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Abdominal Wall Pain

Smita Pandit Apr 29, 2019
When does one experience abdominal wall pain? Read on to find out more on the causes, symptoms and treatment of this medical condition.
The abdomen refers to the space that lies between the chest cavity and the pelvic region. It contains various organs that help in digestion of food and assimilation of the nutrients. Skin, fascia and several layers of muscles make up the abdominal wall.
The walls of the abdominal cavity enclose the abdominal organs from all sides and demarcates the boundaries of the abdomen. Skin and fascia make up the outermost layer, whereas the internal layer contains muscles. The innermost layer comprises a thin membrane called fascia transversalis as well as peritoneum.
Peritoneum is a membrane that lines the abdominal cavity along with the organs that are located in the abdomen. Pain may emanate from the walls of the abdomen if any of these structures get damaged. Scroll down to find the causes and treatment of pain that may arise from the abdominal wall.

When Does One Suffer From Pain in Abdominal Wall?

When it comes to pain in the abdominal area, doctors first conduct diagnostic tests to check if the organs placed within the abdominal cavity are affected by any medical condition. Only when such conditions are ruled out, do they consider abdominal wall pain syndrome as a source of abdominal pain.
The symptoms of this condition may be mild, severe, constant or intermittent and the severity of the symptoms usually depends on the underlying cause. Though abdominal hernia is one of the most common causes of the pain in the walls of the abdomen, some other medical conditions could also be responsible for causing pain.
Hernia is a condition wherein a defect in the walls of the abdomen causes the contents of the abdominal cavity to protrude. Weak spots in the walls of the abdomen could be caused due to strain to the abdominal muscles.
Myofascia, which is the membrane that surrounds the muscle fibers, can also develop sore spots or active trigger points due to trauma or strain to the muscles. This causes the muscles to become extremely sensitive. Pain may be referred from these active trigger points to other parts of the body as well.
Weightlifters, are thus, at a high risk of developing myofascial tear owing to abdominal muscle strain. Lifting heavy weights or straining during bowel movements can weaken the abdominal muscles and can lead to the development of weak spots in the layers forming the boundaries of the abdominal cavity. This would lead to increased risk of developing hernia.
Defects in the abdominal wall could also be a complication of abdominal surgery. Penetrating trauma to the walls of the abdomen can damage the blood vessels and lead to hematoma. Hematoma refers to the accumulation of blood. Hematoma could occur during surgery and even after the surgery.
If left untreated, infection may occur at the site of incision which in turn would cause chronic abdominal pain and other various distressing symptoms. Intra-abdominal adhesions or bands of fibrous scar tissue may develop post surgery. These may obstruct the internal structures and cause pain.
If the incision doesn't heal properly, weak spots may develop and the contents of the abdominal cavity may bulge out through these spots and cause pain. Multiple pregnancies can also weaken the abdominal wall and make women susceptible to hematoma.
Childbirth can also put women at an increased risk of developing fibrous scar-like tissue that are called desmoid tumors. These are considered to be benign as they don't spread to other parts of the body. Entrapment of the rectus abdominis nerve may also cause pain in the abdominal region.

How to Treat Pain Arising from the Walls of the Abdominal Cavity

If the tests reveal protrusion of tissues or organs from the walls of the abdominal cavity, then doctors usually recommend an abdominal hernia surgery. Doctors may either perform an open surgery or use the minimally-invasive laparoscopic surgery procedure for performing hernia repair. These procedures are performed under the influence of anesthesia.
The surgery involves making an incision in the abdomen so as to push the herniated organ back in place. The next step involves the use of a surgical mesh to repair the defect. After the defect is repaired, the incision is sutured.
Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics and other drugs so as to prevent an infection. In an event of trauma resulting in accumulation of blood, surgery may be performed to drain the blood. Drug therapy would also be required in case of trauma to the abdomen, nerve entrapment or tension in the abdominal muscles.
If overuse of abdominal muscles is responsible for development of a tear in the layers that form the walls of abdominal cavity, doctors may also recommend physical therapy for treatment of pain in the walls of the abdominal cavity.
Performing certain exercises would help in strengthening the muscles. Application of heat pads or alternative therapies such as massage or acupuncture may also help in alleviating myofascial pain.
On a concluding note, surgery as well as drug therapy are mostly recommended for the treatment of abdominal wall pain caused by hernia, hematoma or trauma. Acupuncture may also prove beneficial in the treatment of strained abdominal muscles. One must understand the need to refrain from activities that subject the abdominal muscles to stress.
Staying physically active is extremely important, but stressing the body beyond tolerable limits would adversely impact the body. So, make the right lifestyle choices and do consult a doctor, if you ever experience recurring episodes of abdominal pain.