What Is Abdominal Pain?
Table of Contents
Pain or discomfort localized to the area of your abdomen is generally indicative of an underlying problem. Indeed, abdominal pain can be caused by several different factors, which may range from more mild and non-severe problems, such as excess gas, to more serious conditions, such as appendicitis.
Just as the conditions associated with abdominal pain can widely vary, individual complaints of pain or discomfort within the abdomen are similarly diverse. This is not surprising. There are a number of organs and other structures located within your abdomen. As such, it can be somewhat difficult for your pain doctor or health care provider to be completely sure about the precise cause of pain within the abdominal region.
What Is Abdominal Pain? (Video)
The following video gives a brief introduction into abdominal pain and its causes.
Causes Of Abdominal PainPain within the abdominal region is common among both adult and pediatric populations. Further, there are a wide variety of conditions that may be linked with symptoms of pain or discomfort within the abdomen. Chances are, you’ve suffered from bouts of abdominal pain in the past. However, if you’re reading this post, it’s likely that you’re experiencing something far out of the norm.
Talk to a doctor first. Your physician or stomach pain doctors will utilize information gathered while speaking with you about your episode of abdominal pain, including any notable abnormalities found during the physical exam and results from any testing performed. They’ll use this information to pinpoint the exact cause of your stomach pain, so you can find the treatments that work.
Several of the more common sources of abdominal pain include:
- Strained muscles
- Cramps occurring during menstruation
- Stomach virus
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Urinary tract infection
- Excess gas
- Food-borne allergies
- Lactose sensitivity/intolerance
- Gall or kidney stones
- Stomach ulcer
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Diagnosing Abdominal PainIn all likelihood, after completing both an interview and a physical exam, your health care provider may feel confident that your symptoms of abdominal pain are not related to a serious underlying condition and will not need to perform any additional diagnostic tests. If this is the case, take any prescribed OTC stomach medications and rest, as needed.
However, your pain doctor or health care provider may order additional tests if they’re still not sure what’s causing your pain. These extra tests may include a(n):
- Blood test
- Urine test
- Electrocardiography (ECG)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
It is generally recommended that patients closely monitor their symptoms of abdominal pain, as these symptoms may suggest that a more serious condition exists. Always be open and honest with your doctor. If you’re precise about the exact symptoms you’re experiencing, they can find a better diagnosis, more quickly.
When to seek medical attention for abdominal pain
Always contact your physician or health care provider if you experience abdominal pain along with any of these symptoms:
- Unremitting vomiting lasting more than a few days
- Constipation lasting more than a few days, particularly if you are also experiencing vomiting
- Pain during urination
- Urinating infrequently
- Abdominal tenderness
- Injury sustained with the abdominal area
- Pain that lasts several days or more
Individuals experiencing any of the following symptoms along with abdominal pain should seek medical help right away, as they may be suffering from a more serious condition requiring immediate medical attention:
- Vomiting blood
- Blood in stool
- Difficulty breathing
- You are pregnant or you might be pregnant
Treatment For Abdominal PainIndividuals suffering from stomach pain that affects their daily life may wish to consult with their physician or health care provider to discuss treatment options. The goal of treatment in most instances of abdominal pain is to provide you with full or partial relief from your pain and discomfort. However, in cases where the underlying cause is known, the source of the pain may require more significant intervention. Thankfully, most cases of abdominal pain only require lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle treatments for stomach pain
Most instances of abdominal pain, however, are not severe or life threatening. The first line of treatment for these more mild episodes of abdominal pain includes more conservative, at-home interventions. Though many of these recommendations depend on the individual and the specific symptom presentation, some common examples of these recommendations are to:
- Drink plenty of water or other clear fluids
- Stay away from specific types of food (such as overly spicy, greasy, acidic, or fatty foods)
- Take an over-the-counter (OTC) stomach pain medicine targeted to treat the pain
Stomach pain medicine
Individuals wishing to take OTC pain reducers, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or other anti-inflammatory medications, to manage their symptoms of abdominal pain are urged to speak with their abdominal pain doctor first. In particular, acetaminophen (Tylenol) should only be considered in circumstances when it is known that the abdominal pain is not related to an underlying liver dysfunction, as taking acetaminophen may actually aggravate this condition.
If you’re suffering from abdominal pain from an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. The goal of this course of treatment is to provide the patient with relief from pain by treating the underlying condition.
Treatments for severe abdominal pain
Some episodes of abdominal pain are severe enough to cause a dramatic impact on the individual’s ability to function. For instance, some patients suffering from abdominal pain may be unable to work. These cases of abdominal pain are appropriate for a more significant intervention.
Of note, the celiac plexus block may be the most appropriate treatment for severe and chronic cases of abdominal pain, as it targets the celiac nerve bundle that transmits pain information from the abdomen to the spinal cord and the brain. A celiac plexus block is a non-surgical treatment option for managing chronic and severe abdominal pain. This block can inhibit dysfunctional pain signals traveling from the:
- Adrenal glands
This treatment option works by inhibiting the transfer of information between these areas and the brain. It’s especially helpful for pain related to pancreatic cancer and malignancies of the stomach, gallbladder, liver, or large colon.
The celiac plexus block procedure itself is minimally-invasive and has very few side effects. Your stomach pain doctor or health care provider will tell you if your episode of abdominal pain is appropriate for this degree of intervention. They can also discuss any risk factors or questions you may have.
Further, in some cases, the underlying condition will require surgery. This is especially true if an infection is present, there is a disease involved, or damage has occurred to key organs in the stomach. Always work closely with your doctor and tell them about all of your symptoms so they can find the most appropriate treatment option for you.
ConclusionAbdominal pain occurs frequently among both adult and pediatric populations. There are a wide variety of conditions that may be associated with abdominal pain and discomfort. Physicians and health care providers must rely upon many sources of information to try to reach the most accurate diagnosis. In many instances, though, the exact underlying cause may not be known.
There are a number of treatment options available to provide patients with relief from symptoms of abdominal pain and discomfort. These treatments can range from more conservative interventions (such as increasing fluid intake) to more interventional techniques (such as tae celiac plexus block). Your stomach pain doctor or health care provider will recommend the most appropriate course of treatment, depending on your individual history and unique symptom presentation.
If you’re ready to talk to local stomach pain doctors to get a diagnosis for the cause of your pain, and help, click the button below. You can find a pain specialist in your area who helps patients get back to their life without pain.
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