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Abdominal Pain

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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Abdominal Pain

What is Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain is often a side effect derived from a series of symptoms associated with a broad spectrum of health conditions or illnesses. It is important that you recognize and acknowledge this symptom, and correlate it with others so that you size up and understand the severity of the health concern you are dealing with in order to take appropriate measures.

On its own, abdominal pain is often the result of indigestion, menstrual cramps, or some sort of stomach virus. Most commonly, a treatment can be applied instantly and positive results are noticed in a matter of hours, or days maximum.

Pain in the abdominal area can manifest itself through a series of different kinds of pain, from the mild stomach ache, to the sharp, prolonged pain that makes you want to see a healthcare provider. Potentially, this type of pain can be associated with conditions including hernia, ulcers, food poisoning, menstrual cramps, kidney stones, appendicitis, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, constipation, gallstones, or urinary tract infections. Usually, you are advised to see a healthcare provider provided that the symptom persists and common treatment does not work. A careful diagnose will then determine if a life-threatening condition is to be considered and the appropriate treatment plan that should consequently follow.


Depending on the severity, nature and duration of the abdominal pain episode, causes can vary from case to case. The most common causes of this condition are detailed below.

Indigestion is associated by burning or pain in the upper stomach and is usually experienced after a meal. Other symptoms of indigestion include bloating, nausea, gas, and growling stomach. Indigestion itself may be a symptom of an underlying condition; hence a doctor’s advice is recommended.

Menstrual cramps can also be classified as a pain in the abdomen which is usually experienced in the lower abdominal area. The ache is usually sharp and may be accompanied by lower back pains, emotional sensitivity, headaches, nausea, or feeling bloated. Usually, these symptoms are manageable with appropriate medication.

Patients dealing with kidney stones (renal calculi) or gallbladder stones are very likely to experience severe abdominal pain that may radiate in the back. Usually, the symptoms are felt when the stone starts moving (eventually to be eliminated naturally or through surgery). Other symptoms include: pink, red or brown urine, nausea, vomiting sensation, increased frequency of urination and a constant feeling that you want to urinate, fever (if infection is present as well), etc.

Appendicitis, a condition that occurs when the appendix is inflamed, is also characterized by severe abdominal pain, particularly in the lower-right side of the abdomen. The condition is relatively serious and difficult to diagnose in some cases. Other symptoms include constipation or diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, loss of appetite and increased temperature (if infection is present).

Abdominal pain may also be sign of Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the intestine. The condition may be more or less severe, depending on the areas affected. The range of symptoms is vast and includes diarrhea, blood in the stool, ulcers, fatigue, mouth sores, skin disorders, and other symptoms.

Signs & Symptoms

Abdominal pain can manifest itself in more or less severe forms and can be located in different areas of the abdominal area. In case the pain is severe, you should be concerned and take measures by asking a healthcare provider’s opinion. Particularly, you should consult a specialist if the pain aggravates or if it is accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms: fever (which definitely signals an infection), extreme tenderness in the abdomen, inability to eat for more days in a row, frequent urination, the pain radiates in the back or on one leg, constipation, and vomiting. You should under no circumstance take self-prescribed medication or proceed based on a self-diagnose, as abdominal pain may actually indicate that more serious concerns should be addressed.

Diagnosing Abdominal Pain

Due to the large number of potential causes that might set off an abdominal pain episode, a healthcare provider should perform and elaborate a detailed physical examination and discuss your symptoms, duration, and frequency of the pain, as well as various actions and activities (eating habits, physical activity, etc.) that you might have undertaken prior to the starting of the abdominal ache episode.

The list of questions that your physician should not hesitate to ask you should include those regarding your general health state and condition (particularly if you are pregnant), potential injuries that you may have suffered in the abdominal area, where the pain is located, what type of pain it is, when and how frequently it occurs, whether you find relief from it in any situation, etc.

After the physical exam and discussion with your physician, a preliminary diagnose is established. The medical provider decided if you should need further investigations, in which case an ultrasound, endoscopy, CT scan, urine and stool tests, or any other tests may be completed.

It is also important to remember that you should see a doctor immediately after the start of the pain, instead of waiting for it to aggravate, particularly because it may announce a life threatening condition.

Treatment for Abdominal Pain

Treatment alternatives are numerous, depending on the condition to which abdominal pain is associated. Usually, a physician will try to identify the underlying cause of the pain and only after apply treatment. Merely aiming to cure the symptom (abdominal pain) will not do much good or cure the condition. This is why we emphasize once more the importance of seeking a specialized diagnose prior to proceeding to the treatment phase.

The treatment of abdominal ache may also include various forms of medication, from homeopathic and herbal remedies to various prescription drugs or over the counter medication. When infection is present (fever, vomiting, etc), antibiotics are prescribed as well as part of the treatment scheme. Sometimes, particularly in the case of stomach ulcers, stomach viruses, constipation, and indigestions, a healthy food diet is recommended in order to prevent future episodes.

The treatment plan should be elaborated by a healthcare professional, after a thorough examination that takes into consideration your patient history, severity of the pain, frequency, and duration, alongside other symptoms that are associated.