We’re all familiar with the awful feeling of abdominal pain: cramping, nausea, and the inability to find comfort in any position other than curling in a ball. There are many factors that can lead to abdominal pain, the belly region between your ribs and pelvis. It’s likely that everyone will experience it at one time or another, and in most cases the pain is temporary (like a stomach virus) and will resolve by itself. In more severe cases, the pain and its associated symptoms may linger, requiring immediate medical attention.
The abdomen is home to several organs in your digestive system including the stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine and large intestine. These organs can play a role in abdomen pain but discomfort can also come from the skin or muscles of the abdominal wall.
Common causes of mild and temporary abdominal pain include:
- Food poisoning
- Food allergies or intolerances
- Gas or constipation
- Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Peptic ulcers
- Acid Reflux
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
Female Reproductive Cycle
- Menstrual cramps
- Ovulation pain
The unexpected onset of pain or discomfort can be described as:
- Mild or severe
- Dull or sharp
- Burning or achy
- Crampy or colicky
- Constant or intermittent
- Localized (in one spot) or generalized (all over)
While mild abdominal pain can certainly feel intense, the pain will usually subside in the days following. To manage the pain:
Hydrate. Try drinking small sips of water or other clear fluids.
Proper Nourishment. Only eat small amounts of mild foods like rice, applesauce, or crackers. Wait 6 hours before eating if doing so causes vomiting.
Heat therapy. Try soaking in a warm bath or placing a warm water bottle on your abdomen.
Rest. Make sure to take naps and rest when needed.
Home remedies. Try eating small amounts of licorice for gas, ginger for indigestion, or peppermint to help relax your intestinal muscles.
Avoid caffeine, carbonated beverages and spicy foods.
In most cases, abdominal pain is temporary and symptoms will lessen within 24 to 48 hours. However, medical intervention may be required in more severe cases including:
- Bowel blockage or obstruction
- Cholecyctitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) or gallstones
- Diverticulitis (inflammation and infection of the colon)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Kidney Stones
- Pancreatitis (swelling or infection of the pancreas)
- Ovarian cysts
- Tubal (ectopic) pregnancy
Seek medical attention if you are currently pregnant, being treated for cancer. You should also get medical help if:
- Abdominal pain lasts longer than 1 week
- Abdominal pain does not improve in 24 to 48 hours, or becomes more severe and frequent and occurs with nausea and vomiting
- Bloating persists for more than 2 days or diarrhea more than 5 days
- Prolonged poor appetite