A rigid abdomen is a condition when your muscles get very stiff or tight and pain gets worse when a hand is pressed on the belly area. The pain may happen on one side of your body or both sides. It can be caused by fear or nervousness about being touched, but it’s more likely caused by a physical condition inside the body – like appendicitis.
Rigidity can be due to inflammation (peritonitis) or injury and medical conditions like appendicitis, bowel obstruction or ischemic bowel disease. A fluid buildup in the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity (peritoneum) can also cause the abdomen to become distended. This can occur when the tissues are inflamed from infection or they become filled with fluid as a result of liver scarring and swelling (cirrhosis). Healthcare professionals often identify this through a physical exam, but an ultrasound is more sensitive.
Another condition that can cause a rigid abdomen is a tumor or abscess in the intestine, stomach or colon. A distended abdomen can also be caused by a hernia or ectopic pregnancy. A hard feeling stomach while pregnant is normal but if the pain is severe, you should see your OB-GYN or seek immediate medical attention.