Abdominal Pain

Table of contents



Abdominal pain is pain or discomfort felt anywhere below the ribs and above the groin. As your abdomen contains many organs, including the stomach, intestines, liver, and bladder; abdominal pain may be caused by a simple upset stomach, trapped wind, overeating, or it could be something more complicated.

As well as the pain, you might also have rumbling noises, burping, wind, nausea or vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, urinary problems, and/or loss of appetite.

Abdominal pain is common, with almost everyone at one point having experienced it.


What causes abdominal pain?

There are many causes of abdominal pain such as the movement of food through the stomach and intestine or mild food poisoning. Stress and anxiety can also cause abdominal pain as can period pain or changing hormonal levels during pregnancy. It can also be caused by the contraction of intestinal muscles or hypersensitivity to intestinal activities.

In most cases, the causes of abdominal pain are not serious, and a doctor can recommend diagnosis and treatment. However, there are times when the issues can be so severe and need medical treatment.

More serious issues that usually cause more severe pain include blood clots or other blockages; an ulcer (in your stomach or intestine); Inflammatory Bowel Disease, disease in your liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or spleen, or even your heart or lungs; appendicitis; urinary tract infection; ectopic pregnancy; ovarian cyst.


What are the symptoms of abdominal pain?

When looking for medical attention, the doctor will always ask you some questions to establish the type of abdominal and find the most effective solution. While the general symptom of abdominal pain is pain in the belly, several factors help determine the cause.

Some of the things the doctor will look into include; how the pain began, the location of the pain, the type and pattern of the pain, how long the pain lasts, and what worsens the pain.


How can abdominal pain be treated?

The treatment of abdominal pain varies depending on the cause and how painful it is.

Accompanying symptoms of abdominal pain such as fever, diarrhoea and rectal bleeding can indicate underlying issues. If the pain is more significant and you lose sleep, you might need urgent medical attention. You might have to undergo a severe physical examination in the medical laboratory or endoscopic and radiological testing in such a case. At times you might go for surgery.

The severity of your pain does not always reflect the seriousness of the condition so you should seek medical help if your pain is no better after two hours of home care, your abdomen is very painful, your pain gets worse over time, you can’t stop vomiting, you haven’t had a bowel motion or passed wind for three days, you’ve lost your appetite or there is blood in your vomit, urine or faeces, or vaginal bleeding that isn’t a period.

Minor abdominal pain should start to feel better within two hours of caring for yourself. Resting and lying down can help as well as sipping on clear fluids (avoid food while you are feeling unwell) and applying heat therapy to the area with pain may also help. Paracetamol can be used to assist with the pain but avoid other types of medication as these may irritate your stomach.

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