Stomach/Abdominal Pain: Causes, Diagnosis, & Treatment


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What is stomach pain?

Plainly put, stomach pain is pain that occurs in the general tummy area or the area between the chest and the pelvic region. Stomach pains can occur in the form of cramps, a dull ache, or a sharp pain.

Stomach pains usually disappear on their own and are not serious. However, if the stomach pain is severe and chronic then it is a cause for concern and needs to be diagnosed by a doctor.

What common symptoms accompany stomach pain?

The common symptoms that usually accompany stomach pain are:

  • Flatulence (passing of gas)
  • Belching
  • Indigestion
  • Discomfort in the upper left or right; middle; or lower left or right abdomen
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Chest discomfort

What are the more serious symptoms accompanying severe stomach pain?

The more serious symptoms that cause stomach pain and would require a medical investigation are:

  • Dehydration
  • Painful urination
  • Lack of urination
  • Abrupt cessation of bowel movements
  • Dehydration
  • Blood in stools
  • Black stools

What are the potential causes of stomach pain?

In general usual stomach pains are caused by:

What are the more serious causes that can cause severe stomach pain?

Some health issues can cause severe stomach pain. They include:

How to discern the seriousness of stomach pain?

First of all, notice what type of pain it is. Is it accompanied by cramps? Does it come and go? Is it a sharp shooting pain? 

Notice what other symptoms are accompanying the pain. If the pain is crampy accompanied by gas it could be related to menstruation if you are a woman. If it is accompanied by vomiting it could be related to indigestion, food intolerance, or acidity. 

If the cramps are severe it could mean the intestines are vigorously contracting. 

If accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting you will need to get a medical diagnosis because it could be stomach infection or something more serious.

If it is due to a more serious issue such as appendicitis you will feel a dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen which becomes sharp as it progresses to the lower right abdomen. This pain is accompanied by and/or vomiting. 

If it is acute pancreatitis you may experience a steady pain in the upper abdomen and upper back.

In any case, if stomach pain is steady, severe and is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, blood in stools, or even cessation of bowel and bladder movement and any of the other serious symptoms mentioned above you need to get a medical examination done by a doctor immediately. 

How long does stomach pain last?

The seriousness of the stomach pain also depends on how long the pain lasts or if it comes and goes intermittently. This, in turn, depends on the cause of the stomach pain.

Stomach pain and discomfort caused by acidity, indigestion, gastritis, constipation, and even food allergies and intolerance will not continue beyond a few hours. 

If the pain is related to acid-related conditions such as GERD or ulcers the pain keeps occurring over a period of weeks or even months. If the pain is related to IBS it will wax and wane for a period of weeks, months and even years. 

If the pain is related to organ cancer or conditions such as a hernia it will continue till proper treatment is administered and there is a recovery from the underlying condition. 

What makes the stomach pain worse?

Sudden actions such as coughing or sneezing may make the pain worse. And of course for serious conditions, if treatment is not taken immediately the pain may become severe with serious consequences. 

How is the cause of stomach pain diagnosed?

If the stomach pain persists you will need to visit a general physician who will ask you questions regarding your medical history, any recent illnesses, the food you ate recently, if you suffer from allergies or any food intolerance. The doctor will perform a medical examination by pressing different parts of your abdomen to find any signs of tenderness, inflammations, mass growth. 

He may also suggest you undertake the following tests based on the symptoms accompanying the stomach pain :

  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • Stool test
  • Endoscopic test
  • X-ray
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan

What is the treatment for stomach pain?

If the cause of the stomach pain is stomach infections or acidity the doctor may suggest a change of diet. He may suggest you eat less or non-spicy foods and drink plenty of water and clear juices. Even in cases of IBS, a change of diet can work wonders. 

If the cause of stomach pain is more serious the doctor may suggest surgery i.e. if the causes necessitate it, and prescribe medications.

Would you like to consult a doctor for Stomach/Abdominal Pain ?

