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Point tenderness - abdomen

Abdominal tenderness

Abdominal point tenderness is the pain you feel when pressure is placed over a certain part of the belly area (abdomen).

Considerations

The abdomen is an area of the body a health care provider can easily examine by touch. The provider can feel growths and organs in the belly area and find where you feel pain.

Abdominal tenderness can be mild to severe. Rebound tenderness occurs when the tissue that lines the abdominal cavity (the peritoneum) is irritated, inflamed, or infected. This is called peritonitis.

Causes

Causes include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Get emergency medical help right away if you have abdominal point tenderness.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will examine you and gently push on places on your belly. People with peritonitis will often tense the abdominal muscles when the area is touched. This is called guarding.

The provider will note any point of of tenderness. The location of the tenderness can indicate the problem that is causing it. For example, if you have appendicitis, you will have tenderness when a certain place is touched. This spot is called McBurney point.

The provider will also ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. These may include:

  • When did the symptoms start?
  • Is this the first time you have had such discomfort?
  • If not, when does the discomfort tend to occur?
  • Are you having other symptoms, such as constipation, diarrhea, fainting, vomiting, or fever?

You may need to have the following tests:

In some cases, you may need surgery right away. This may involve an exploratory laparotomy or an emergency appendectomy.

References

McQuaid K. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 132.

Squires R, Carter SN, Postier RG. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Elsevier; 2017:chap 45.

Swartz MH. The abdomen. In: Swartz MH, ed. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 14.

    • Anatomical landmarks, front view

      Anatomical landmarks, front view - illustration

      There are three body views (front, back and side) that may be helpful if you are uncertain of a body area. Many areas are referred to by both descriptive and technical names. For example, the back of the knee is called the popliteal fossa. However, areas like the "flank" may not have both names, so the location may be unclear.

      Anatomical landmarks, front view

      illustration

    • Appendix

      Appendix - illustration

      The appendix is near the junction of the small bowel and the colon. On occasion, it may become infected. Although most people are familiar with appendicitis, it is a relatively rare disease. It is treated by surgical removal of the appendix (appendectomy). Recovery time for uncomplicated appendicitis is usually just three days.

      Appendix

      illustration

      • Anatomical landmarks, front view

        Anatomical landmarks, front view - illustration

        There are three body views (front, back and side) that may be helpful if you are uncertain of a body area. Many areas are referred to by both descriptive and technical names. For example, the back of the knee is called the popliteal fossa. However, areas like the "flank" may not have both names, so the location may be unclear.

        Anatomical landmarks, front view

        illustration

      • Appendix

        Appendix - illustration

        The appendix is near the junction of the small bowel and the colon. On occasion, it may become infected. Although most people are familiar with appendicitis, it is a relatively rare disease. It is treated by surgical removal of the appendix (appendectomy). Recovery time for uncomplicated appendicitis is usually just three days.

        Appendix

        illustration

      Review Date: 12/10/2016

      Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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