Skip to Content

How Long Does It Take For Rigor Mortis To Set In (And Why?)

Exact Answer: 2 – 4 hours

Average of 2 hours to 4 hours after death has been occurred and disappears after 48 hours but depend on the certain conditions. In Latin word the word rigor resemble as “stiffness” and mortis death.

The Rigor mortis occur due to bio chemical changes in the muscles which occur after several hours (On an average 2 to 4 hours of death) and the time of it occurrence varies. It happen onset of the set or may take several hours but mainly it depends on the ambient temperature.

How Long Does It Take For Rigor Mortis To Set In

How Long Does It Take For Rigor Mortis To Set In ?

 The dictionary meaning of this Rigor word is Stiffness and Mortis meaning ‘’death”. The simple meaning of team is: Rigor Mortis is a process in which the body gets stiffness or difficult to move or bend after death

In other words it is possibly one of the most known of the taphonomic changes Without Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), myosin molecules adhere to actin filaments and which results in muscle rigidity or stiffening of the body due some changes in muscles structure.

The conversion of ATP to ADP happens in this stage which results in diminishing the ATP at time of death. It is a postmortem rigidity which is called as the third stage of death.

It is one of the observable indications that the death has occurred or it is recognizable signs of death which results in stiffening of the muscles of jaw, eyelids, neck caused by bio chemical changes in the postmortem (mainly calcium).

Postmortem changesTime since death has occur.
Rigor on the jawMore than 1 hour
Rigor not seenMore than 3 hours
Rigor progressing or has establishedTime between 3- 9 hours
Body gets completely cooled, rigor disappearedMore than 16 hours
Table showing postmortem changes in a body since death.

Why Does It Take Much Time For Rigor Mortis To Set In?

The factor which help to identify for how long it take time for rigor mortis to stay and set in are ambient temperature. The ambient temperature has some effect to rigor mortis. Generally the person who dies in cold weather conditions then the rigor mortis may last several more days than normal days.

RECOMMENDED  How Long Does It Take To Digest Food (And Why)?

In warm condition the onset of rigor mortis is quick and duration is shorter period. In a normal room temperature the Rigor mortis peaks at 12 hours and dissipates after 48 hours.

The other factors are the weight of the body, the level of physical activity at the time of death, individual’s body’s clothing or lack of it and any kind of illness the person had at the time of death.

The rigor mortis can be easily identifiable and indicator that death has occurred. The time of it occurrence is variable. It depend on certain conditions like temperature and other for it occurrence.

One can easily identify this rigor mortis which means death has occurred. But it depends on the circumstances the rigor mortis may last for a few hours to several days too.

Temperature and chemical changes are two main cause for rigor mortis. This main causes of rigor mortis are explained are explained as suppose, if a person who has died in hot weather condition may encounter chemical changes quicker.

The rigor mortis can’t be experience by the person who has died in freezing water. They tend to feel rigor mortis only at the time of defrosting of body. The chemical changes are another main in creating rigor mortis.

Depending on such factors it helps to identify as how long does it stay and set in, it also depend on several stages. There are four stages explained for rigor mortis:

  1. Autolysis: This is the first stage in rigor mortis. In this stage after the death blood circulation stops in sometimes. The body can’t get oxygen and the top skin layer start to relax.
  2. Bloat: In this stage the shade of the skin colour blurs and foul kind of smell are delivered by micro organism.
  3. Active decay: In this stage all body parts become liquefied except the bones, hairs and some others.
  4. Skeletonization: There is no specified time for this stage. The decomposition stage happens when the body loses organic and inorganic components. This was normal conditions, causes and stages of a human body.
RECOMMENDED  How Long After Pneumonia Can I Go Back To Work (And Why)?


Rigor mortis is a post mortem change which means the occurrence shows that the death has occurred at least a few hours ago. It depends on individuals certain condition as how long does it stay and set in. But, now the question is the rigor mortis happens to a child too?

The rigor mortis has wide variability in children’s as it happens with early onset and the disappearance in Quick. Infants who have little muscles mass the rigor mortis occurs poorly for sometimes.

Can Rigor Mortis happened before death in a lifetime? Yes, the Rigor Mortis happens in a living person but after the cardiac surgery according to many authors.