Different Types of Abdominal Pain
Generalized abdominal pain
Generalized pain can occur with many different illnesses and will usually go away without medical treatment. Indigestion and an upset stomach are common problems that can cause generalized pain. Home treatment may help relieve some of the discomfort from this kind of pain. Generalized mild pain or cramping that becomes more severe over several hours may be a symptom of a more serious condition and warrants medical attention.
Localized pain that comes on suddenly and gets worse is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. The pain of appendicitis may start as generalized pain, but it often moves (localizes) to one area of the abdomen. The pain from gallbladder disease or peptic ulcer disease often starts in one area of the abdomen and stays in that same location.
Cramping is rarely serious if it is relieved by passing gas or a stool. Many women have cramping pain with their menstrual periods. Generalized cramping pain is usually not a cause for concern, but you may want to seek medical attention if it gets worse, lasts for longer than 24 hours, or localizes. Cramping that starts suddenly with diarrhea or other minor health problems can be quite painful, but is usually not serious.
Common causes of abdominal pain
Whether it is a mild stomach ache, sharp pain, or stomach cramps, abdominal pain has numerous causes. These include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Food allergies
- Food poisoning
- Kidney stones
- Lactose intolerance
- Menstrual cramps
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Stomach flu
- Urinary tract infections
The exact cause of abdominal pain can be hard to find. Minor and serious abdominal problems can sometimes start with the same symptoms. Fortunately, most abdominal problems are minor, and home treatment is all that is needed.
Most of the time, abdominal pain improves with home treatment, and you do not need a visit to a doctor. Determining if home treatment is appropriate depends on whether your pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as diarrhea or nausea and vomiting.
For mild abdominal pain without other symptoms:
- Rest until you are feeling better.
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. You may find that taking small, frequent sips of a beverage is easier on your stomach than trying to drink a whole glass at once. Do not drink carbonated or caffeinated drinks, such as soda pop, tea, or coffee.
- Try eating several small meals instead of 2 or 3 large ones. Eat mild foods, such as rice, dry toast or crackers, bananas, and applesauce. Avoid spicy foods, fruits other than bananas, alcohol and caffeinated beverages until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours.
- Do not eat foods that are high in fat. Foods high in fat may increase your abdominal pain.
- Do not use aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These medicines may irritate your stomach and increase your pain.
When to call a doctor
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Pain increases, does not improve, or localizes to one specific area of the abdomen.
- Other symptoms develop, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or a fever.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
- Nausea, fever, or the inability to keep food down for several days
- Bloody stools
- Difficulty breathing
- Vomiting blood
- The pain occurs during pregnancy.
- The abdomen is tender to the touch.
- The pain is the result an injury to the abdomen in the previous days.
- The pain lasts for several days.
These symptoms may be an indication of an internal inflammation, infection, or bleeding that requires treatment as soon as possible. Less commonly, some of these symptoms may be caused by colorectal, ovarian, or an abdominal cancer.
Diagnosing abdominal pain
Because there are so many potential causes of abdominal pain, your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination, discuss with you the type of symptoms you are experiencing, and ask you several related questions about the pain you are feeling.
Once this initial evaluation has been completed, your doctor may have you undergo some tests to help him or her make the diagnosis. These may include blood or urine tests, barium swallows or enemas, an endoscopy, x-ray, or ultrasound.
Treating abdominal pain depends on its cause. Options include:
- medications for inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or ulcers;
- antibiotics for infections;
- changes in diet and/or personal behavior for abdominal pain caused by certain foods or beverages.
In certain cases of chronic abdominal pain, local or spinal injections of numbing agents or corticosteroids by pain management physicians can be helpful for diagnosis and/or treatment. In more severe cases such as appendicitis and hernia, surgery is necessary.
At PrairieShore™ Pain Center, our goal is to relieve your pain and improve your quality of life. If your primary physician has advised you to see a specialist for your pain, turn to us for help. To schedule your appointment, please contact us here or give us a call at (847) 883-0077.