Questions answered by trusted doctors

Verified User
I have stomach pain problem for the past 1 year. left side stomach is paining it is becoming higher day to day what can i do
Dr. Prashik Meshram
General Physician, Ujjain
Hi Stomach pain for such a long time can either be due to any abnormal mass or any underlying disease. Depending upon the cause the treatment is decided. The cause of the left sided stomach pain needs too be investigated thoroughly. Please see a General Surgeon for further evaluation and management. In case of further queries please feel free to write back to me. Regards Dr Prashik Meshram
Verified User
After abortion i have period but i have too much stomach pain still what should i do???
Dr. Sunita Kothari
Obstetrician, Jaipur
If you have taken kit for abortion  and then pain is there means you have gastritis so drink milk in more quantity
Verified User
I have been having stomach pain for past four days. and i am suffering of loose motion. i think some infection on my stomach
Dr. Swathi S Aithal
General Physician, Bangalore
Well for the pain you can take any antispasmodic like mefenamic acid...An about the loose motions..I also need to know about the associated symptoms.. after examination I can decide whether I need to start antibiotics or only prescribe ors sachets with probiotics....Meet a physician...Thank you
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Did you know?

Helicobacter pylori causes ulcers

Certain foods aggravate ulcers, but they don't cause them. In up to 95% of cases, a gastrointestinal bacterium called Helicobacter pylori is to blame. One of every two people catch this bug when they around 60 years of age, though most never know it. (It's thought to be spread through person-to-person contact like kissing or consuming contaminated food or water.) Just 10% of people develop ulcers.

Inguinal hernias

Less than 10% of inguinal hernias (by far the most common type) are caused by physically strenuous activity. The real cause is weak abdominal walls that allow parts of your intestines to bulge outward when pressure is exerted on them. Blame genetics or previous surgeries for these weak spots. Women who've had Cesarean sections, appendectomies, or similar surgeries are at higher risk because their abdominal muscles have been cut. Severe coughing, being overweight, and even straining during bowel movements can also lead to tears in the abdominal wall. Without surgery, the weakened areas and the intestinal bulge will only get larger over time.

Regular exercise a must

A fiber-rich diet, one with at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, keeps your bowel movement regular. But if you're feeling constipated, fiber can actually worsen symptoms such as bloating and stomach pains, while water provides little relief, according to an article published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. The best course of action is to be sure you are regulary exercising.

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Home Remedies

Take Baking Soda

Baking soda has such a long list of uses, it can do just about everything, including relieving stomach upset, one of the things it’s most famous for. Sodium bicarbonate, as it’s officially known, offers potent antacid properties that help to relieve indigestion, as well as problems like acid reflux, heartburn, and symptoms common to peptic ulcer disease.

Drink Ginger Tea

Add a few slices of peeled ginger root into the boiled tea. Allow it to steep for about 10 minutes. Drink this concoction about 20 minutes before every meal as a preventative. Ginger is known for its soothing effects on the digestive system. It has gastroprotective properties that blocks acid and suppresses the helicobacter pylori, a bacteria found in the stomach.

Take Papaya

If you tend to bloat in the stomach easily and burp a lot, eat papaya. Consuming organic papaya can eliminate burping and bloat as it contains an enzyme called papain that aids digestion, preventing gas from forming in the stomach.

Take Mint Tea

Sipping peppermint tea is well-known to be a highly effective remedy for easing digestive distress. Add some mint leaves when you’re preparing tea. Mint helps to soothe stomach cramps, intestinal contractions and prevent digestive muscles from tensing erratically, that can cause nausea and stomach pain. Mint leaves contain menthol which acts as a soothing agent for a distressed digestive system and also alleviates nausea.

Take Apple Cider Vinegar

Drinking a teaspoon of Apple cider vinegar or ACV mixed into a glass of water can quickly bring relief from heartburn, as it helps to increase low stomach acid levels, which experts believe can lead to the problem. ACV, is highly effective for treating a wide range of digestive disorders as it has the ability to stimulate the release of digestive juices that helps the body to break down food.

Drink Ginger Lemon tea

Squeeze a few drops of lemon when you prepare tea and also add a few pieces of sliced ginger. If you’re suffering from the stomach flu, ginger helps because it contains antibacterial and antiviral properties that can aid in fighting  off a virus, while its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties work to ease pain, irritation and discomfort caused by the flu. Whereas vitamin C from the lemon promotes healthy immune functioning and improves digestion.