Stomach spasms (abdominal muscle spasm): Causes and symptoms

stomach spasmsStomach spasms (abdominal muscle spasms) are involuntary contractions of the abdomen. During a stomach spasm, the muscle feels rigid and tense, and your stomach may feel tender to touch. Majority of spasms occur in the deepest layer of the stomach muscles that stabilizes your trunk.

There are a variety of reasons for muscle spasms. Understanding your cause of stomach spasms can help you prevent them and treat them more efficiently.

Causes of stomach spasms


Abdominal wall: Muscles lining the abdominal wall can become injured, resulting in stomach spasms. Muscle strain of the abdominal wall as well as overexertion can lead to these muscle spasms, too.

Hunger pains: Stomach muscles will contract to signal to you that you are hungry. This type of stomach spasm will be immediately relieved once you begin eating. On the other hand, overeating can lead to stomach pains, too, as the muscles become too stretched out.

Gastritis and peptic ulcer: Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach and peptic ulcer is an open sore along the stomach wall. These conditions can cause a dull pain, but can also contribute to muscle spasms.

Infections: Gastrointestinal infections such as norovirus can lead to stomach spasms along with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This is because the infection releases toxins that cause the muscles in the digestive tract to spasm.

Toxins and poisons: Toxins and poisons can irritate the digestive tract, causing vomiting, which occurs due to a strong contraction pushing the contents of the gut upwards. Stomach spasms may be strongest prior to vomiting, and are usually accompanied by nausea.

Obstruction: Any obstruction along the digestive tract can lead to stomach spasms.

Excessive gas: A buildup of gas can cause the muscles to become stretched, causing them to contract and spasm in order to return back to its normal size. The good news is, relieving gas can relieve discomfort and ease stomach spasms.

Food intolerance: When you eat a food which you have an intolerance too or are allergic to a reaction which may occur is stomach spasms. A food intolerance occurs when the nutrients of the food cannot be absorbed or digested and so your digestive tract begins to spasm. You may also experience diarrhea and cramping.

Irritable bowel syndrome: IBS is a functional bowel disorder which can lead to constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Although the exact cause of IBS is unknown, the symptoms may indicate that the bowel moves too slowly or too quickly, which can cause the muscles to go into spasm.

Irritation: Consuming foods or beverages that irritate the stomach can result in muscle spasms of the stomach. Alcohol or prescription drugs are an example of this.

Autoimmune conditions: Some autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease affect the digestive system, causing symptoms such as stomach spasms, diarrhea, constipation, and cramps.

Exertion: Physical strain can pull the muscles of the stomach just like any other muscle throughout the body. To reduce the risk of exertion, ensure you are using proper form and technique when performing physical activities and don’t overdo it.

Trauma: Unlike other parts of the body, the abdominal wall lacks protection against injury. Therefore, if the abdomen gets hit, the muscles lining it will begin to spasm.

Signs and symptoms of stomach spasms

Traveler’s diarrheaStomach spasms may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on their underlying cause. Accompanying symptoms include abdominal pain, swelling of the abdomen, flatulence or belching, changes in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, discolored stool, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, pulsating mass in the abdomen, or rectal bleeding.

If stomach spasms are a result of cardiopulmonary condition, symptoms may include chest pains or pressure, and shortness of breath.


You may also notice bloody or pink urine, bulge in the groin or abdomen, fainting or changes in levels of consciousness, fever, and sweating.

Chest pains, difficulty walking, high fever, severe abdominal pain, and shortness of breath or rapid heart rate should prompt you to seek medical attention right away.

Related: Burning sensation in stomach, burning stomach causes and natural home remedies

Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.


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