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Monday, February 14, 2022

Rigor Mortis

     Rigor mortis, the stiffening of muscles after death, is due to a chemical reaction directly dependent on the temperature surrounding a body (the colder the temperature, the more slowly rigor develops.) Beginning several hours after all vital signs cease, it is noted first in the facial area, then proceeds to the upper and lower extremities. After twelve hours it is usually complete. Finally, after twenty-four to thirty-six hours, the body passes out of rigor, this time in the reverse sequence, from the bottom of the body to the top.

     Generally speaking, the more physical exertion or struggle that takes place before death, the sooner rigor begins. Moreover, the sooner rigor begins, the sooner it passes. [The state of rigor mortis can be a general time of death indicator.]

Frederick Zugibe, M.D., Ph.D. and David L. Carroll, Dissecting Death, 2005

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