Trigger points in the rectus abdominis can cause a host of symptoms, including pain around the sternum, lower abdomen, and bands of pain across the middle and lower back. They can also contribute to heartburn, indigestion, and feeling bloated. Are you having UTI symptoms or problems with incontinence? Trigger points in the rectus abdominis and other abdominal muscles may cause and contribute to your woes.

Contents of Article

    Where Is The Rectus Abdominis Muscle?

    Rectus Abdominis Anatomy

    The rectus abdominis muscle attaches to the bottom of the pelvis (pubis bone) traveling up to connect to the breast bone (xiphoid process of the sternum) and the 5th, 6th, and 7th ribs.

    What Movements Does It Control?

    • Bending over
    • Assists with breathing
    • Supports and protects the internal organs

    Looking for detailed muscle anatomy? The Rectus Abdominis Muscle Anatomy Page has origin, insertion, innervation, and blood supply information. It also lists agonists and antagonists for each muscle action.


    Rectus Abdominis Trigger Points Symptoms:

    Rectus Abdominis Referred Pain Pattern

    NOTE: Trigger points in the abdominal area cause and contribute to pain throughout the abdomen and back. Because the trunk of the body contains our vital organs, it is important to consult your doctor to rule out a serious medical cause for your symptoms.

    Other symptoms:

    • Pain that runs horizontally across the mid-back under the shoulder blade
    • Pain that runs horizontally across the low back and or top of the hips
    • Pain around the sternum between the breasts (not shown)
    • Pain in the low abdomen
    • Feeling bloated
    • Heartburn and indigestion
    • UTI symptoms
    • Bladder incontinence
    • Testicular pain

    What Causes Trigger Points To Develop In The Rectus Abdominis?

    • Over-exercising muscles (sit-ups and leg-ups)
    • Shallow breathing
    • Chronic coughing and sneezing
    • Childbirth
    • Abdominal surgery
    • Scars from abdominal surgery
    • Chronic Constipation
    • Sitting for long periods of time
    • Sitting in a twisted position
    • Carrying a heavy backpack

    TWD Recommends

    If you have rounded shoulder, forward head posture, or a habit of slouching, correcting your posture will reduce muscle pain. The Truweo Posture Corrector is adjustable and comfortable. It gently pulls your shoulders back, which helps retrain muscle memory to maintain proper posture. Many people notice an immediate reduction of pain and tension. Start slowly, wearing the brace for short periods throughout the day, gradually increasing the time-worn.

    How To Avoid Development of Trigger Points In The Rectus Abdominis Muscles

    • If you have rounded shoulder posture where your shoulders roll forward or forward head posture where you carry your head with your chin jutted forward, you may want to consider a posture corrector to help retrain your muscles into the correct posture.
    • Pay attention when doing targeted abdominal exercises. More is not always better. Don't overdo it!
    • Are you a shallow breather? When you inhale, does your chest or abs expand to take in air? It should be the abdominals. Practice inhaling deep into the stomach and exhaling slowly until it becomes a habit.
    • We know sitting for extended periods every day negatively affects our bodies and health. However, if you work at a desk sitting all day is the norm. Consider purchasing a standing desk and alternate sitting and standing throughout the day.
    • We all have a habit of slumping when we sit.  A lumbar support will remind you not to slouch and support your back, which will help with abdominal pain.
    • If you have abdominal scars from surgery, massage is the best treatment to treat the restrictions that form in the scar area. Massage will reduce your pain, tightness and increase your mobility.
    • Sneezing and coughing require the use of many of the abdominal muscles. If you have allergies or other medical conditions that make you cough and sneeze a lot talk to your doctor about medications or other remedies that can help.
    • Constipation not only affects all the muscles in the abdomen, low back, and pelvic region. If you tend to have frequent constipation, talk to your doctor about dietary changes and other methods to help bring relief.

    TWD Recommends

    Cureve Hot Cold Pack can be used for warm and cold treatments. It is recommended that you use cold packs for injuries, swelling, and after a TrP treatment. Use a warm treatment when the muscle is tight and needs to relax.

    Rectus Abdominis Trigger Point Treatment

    Warning: Do not ignore ongoing pain in the trunk as it houses our internal organs. If you are experiencing sharp, sudden onset pain, constant pain, or discomfort, you should see your doctor rule out medical conditions.

    Trigger points must be manually deactivated to reduce pain and increase mobility. This is accomplished by applying pressure to the trigger point for 5-10 seconds several times a day.

    If you do not have experience treating trigger points, I recommend finding a massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor with training in trigger point therapy. A professional will show you how to find and treat specific trigger points and satellite trigger points that may need treatment.

    For those who would like to learn how to treat trigger points, I highly recommend The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The book explains the cause of trigger points, how to find them as well as treatment. It lists all muscles that develop trigger points, where they are located, and how to treat and deactivate the painful nodules.

    It is a book I refer to often and recommended to all my clients. Once you understand trigger points and learn how to treat them, you can reduce muscle pain throughout your body.

    How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

    Fortunately, most rectus abdominis trigger points resolve quickly. Most people notice pain reduction and more effortless movement after just a few treatments. If you are not seeing any improvement after a few days of self-treatment, you need to search for possible satellite trigger points in the muscles listed below.

    Interesting facts:

    • The rectus abdominis muscle extends from ribs below the breasts to the top of the pubic bone without attaching to bone. The horizontal bands of connective tissue called tendinous intersections help the muscle maintain structure and proper length.
    • It is the muscle that gives the appearance of six-pack abs.
    • The abdominal muscles can cause a range of symptoms that can be worrisome and mimic other medical conditions such as appendicitis, gallbladder disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, endometriosis, and urinary incontinence. Lingering or sudden onset abdominal pain should be checked out by a physician.

    Rectus abdominis muscle pain and symptoms can be similar to, contribute to, and be affected by these medical diagnoses:

    • Painful rib syndrome
    • Slipped Rib
    • Costochondritis
    • Acid Reflux
    • Heartburn
    • Appendicitis
    • Ulcers
    • Gallbladder Disorder
    • Hiatal Hernia
    • Inguinal Hernia
    • Colic
    • Constipation
    • Urinary Incontinence
    • Urinary Tract Infection and Disease
    • Pancreatitis
    • Diverticulosis
    • Testicle Pain
    • Ovarian Cyst
    • Endometriosis
    • Prostatitis
    • T6 T7 T8 T9 T10 T11 T12 radiculopathy
    • L1 L2 L3 or L4 radiculopathy


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined:


    Satellite trigger points associated with the rectus abdominis muscles:

    If you find trigger points in the rectus abdominis,  you will likely find trigger points in other muscles. These are known as satellite trigger points. Be sure and check these muscles:

    • External and Internal Obliques
    • Tranversus Abdominis
    • Iliocostalis Thoracics
    • Lumborum Thoracics
    • Longissimus Thoracis
    • Iliopsoas

    Muscles with similar pain patterns

    Quadratus Lumborum
    Iliospsoas Muscles
    The Oblique Muscles