Abdominal spasms are typically a feeling of cramping in the abdomen caused by a rigid expansion of muscles. These spasms can vary from mild discomfort to moderate or severe pain. When the muscles of the abdomen constrict in such a way, the pain is generally felt in the upper or lower portion of the abdominal cavity. Abdominal spasms can be caused by a number of conditions, and generally, these aspects can range from harmless to serious disorders or disease.
Occasionally, an abdominal twitch might occur in healthy individuals who have overworked their abdominal, or ab, muscles. Sometimes in overstretching a group of ab muscles during exercise, a series of twitches and abdominal rigidity might occur. This is generally not serious and usually disappears after a short period of time and rest.
There are serious illnesses that could cause acute pain and spasms. Appendicitis, which is characterized by fever and pain in the lower abdomen, is caused by inflammation of the appendix. The pain can vary in individuals, but typically starts as a general pain in the lower right side of the abdominal wall. Nausea can be present as well. Not all lower abdominal spasms of the lower right side are caused by appendicitis; therefore, it is recommended to seek medical advice if the individual has unrelenting and unexplained pain, especially if it is accompanied by fever.
Inflammation of the gallbladder can cause acute abdominal pain. These spasms are typically located in the upper right portion of the stomach under the rib cage. In the event of a severe gallbladder attack, other symptoms may be present, such as fever, bloating and nausea. It is common for these symptoms to occur after consuming greasy and fatty foods, as a diseased gallbladder might have difficulty in aiding with digestion.
Intestinal viruses often produce abdominal spasms. After the virus runs its course, the pain generally subsides. Most often, individuals who have contracted an intestinal virus might suffer from stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, although symptoms tend to vary in many individuals. Along with the discomfort of stomach spasms, the individual may also experience a fever.
Also known to cause stomach distress are chronic illnesses classified as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Any of these conditions are known to cause moderate to severe spasms of the abdominal or intestinal tract. Conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are both associated with the disorder. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), though not directly related, can produce symptoms that are similar, with bouts of cramping and spasms occurring.
Other minor causes can be attributed to pain in the abdominal area. Frequently, indigestion can cause abdominal spasms, especially after eating a heavy meal. Certain individuals can have a low tolerance for foods that are high in fat or grease and might experience such discomfort after consuming them. Individuals who are lactose-intolerant can experience stomach or abdominal cramps and spasms after eating dairy products, such as milk or ice cream.