Rectus Abdominis

Just about everyone wants nice, chiseled “abs.” The six-pack abs is a much-sought-after look, and it is created by a very defined rectus abdominis, one of four abdominal muscles.


Identifying the Rectus Abdominis (Biel, 2005)




  • Action: The rectus abdominis flexes the vertebral column, meaning it is what helps you lean forward.
  • Origin: This muscle attaches at the pubic crest and the pubic symphysis.
  • Insertion: The other attachment for the cartilage that connects your fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs to your sternum. It also attaches at the xiphoid process, an extension of the sternum.
  • Innervation: The rectus abdominis is innervated by branches of the intercostal nerves, which innervate much of the thoracic region of the body.


Causes of Injury or Tightness in the Rectus Abdominis (Hoyle, 2014)

  • Sudden twisting of the torso
  • Sudden or over extension of the spine
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Vigorous sneezing
  • Childbirth
  • Surgery
  • Long periods of sitting


Symptoms of Injury or Tightness in the Rectus Abdominis (Hoyle, 2014)

  • Abdominal pain during physical activity
  • Stiffness in the abdomen after periods of rest
  • Pain during coughing, sneezing, or laughing


Trigger Point Referral Pattern for the Rectus Abdominis (Perry, 2013)




  • Across low back into belt line
  • Across the bra line
  • Into the ribcage
  • Lower quadrant of abdomen on the same side
  • May also cause feeling of bloating or fullness, as well as severe menstrual cramping


Relieving Pain from the Rectus Abdominus (Hoyle, 2014)

  • Rest
  • Hot therapy
  • Cold therapy
  • NSAIDs
  • Compression therapy
  • Trigger point therapy
  • Massage therapy




Flex – Bending a joint, decreasing the angle between the bones of the joint.

Insertion – The insertion of a muscle is the point at which the muscle attaches to a bone that is moved by that muscle. This point will be more distal (away from the core of the body) than the origin.

Origin – A muscle’s origin is the point at which the muscle attaches to a fixed, proximal (close to the core of the body) bone.

Thoracic – Relating to the chest.

Trigger Point – An area of hyperactive tissue that sends excessive pain signals to the spine, which generally “confuses” the brain as to where the pain is coming from.


Please take note that none of the information in this article is meant to diagnose or treat any pathology. Please follow the advice of your primary care physician.



Biel, A. 2005. Trail Guide to the Body, Third Edition. Book of Discovery, Boulder, CO. Pp.216

Hoyle, M. “Rectus Abdominis Muscle Injury.” [Internet]. [Updated 2014 Jan 29]., Santa Monica, CA 90404.  [Accessed 2017 Jun 11]. Available from:

Perry, L. “Rectus Abdominis Trigger Points: A Six Pack of Deception.” [Internet]. [Updated 2013, Jan 13]. Institute of Trigger Point Therapy, Houston, TX, 77058. [Accessed 2017 Jun 11]. Available from:



Asher, S. “Trigger Point Therapy, Treating Rectus Abdomini.” 2017, Jan 21. Available from:

Chrizz, A. “Rectus Admominis.” 2015 May 28. Available from:



About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

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