Abdominal Pain Symptoms

By:    Published: July 3, 2012

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Abdominal pain is always characterized by cramping or discomfort in the abdominal area. It is also referred to as belly ache, tummy ache, or stomach ache. It can occur in the higher abdominal region, right below the chest, or lower region, right above the groin.

The discomfort can range from mild to severe, and can be acute or chronic. Most of the time, abdominal pain does not signify any immediate life-threatening situations. However, if the aches are recurring and accompanied by other signs and symptoms (such as bloody stool, vomit, or high fever), be sure to seek immediate medical care; it can be a sign of a more serious condition.

Causes

The presence of abdominal pain is an indicator of abnormal activity in the gut area. There are numerous causes for abdominal pain, ranging from simple indigestion to life threatening conditions. Since the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and kidneys are all in the abdominal region, the cramping may be an indicator of abnormal activity in those organs rather than the stomach and intestines themselves.

Here are the more common causes of abdominal pain:

  • Severe constipation or bowel obstruction
  • Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis)
  • Gallbladder stones
  • Inflammation of the appendix (appendicitis)
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Food allergies, such as lactose intolerance
  • Food poisoning or poisoning of the GI tract
  • Inflammation of the peritoneal lining of the stomach
  • Inflammation of abdominal lymph nodes
  • Air or gas in the digestive track
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Kidney stones
  • Stomach flu
  • Physical injury to the abdominal area
  • Stomach ulcer
  • Tumor or cancer
  • Lack of blood supply to the gut area
  • Pulled or torn abdominal muscle
  • Hernias around the abdominal region

Since the chest and pelvic areas are within close proximity of the abdomen, conditions in those areas can also be interpreted as abdominal cramping. They include:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Urinary tract infection (for both men and women)
  • Menstrual cramping
  • Endometriosis
  • Ectopic pregnancy (when pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus)
  • Unknown pregnancy
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Heart attacks
  • Inflammation of the lining of the lungs
  • Heartburn
  • Pneumonia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Lung collapse
  • Liver inflammation (hepatitis)

When To See The Doctor

Since the possible causes of abdominal cramps are almost endless, it may be best to see a doctor if other symptoms accompany the pain. The diagnosis of the condition usually includes the location of the cramp as well as other symptoms.

If your abdominal cramps are accompanied by any of the following symptoms, you may want to seek immediate medical care:

  • Pressure, heaviness, or pain to the chest area
  • Other physical trauma, such as that from a car accident
  • Severe, debilitating pain that you need to curl into the fetal position
  • Bloody stool or diarrhea
  • Diarrhea that will not stop
  • Any irregular discharge from the groin area
  • Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
  • Discoloration of the skin near the affected site
  • Severe tenderness near the pain area
  • Swelling or bloating of the abdomen and areas close to it
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Suspect that you are or may be pregnant

If none of the above symptoms accompany your abdominal pain, but you are still concerned about it, it is always more safe to make an appointment with your doctor and get it checked out.

Home Remedies And Prevention

For mild and non-life threatening abdominal cramps, here are a few home remedies that can help alleviate the stomach pain and aid in prevention:

  • If you are suspecting excessive gas in the GI tract, or indigestion, it may help to lay face down on the floor with a pillow propped under the stomach. It can help the gas move along and provide relief.
  • If you are suspecting heart burn or acid reflux, taking an antacid can provide relief.
  • If you have the stomach flu, avoid acidic foods, dairy, and greasy foods. Stick to mild foods like soda cracker and applesauce.
  • In general, avoid solid foods in the first few hours of stomach cramping.
  • Avoid pain killers and anti-inflammatory agents, such as NSAIDS, aspirin, or ibuprofen unless directed by a physician. They tend to be blood thinners and may make your cramps worse.

For general prevention tips for future abdominal pains, you can:

  • Avoid greasy, fried, fatty, acidic, spicy, and harsh foods in general
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently
  • Be sure to chew finely and swallow slowly, and do not talk excessive while eating (it may encourage gas intake and cause indigestion)
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and increase fiber intake

Sources:

  • PubMed Health
  • Mayo Clinic
  • University of Maryland, Medical Center

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