Definition

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

Alternative Names

Abdominal tenderness

Considerations

The abdomen is an area of the body a doctor can easily examine by touch. The health care 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. Such a condition is called peritonitis.

Common Causes

  • Abdominal abscess
  • Appendicitis
  • Certain types of hernias
  • Meckel’s diverticulum
  • Ovarian torsion (twisted Fallopian tube)

Call your health care provider if

Any person with point tenderness should call the emergency number (911) or go to an emergency room to be examined right away by a health care provider.

What to expect at your health care provider’s office

Your health care provider will examine you and gently push on different areas of your belly. Persons with peritonitis will often tense the abdominal muscles when area is touched. This is called “guarding.”

The doctor will note any point tenderness. This is a general term that means you have tenderness in a certain area.

For example, if you have appendicitis, you will likely have point tenderness when a certain part of your belly area is touched. This area is called McBurney’s point.

The health care provider will also ask questions about your symptoms and medical history:

  • When did the symptoms start?
  • Is this the first time you have had such discomfort?
  • If not, when does the discomfort tend to occur?
  • What other symptoms do you have? For example, do you have:
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • Fainting
    • Fever
    • Vomiting

The following tests may be done:

  • Abdominal x-ray
  • Abdominal CT scan (occasionally)
  • Blood work, such as a complete blood count

In some cases, immediate surgery will be needed. This may involve an exploratory laparotomy or an emergency appendectomy.

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