Is Abdominal Pain Common? When Should You Worry About Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can be attributed to various causes, some of which are considered more serious compared to the others. What can feel like stomach pain can be traced back to the digestive system or another organ in the abdomen. Seeking medical attention is recommended when the pain is persistent, unexplained, or severe.

Abdominal pain refers to any pain or discomfort felt in the belly region between the pelvis and the ribs. Abdominal pain is often considered stomachache or stomach pain. However, since the abdomen is home to other organs, it is also highly probable that the pain originates from other parts as well.

The abdomen is considered home to the following organs:

    • Large intestine
  • Stomach
  • Gallbladder
  • Small intestine
  • Pancreas
  • Liver

While abdominal pain can be caused by organs found in the digestive system, it can also originate in the muscles or skin or the abdominal walls. At times, the pain in the stomach can also come from another place like the back, pelvis, or the chest. Abdominal pain has various forms and can mean different things.

Abdominal pain can be:

  • Severe
  • Localized
  • Colicky
  • Mild
  • Sharp
  • Dull
  • Achy
  • Burning
  • Intermittent
  • Generalized
  • Constant

Essentially, abdominal pain is considered a subjective symptom that only the patient can accurately describe. Since it cannot be measured, healthcare providers would often take the patient’s word. Abdominal pain is also taken by most healthcare providers seriously.

Is Abdominal Pain Common?

Almost everyone will experience it at one point or another. Oftentimes, abdominal pain is not really serious and will go away on its own. However, in some instances, it can be a sign of an emergency or a serious condition. At least 5 percent of visits to the emergency room are attributed to abdominal pain.

When Should You See Your Healthcare Provider?

If the abdominal pain is severe, persistent, or unexplained, seeking medical help asap is recommended. The same is true if you are pregnant or have been injured. Seeking medical attention is also recommended if the abdominal pain is accompanied by the following:

  • Shortness of breath (and other symptoms that worsen with exertion)
  • Persistent fever
  • Pain in other parts of the body
  • Persistent vomiting or nausea
  • Tenderness and swelling
  • Blood in the vomit, urine, or stools

How is Pain in the Abdomen Diagnosed?

To accurately diagnose the condition, your healthcare provider will ask important questions, including:

  • Other possible symptoms you are experiencing
  • What the pain feels like
  • The exact location of the pain
  • How long you have experienced the pain
  • What makes the pain better or worse
  • If the pain comes and goes
  • If the pain worsens
  • If the pain moves or stays in one part of the body

Your doctor will be able to determine if you require emergency treatment based on the answers you provide. At times, they would also be able to tell if the pain is not caused by anything serious and will just go away on its own. However, when they suspect that the cause is serious, more tests might be recommended.

How Can Abdominal Pain Be Relieved?

Stomach pain can have different causes and will have various treatments. For instance, if it is caused by appendicitis or surgery, surgery may be required. If the cause is infection or ulcer, medications may be prescribed. 

If the pain won’t resolve on its own, finding the primary cause is important. If the cause of the pain is digestion-related, the following tips can help:

  • Bowel rest. For the time being, eat only foods that are easy to digest like bananas or crackers.
  • Home remedies. Consider trying ginger for indigestion, licorice if caused by gas, and peppermint to relax the muscles of the intestines.
  • Hydration. Make sure you take in plenty of water.