel your abdomen is hard for a few days then you have to seek medical attention. If you face symptoms like bloody stools, severe abdominal pain, severe nausea and vomiting then you should see a doctor as soon as possible. 

How to Diagnose Lower Abdominal Hardness?

You have to see a doctor as soon as you face abdominal rigidity. Even a minor stomach virus may cause guarding. You won’t know the reason until you are diagnosed properly by a physician. 

Never try to take any medication on your own. This may lead to other serious problems like altering the pain. 

The doctor might ask you a few questions. These include:

  • The time you last ate.
  • The food you last ate.
  • For how much time do you have lower abdominal hardness?
  • Do you feel pain? If there is, then what is the condition? The intensity of the pain. Is it dull, sharp, or moving to another location?
  • What were you doing when your abdominal rigidity began?
  • What makes the situation worse or better? 

Knowing these factors, your doctor might be able to make a diagnosis. To be sure, he may request a few tests. These are the following: 

  • Blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
  • Urine test
  • Complete Blood count (CBC)
  • Ultrasound of the abdominal or pelvic region
  • Serum electrolytes (potassium, sodium, chloride and bicarbonate)
  • Peritoneal lavage
  • Colonoscopy
  • Creatinine (to ensure whether the kidney is functioning properly)
  • Liver function test
  • Test for blood in stool 

Abdominal CT scans and X-rays may include ensuring if there is any obstruction or not. The doctor won’t give any pain reliever until these tests are done as pain relievers may hide symptoms sometimes.

colonoscopy

Treatment 

Treatment varies depending on the conditions and causes of lower abdominal hardness. Some treatment options for minor conditions may require: 

Self-Care

You can do some exercises to heal from abdominal hardness. You can try the following exercise to relax your abdominal muscles:

  • Pull your belly button towards your spine 
  • Hold for about 6 seconds without holding your breath
  • Relax up to 10 seconds 

Monitoring 

Along with home treatment, you have to follow up with your physician. If you face abdominal hardness very often, do consult a physician.

Prescription Antibiotics

If the abdominal hardness is due to some infection, your doctor will suggest antibiotics.

More serious causes of lower abdominal hardness require more aggressive treatment. Depending upon your situation, aggressive treatment can include:

  • Intravenous fluid to prevent dehydration
  • Nasogastric tube to provide nourishment
  • Intravenous antibiotics
  • Surgery

Prevention

There are many techniques to prevent lower abdominal hardness. It is better to prevent than to suffer later! So, look through these to see which suits you best!

Try Yoga Poses

Various yoga poses help your abdominal muscles to get relaxed. It also helps to release the extra gas from the GI tract. 

Go For a Walk

Physical activities like walking and jogging help to get the bowels moving more regularly. This releases the extra gasses from the abdomen. 

Getting the bowel to move is essential for a constipation patient. A walk for half an hour every day may provide fast relief from gas pressure. 

Try Gas Relief Capsules

Anti-gas medications can help to move excess air from the digestive tract. It’s important to take the medications according to the instructions from a physician. 

Try Abdominal Massages

Messages help the bowel move properly at the same time relaxing your abdominal muscles. You can do so by following the steps mentioned below:

  • Place your hand above your right hip bone.
  • Lightly rub up towards the right side of your rib cage in a circular motion.
  • Rub your upper belly straight across.
  • Lower yourself slowly toward the left hip bone.
  • Get More Active Every Day

Exercise aids in the movement of stool and gas from the colon, as well as the regularity of bowel movements. 

It also helps your abdominal muscles to get relaxed. 

Eat at Regular Intervals

A heavy meal may cause bloating right after. 

To reduce it, you need to take several smaller meals every day, which helps to keep your digestive system working properly. 

Replace Soda with Water

Carbonated drinks contain gas, which can accumulate in the stomach. Carbon-di-oxide from fizzy drinks may create bubbling and bloating in the stomach. 

Sugar also can create gas and bloating. It’s good to replace these fizzy drinks with water.

Increase Fiber Gradually

Fiber helps to prevent constipation and bloating. Taking more fiber regularly is also good for your digestive system.

Complications Associated with Abdominal Hardness

Abdominal rigidity, if left without treatment, can sometimes be life-threatening. 

Bacteria may enter into the blood because of abdominal infections. Blood pressure can fall to dangerously low and thus result in shock. Severe blood loss can be life-threatening sometimes. 

Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance through prolonged vomiting may result in:

  • Dangerous heart rhythm problem
  • Kidney failure
  • Shock

If you have severe abdominal hardness and pain, check with your doctor as soon as possible.

FAQs

Question: My lower abdomen is hard am I pregnant? 

Answer:   Hardness or feeling pain in the lower abdomen does not indicate early stages of pregnancy. Normally, a person’s stomach or abdomen will not show any noticeable signs of pregnancy while touching. It could be due to other issues like muscle cramps, peritonitis or bloating.

Question:  Can tight abdominal muscles cause digestive problems?

Answer: Muscle tension also affects the digestive system. Tense abdominal muscles can press against the intestines and stomach. It causes bowel movement to be restricted. Therefore, many people who suffer from chronic muscle tension also experience indigestion and constipation.

Question:  Can I exercise with abdominal strain?

Answer: Yes, you can. For now, you can lie on your back. Then keeping your feet on the floor bend your knees. Tighten your muscles and press your back into the floor.

Question:  How can I stimulate my abdominal muscles?

Answer: You may go for a walk after eating or engage in another gentle physical activity. These may help to stimulate your abdominal muscles. You have to avoid lying down during and right after meals. 

Question:  How long does it take to heal a lower abdominal strain?

Answer: It may vary based on your condition. It might take some weeks to heal if you have a mild strain. Also, it may take 6 weeks or longer to heal from a severe strain.

Question: Do I need to get worried if my abdomen gets hard?

Answer: Abdominal rigidity can sometimes become life-threatening. So you need to see a doctor if the situation gets worse.

Final Words

Hardness in lower abdomen can be moderate to severe. Sometimes it becomes life-threatening.

But if you follow the precautions and treatment options provided here, there’s nothing to worry about!

Having a proper diet and doing exercises properly may help to prevent this muscle stiffness. If the situation gets severe you must consult with a physician immediately.

Dr. Swathi Kilari

Dr. Swathi Kilari

Hello there! This is Dr. Swathi Kilari here, a writer in progress. I am a graduate of Cebu Doctors' University from the Philippines and am currently registered to practice in India. I write now and then to share my knowledge and experience about healthcare. I am happy to help you make wise choices to lead a healthy life. Healthcare and teaching are two of my passions. I am a food enthusiast, home baker, and cook. If I am not doing any of these, I am probably sleeping.

Wholesomealive.com -a blog about Healthy Living
Logo