What’s Causing My Stomach Pain?

What is abdominal pain?

Abdominal pain is also known as stomach pain. It occurs between the chest and pelvis region. It also manifests in various forms, such as dull, sharp, achy, crampy, intermittent, etc.

Stomachache is triggered by infections of organs that lie within the abdomen. These infections cause inflammatory reactions.

It is important to take note of those organs that lie within the abdomen. They include:

  • stomach
  • small intestine
  • large intestine
  • gallbladder
  • appendix
  • spleen
  • pancreas
  • liver

abdominal pain

Photo Credit: Darko Durjin

What causes abdominal pain?

Common causes of stomachache include:

  1. Abnormal Growths
  2. Intestinal infections or disorders
  3. Organ rupture or near-rupture of the (appendicitis)
  4. Blood infections
  5. Stomach flu
  6. Gallbladder stones
  7. Acid reflux
  8. Obstruction
  9. Diarrhea
  10. Inflammation
  11. Nausea and vomiting
  12. Infections in the throat
  13. Constipation
  14. Stress
  15. Crohn’s disease
  16. Irritable bowel syndrome: It is also called spastic colon. It is a disorder that induces abdominal pain, cramping, and even causes bowel movement changes.
  17. Lactose intolerance: This is the inability to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and its products.
  18. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  19. Kidney stones and infections

Types of abdominal pain

Types of stomach pain include localized, colicky, or cramp-like.

Localized stomach pain

It is a restrictive pain i.e. it is limited to a specific abdominal area. It is mostly caused by a stomach ulcer. A stomach ulcer is an open sore on the stomach’s inner lining.

Colicky stomach pain

It is a sudden muscle-spasm like pain that typifies a severe condition e.g. gallstones, kidney stones. It is usually very severe.

Cramp-like pain

It is usually associated with flatulence, constipation, and diarrhea, or even bloating. Women can experience this kind of pain during menstruation, miscarriage, or complications in their reproductive organs. It is an on and off-pain that can resolve on its own without treatment.

Sites of stomach pain

Knowing the precise location of a stomachache will help the doctor to figure out the cause of that pain.

Diffuse abdominal pain

Diffuse pain spreads throughout the abdomen. Common causes include:

  • traumatic injury
  • appendicitis
  • urinary tract infection
  • Crohn’s disease
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • flu, etc.

Lower abdominal pain

The pain concentrates in the lower part of your abdomen. Common causes of lower stomach pain include:

  • appendicitis
  • intestinal obstruction
  • miscarriage
  • ovarian cysts
  • dysmenorrhea
  • ectopic pregnancy
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • endometriosis
  • fibroids, etc.

Upper abdominal pain

Common causes include:

Central abdominal pain

Usually caused by:

Lower left abdominal pain

Factors that trigger lower-left stomachache include:

  • ovarian cysts
  • cancer
  • appendicitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • kidney infection, etc.

Upper left abdominal pain

Likely causes include:

  • fecal impaction (hardened stool that cannot be eliminated)
  • injury
  • heart attack
  • cancer
  • enlarged spleen
  • kidney infection, etc.

Lower right abdominal pain

Common causes include:

  • appendicitis
  • cancer
  • hernia
  • flu
  • kidney infection, etc.

Upper right abdominal pain

Usually caused by:

  • pneumonia
  • injury
  • hepatitis
  • appendicitis, etc.

When you should see a doctor

It is important that you see a doctor if you have a severe stomachache. Please see your doctor if your stomachache is accompanied by any of the following conditions:

  1. recurring chest pains.
  2. injury or trauma from an accident.
  3. Bloody stools
  4. a body temperature that is above 101°F.
  5. persistent nausea or vomiting.
  6. Jaundice (yellowish tint on your eyes or skin)
  7. difficulty in breathing
  8. When you are vomiting blood.
  9. severe abdominal tenderness or abdominal swelling
  10. abdominal pain that lasts longer than 24 hours.
  11. prolonged constipation.
  12. burning sensation during urination.
  13. loss of appetite
  14. unexplainable weight loss
  15. If you are breastfeeding or pregnant, and you have a persistent stomachache.

Diagnosing the cause of abdominal pain

Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will do a physical examination. A physical examination will involve touching your abdomen softly to check for tenderness and swelling. Further investigation may be done based on the findings from the physical examination and the location of your pain.

Imaging tests

They are used to see detailed images of abdominal tissues, organs, and other abdominal structures in order to diagnose ruptures, blockage, fractures, tumors, and inflammation.

Imaging tests include:

  1. MRI scans
  2. Ultrasound
  3. X-rays, including upper GI. Upper GI is a special X-ray test that employs the use of a contrast dye to diagnose whether a blockage, growth, inflammation, or ulcer, etc. is present in the abdominal region.

Other tests

  1. Blood tests
  2. Urinalysis
  3. Fecal analysis

How you can prevent abdominal pain

Not all forms of pain are preventable. However, you can minimize the risk of developing a stomachache by doing the following;

  1. Eat healthily.
  2. Drink plenty of water frequently.
  3. Exercise regularly
  4. Be strict with the diet recommended by your doctor.
  5. Avoid lying down immediately after eating a meal. Doing this can prevent you from having heartburn. You can wait for two or three hours to sleep after a meal.