Rectus Abdominis Muscle: Trigger Point Pain and How To Relieve Your Pain

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 be the cause and contributors to your woes.

Contents Of Article:

Muscle Location

Trigger Point Symptoms 

Trigger Points Cause

Trigger Point Prevention

Trigger Point Treatment

Interesting Facts 

Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Rectus Abdominis Referred Pain Pattern

Rectus Abdominis Muscle Referred Pain Pattern

Trigger Points Information

Trigger points are small knots found in the muscle that when pressed increase pain in the area or send referred pain to another area of the body. To learn more about trigger points read Muscle Trigger Points and How They Contribute To Muscle and Joint Pain.

Where is the rectus abdominis muscle?

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
The Rectus Abdominis Muscle


Rectus Abdominis Origin, Action, Insertion

Looking for detailed muscle anatomy? The Rectus Abdominis 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:

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
TWD Recommends:

Biofreeze Professional Gel  is recommended for the pain and symptoms of muscle strains. It provides excellent pain relief and may help reduce inflammation caused by a strain. Recommended by medical professionals and trainers. 

What Causes Trigger Points To Develop?

  • 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

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 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.
TWD Recommends:
The HailiCare Posture Corrector fully supports the back and abdominal area while gently pulling your shoulders back which helps retrain muscle memory to maintain proper posture. Start slowly, wearing the brace only 20-30 minutes a day slowly increasing the time you wear it.

The VariDesk Pro Plus 30 is a highly recommend convert desk that will fit on most desktops.

  • We all have a habit of slumping when we sit. A lumbar support will remind you not to slouch and will support your back which in turn 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 area of the scar. This 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 that can help bring relief.

It is natural to slump while sitting. The Vertteo Full Lumbar Black Support is larger than other supports and helps you sit up straight comfortably reducing back and abdominal pain.

Sombra Warm Therapy Gel is recommended for relaxing muscles and relieving pain. It warms without the burning heat of other gels. An excellent choice for pain caused by trigger points, muscle/joint over-use and stiffness, and arthritis. (Not sold in stores)

Rectus Abdominis Trigger Point Treatment

Warning: Ongoing pain in the abdomen area should not be ignored.  The trunk of our bodies house our internal organs. If you are experiencing sharp sudden onset pain, constant pain or discomfort you should see your doctor and be checked for medical conditions.

Trigger points must be 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.

Fortunately, rectus abdominis trigger points are easy to treat because the muscle is close to the skin. If you do not have experience treating trigger points I recommend finding a massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor who has training in trigger point therapy.  A professional will show you how to find and treat specific trigger points as well as 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 the small knots, the area where the trigger points are located and directions on how to 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.

TWD Recommends:

The best resource to learn how to treat small painful knots is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook. The authors explain trigger points and their effects in everyday language, not medical speak. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning to treat their own muscle pain.

Cureve Hot Cold Pack can be used for warm and cold treatments. I recommend using cold packs for 20-minutes after a TrP treatment. Use a warm treatment when the muscle is tight and needs to relax.

How Long Before I Feel A Reduction In Pain?

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


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 to 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
  • Costochondritis
  • Stenosis
  • Appendicitis
  • Ulcer
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Gallbladder disorder
  • Colic
  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Inguinal hernia
  • Pancreatitis
  • Diverticulosis
  • Ovarian cyst
  • Pelvic pain
  • Stenosis

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

Relax While Easing Your Pain and Stiffness

Heated Massage Pad to relieve back pain.
You’re tired, your lower back and hips are stiff and hurt. All you want to do is lie down and be able to relax.

The Snailax Vibrating Massage Mat With Heat is made for those times. The mat features a full-body vibrating massage and has multiple settings for massage and heat. The remote allows you to adjust settings with a push of a button. A wonderful way to ease aches and pains in the back, hips, and legs at the end of the day! 69 inches (5′ 9″) long.

Other muscles with similar pain patterns:

The Oblique Muscles

Iliopsoas Muscles

Donna Martin

Massage Therapist Owner: Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.

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