Everyone may have experienced abdominal pain once in their life, knowingly and unknowingly. It can complicate your life extensively if you have a fever, worsening pain, or spread to other parts of your body. In addition, abdominal pain can also complicate life if you experience difficulty breathing. But what exactly is it?
If you feel discomfort from your ribs to the pelvis, you have abdominal pain. It is commonly known as ‘stomach pain’ and stomach ache’. It is essential to understand that the pain can be from your internal organs. Pain lasting for a brief period is called acute pain. When it exists for a minimum of three months, it becomes a chronic or ongoing problem. However, this period is not exact as complications vary individually.
Abdominal pain can occur in various forms. These include cramps, sudden stabbing pain, and constant dull abdominal ache.
Healthcare professionals suggest regular monitoring to check the status of the condition. Even a mild ache may turn into something serious. Remember, abdominal pain is a subjective symptom. Therefore you cannot measure it medically. Only you know the intensity of your condition. It can occur with other symptoms as well. Fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea are some of them. It would help if you answered every question by your doctor with utmost care. It becomes easy to identify the location of your pain. You need to notice every aspect of your day-to-day activity to find every trigger that worsens and eases it.
Causes of Abdominal Pain
There are many causes of abdominal pain. Some of them are:
- Abnormal growths
- Obstruction or blockage
- Disorders related to the intestines
- Diseases affecting the abdomen
Abdominal pain may occur due to infections in the throat, intestines, and blood. The bacteria then enter your digestive tract and may even cause digestion-related problems. These problems may include diarrhoea and constipation. In addition, women experience pain in their lower abdomen due to cramps during menstruation. But it is usually called pelvic pain.
Abdominal pain also has other causes.
- Gastroenteritis or stomach flu
- Acid reflux or the backward leaking of stomach contents into the oesophagus
The most common diseases of the digestive system behind abdominal pain are:
1. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
As per several studies, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common clinical problem, affecting millions of people worldwide. It is a condition of troublesome symptoms and complications resulting from the reflux of stomach contents into the oesophagus. The problem happens when stomach acid reversely flows into the tube. This tube is connected to your mouth and stomach. As a result, it irritates the lining of your oesophagus.
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. However, behavioural changes and advances in acid suppression remain integral to its treatment.
2. Irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon
It is a common disorder of the large intestine. This chronic condition affects you in the long run. Cramping, abdominal pain, and bloating are some of the symptoms. As per studies, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects 9%-23% of the population across the world.
3. Crohn’s disease
It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease which leads to inflammation of your digestive tract, which causes abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and fatigue. It can affect different areas of the digestive tract. However, it usually affects the colon and small intestine.
4. Lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance occurs when your body cannot properly digest the sugar found in milk. Thus, if you consume any dairy product, you may suffer from diarrhoea, gas, and bloating.
As per research, ingestion of 12 grams of lactose daily may increase abdominal pain in susceptible children with lactose maldigestion. The study also says that the common symptoms of lactose intolerance can be abdominal pain.
Now let us have a look at the types of abdominal pain.
Types of Abdominal Pain
1. Sharp Jabbing Pain in the Upper Right Abdomen
When mixed with digestive juices from the liver and pancreas, bile acids stored in the gallbladder break down the partly digested food as it enters the small intestine. Gallstones occur when there is excess secretion of cholesterol by the liver. You experience pain because your body attempts to pass the gallstones through the narrow biliary duct.
2. Uncomfortable Bloating
Your body releases gas when it tries to break down certain kinds of foods such as green leafy vegetables and beans. Consuming gas-causing foods frequently leads to an overabundance of the gas in the digestive tract. Therefore, it creates a feeling of bloating. Drinking lots of carbonated beverages or swallowing air while eating quickly are also the causes behind uncomfortable bloating.
3. Upper Stomach Pain or Burning Sensation
When the damage to the stomach lining results in painful sores, it is called peptic ulcers. However, the stomach has a coating of thick mucus. It serves as a barrier between the lining and the digestive juices. At times, the mucus barrier is affected due to infection, heavy drinking, smoking, aspirin etc. As a result, the digestive juices eat away the stomach lining and cause stomach pain and even bleeding.
4. Sharp Pain in the Lower Right Side of the Abdomen
Appendix plays a role in maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora. But sometimes, it becomes inflamed due to infection or a blockage in its hollow chamber. As a result, it builds up bacteria that releases into the abdominal cavity. Symptoms of acute appendicitis include pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, nausea, and fever.
All this varies when it comes to the health of your children.
Abdominal Pain in Children
There are several causes of abdominal pain in children. Parents often rush to healthcare professionals to get the best possible help. It is hard to diagnose in the case of children. When you diagnose the problems, no further medical tests are required. Usually, the situation gets better within hours or a few days without any causes. With an apparent reason, it is easy to manage the treatment. If the problems continue, contact your doctor immediately.
Causes of Abdominal Pain in Children
Given below are the causes of abdominal pain in children.
- Bowel gut problems: Bowel gut problems are constipation and colic or irritable bowel.
- Infections: These infections include gastroenteritis, kidney or bladder infections, and infections in other body parts like the ear or chest.
- Food-related problems: Food-related problems are overeating, food poisoning, and food allergies.
- Problems outside the abdomen: These problems include muscle strain and migraine.
- Surgical problems: These include appendicitis, bowel obstruction, and intussusception.
