Tightness in the stomach or abdominal cramps or stomach pain is the different names used to describe abdominal discomfort. Different sensations can be felt by a person in the stomach that cannot be explained under specific symptoms. There would be a feeling of firmness or tightness in the stomach and is largely felt after eating food. Different causes can be associated with tightness in the abdomen and let us discuss some of the major causes in this article.
The abdomen is the largest part of body cavity in humans. The abdomen starts below the thoracic cavity and extends just above the pelvic cavity. It includes several organs like stomach, gallbladder, liver, spleen, pancreas, intestines (small and large), kidneys and adrenal glands. The process of digestion begins and ends in this cavity. Tightness in the abdomen can occur superficially from the abdominal walls or deep inside the organs of the abdomen. Exact cause of tightness cannot be determined unless if the person could express his/her symptoms rightly. In many cases tightness is a generalized term used to describe the discomfort felt in the abdomen.
Symptoms Of Tightness In The Abdomen :
Tightness in the abdomen may or may not be associated with other symptoms. Some people may feel other signs along with tightness and others may not. Some of the symptoms related with abdominal tightness are nausea, vomiting, pain in the stomach, a feeling of fullness in the stomach, heartburn, excess of flatulence or belching and loss of appetite. For some people it is associated with constipation or diarrhea problems. Any abnormality in the organs of digestive system can certainly affect the abdomen causing pain and tightness. Abdominal tightness can also be felt due to problems with other organs like urinary tract or reproductive system. Frequent urination or passing small urine can also cause tightness of abdomen. Similarly menstrual cramps are felt as tightness in the abdomen but the actual problem originates from the reproductive system.
Location Of Tightness In The Abdomen :
A person should identify specific area of the abdomen where pain is felt. There are 4 major portions in the abdomen considering right and left sides.
- Right upper portion includes liver, gallbladder, pancreas, colon, a portion of small intestine and kidney.
- Left upper portion includes stomach, pancreas, colon, spleen, a part of small intestine and left kidney.
- Right lower portion contains colon, small intestine, right ovary, fallopian tube and right ureter.
- Left lower portion contains left ureter, small intestine, left ovary and fallopian tube.
Causes Of Tightness In The Abdomen
The person should be able to describe the right area where tightness is felt to diagnose the problem. And it becomes more difficult to diagnose if the pain is spread over the entire abdominal cavity and not limited to specific side or part.
There are many causes for tightness in the abdomen and some of which are discussed below.
- Abdominal Wall – Any injury or trauma to the abdominal wall on its superficial layer of skin or muscle or tissue can cause tightness. If the blow is sharp it can cause abdominal pain. The muscles of the abdomen get strained if the person performs certain activity (like running or walking fast) which he is not used to. Excess of fluid accumulation in the abdomen can cause tightness in the abdomen. Conditions like peritonitis (swelling of abdominal lining) can cause abdominal discomfort and tightness.
- Stomach – Any problem in the stomach can cause abdominal pain for sure. Inflammation of stomach or gastritis can lead to tightness of abdomen. Peptic ulcer in the stomach walls can cause pain and discomfort in the abdomen. Medical conditions like hiatal hernia can cause sudden severe pain in the abdomen. Any block in the stomach can cause abdominal discomfort and tightness.
- Liver and Gallbladder – Liver infection like hepatitis and liver cirrhosis can cause enlargement of liver inducing abdominal pain and tightness. Bile duct can develop swelling (cholecystitis) due to infection causing pain in the abdomen. Stones getting accumulated in the gallbladder can interfere with its normal functions leading to abdominal tightness. Any type of tumor or cancerous growth in the liver or gallbladder can trigger pain.
- Pancreas – Pancreatic conditions like inflammation of pancreas, pancreatic pseudocyst, and pancreatic cancer can cause abdominal tightness.
- Intestine – Formation of open sores in the stomach, any blockage in the intestine or narrowing of space in the small intestine, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis, appendicitis (infection of appendix) and fecal impaction can cause moderate to severe abdominal pain and tightness.
- Urinary Tract and Kidney – Inflammation of kidneys, infection of ureter, abnormal functioning of kidneys and inflammation of bladder and cancer in the kidney or bladder can cause abdominal discomfort and pain.
- Reproductive System – Getting pregnant would cause expansion of uterus thereby pushing the organs of the abdomen causing pain and discomfort. Conditions like endometriosis, formation of cysts in the ovary, uterine fibroids and inflammation of prostate glands and development of cancer in the ovary, fallopian tube or uterus can cause abdominal tightness and pain.
- Simple reasons like wearing tight clothing for long periods, wrong eating habits, strenuous physical activity, diarrhea and constipation can cause cramps and tightness of the abdomen.
Based on the symptoms and intensity of pain the doctor would gently press the abdomen with his fingers to feel any inflammation. He may order for testing procedures like blood test (to check for increased blood count), urine test (to rule out kidney stones) and stool test and also imaging tests like ultrasound scan or CT scan of the abdomen to detect any abnormality.
Treatment for abdominal pain and tightness depends on the cause. It is for the doctor to find out the actual culprit that has triggered pain in the abdomen before attempting to treat the patient.
- Wrong Eating Habits :
If you are getting abdominal cramps and tightness often after eating then it is clear that you are following wrong food habits. Eating too much of oily and spicy items can spoil the balance of the stomach enzymes causing pain and discomfort. It can cause excess of burping and belching and a feeling of fullness. Include plenty of fiber in your daily diet and reduce the intake of oily and spicy foods to the maximum. Drink plenty of water to speed up the digestion process.
- Gas :
In case you have developed abdominal tightness due to severe gas, your doctor may recommend antacids of good strength like omeprazole for getting relief from acidity and gas. Take prune juice, yogurt, broccoli and honey in your daily diet.
- Diarrhea/ Constipation :
Constipation is a long-term (chronic) problem for many men. To prevent constipation include lot of fiber and leafy greens in your food. Prescription drugs and laxatives can give relief from constipation. For people suffering from diarrhea taking rice and bananas can help in reducing the symptoms. Increase fluid intake to prevent dehydration.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome :
IBS can be resolved with suitable drugs and change in diet. Antispasmodic drugs, anti-diarrheal drugs, fiber supplements and antidepressant medications are prescribed for IBS. Including leafy vegetables, folic acid foods, whole wheat breads, and vitamin B6 items like carrots and beans can help in managing the symptoms.
Home Remedies :
Bloating sensation or feeling of fullness can also trigger tightness in the abdomen. Several home remedies like Chamomile tea, carbonated water, yoghurt, lemon juice, ginger juice and cardamom can be helpful in giving relief.