- Period pain: It is a pain that girls face before beginning their menstruation cycle.
- Poisoning: Spider bites, eating soap, and smoking are examples.
A parent can figure out if their child has abdominal pain. Infants and very young toddlers react to their distress by crying, having painful facial expressions, and curling up. Young children inform you as to what is wrong with them. However, teenagers are usually reluctant to accept that they are in pain.
Treatment of Abdominal Pain
If you do not have faith in any home remedy, you should immediately contact your doctor.
1. Self-Care Measures
Some common remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to relieve your abdominal pain are:
- Avoid overeating. Ensure that you eat in moderation.
- You can take small amounts of baking soda.
- Start a BRAT diet for a day or two. The BRAT diet consists of Banana, Rice, Apple sauce, and Toast.
- Refrain from smoking or alcohol consumption.
- Avoid solid foods for a few hours.
- Keep having water or clear fluids.
- Take rest until you feel better.
- Avoid dairy products, citrus fruits, fatty foods, tomato products, caffeine, and carbonated beverages.
- Stick to soft foods.
Some healthcare professionals suggest other options.
- Chamomile tea
- Medications such as bismuth subsalicylate or Pepto-Bismol, loperamide or Imodium, and Famotidine or Prilosec and Zantac 360
All these can reduce the symptoms of your pain. But if they do not provide relief, you should book a doctor’s appointment.
2. Medication Options
Do not believe the cures advertised anywhere as no specific remedy or treatment exists.
Do not take Aspirin or NSAIDs until you diagnose the cause of your pain. These medications may worsen situations of peptic ulcers and intestinal bleeding.
If you have underlying health conditions, your doctor will recommend the following medicines:
- Drugs to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Antibiotics to treat infection
- Drugs to reduce inflammation
- Targeted treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
3. Procedures and Surgery
There are rare medical cases where you may require medical procedures or surgeries for abdominal pain.
- Injection of a numbing agent
- Corticosteroid injections
- Hernia repair surgery
Now, let’s look at the symptoms that might be your concern.
Symptoms of Abdominal Pain
If your abdominal pain turns severe or has other symptoms with it, contact any healthcare professional immediately. These additional symptoms are as follows:
- Inability to keep food down for several days
- Bloody stools
- Difficulty in breathing
- Vomiting blood
- Pain occurs during pregnancy
- The abdomen is tender to touch
- Injury to the abdomen in the previous days
- Pain lasts for longer than 24 hours
- Yellowing of the skin or eyes
- A burning sensation when you urinate
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Signs you’re getting dehydrated, including not urinating frequently, dark-coloured urine, and being very thirsty
They require urgent treatment as they may be the signs of internal inflammation, infection, or bleeding. These symptoms may also cause colorectal, ovarian, or abdominal cancer.
What to Expect During a Physical Examination?
Your physical examination can start as soon as you reach the hospital. However, the doctor might need to know other details like:
Location of Your Pain
- Where do you experience it?
- Has it spread to other parts or limited to certain areas?
- Does it also occur on your back, groin, or down your legs?
Type and Intensity of Your Pain
- Where are the areas where you feel it?
- Does it remain constant or occur frequently?
- Are you able to get proper sleep?
History of Your Pain
- Were there any similar incidents in the past?
- When does the pain occur usually?
- Are there any triggers?
- What are the things that relieve it?
- Are you taking any medicines?
Other Medical History
- Did you have a recent injury?
- Are you expecting a pregnancy?
- Do other symptoms exist?
Thus, be prepared personally with all the answers to save your time.
Prevention of Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can have numerous causes. Some of them are uncontrollable. Such as when you have appendicitis. However, you can control many of them by making some lifestyle changes. These changes may be harsh for you at first, but their effects on your life are incredible.
1. Don’t Rush
Do not take big bites or swallow while having your food. You can swallow air, which leads to gas in your stomach and can cause pain. Instead, chew your food slowly and eat it calmly. This practice lets your brain process the amount of food you require.
2. Stop Frequent Eating
Some people suffer from belly pain when there is no buffer for the acid in their stomach. So eat smaller meals throughout the day so that your stomach feels full. But have some limitations here, like if you overeat, your stomach might hurt.
3. Keep Track of What You Consume
Abdominal pain may result from fatty, fried, or spicy foods. Therefore, this hinders the process of digestion by slowing it down or making you constipated. Having vegetables and fibre-rich foods makes this process in your body healthy and efficient.
4. Believe in What You Observe
If you notice any abnormality when you have something, you should consult a doctor. For example, you might suffer from food allergies. In case of any issue, search for ways to avoid or eat it less.
5. Stay Hydrated
Water facilitates every smooth activity in your gut. So drink as much water as you can and avoid soda or other beverages. Carbonation causes stomach pain as the fizz leads to gas. Other beverages that you need to steer clear away from are alcoholic and caffeinated ones.
It is not wise to consider abdominal pains lightly. They may be due to a regular irregularity or may lead to something severe. It is essential to check all the symptoms that accompany it. Consult a doctor when things seem to be out of control. Observe everything that might trigger it or relieve you for a bit. Use home remedies to the extent you can avoid medications.
Most importantly, organise your life to make it stomach-friendly. A healthy stomach is a gateway to a happy life. Exercise, meditate and follow your hobbies to make every day worthwhile.