What Is Abdominal Pain?
Abdominal pain is, fortunately, rarely serious, and it is incredibly common. It is best defined as pain that is felt between the chest and groin area. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, it is good to know whether or not that pain might indicate a serious problem. It is always best to err on the side of caution, as the intensity of the pain you might be feeling doesn’t necessarily correlate to how serious the cause of the pain might be.
Some abdominal pains might feel incredibly intense, causing something like severe gas or gastroenteritis to feel like something more extreme. Viral gastroenteritis can also cause such pain. On the other hand, there are some conditions which are fatal that might only present with mild pain, such as colon cancer or early appendicitis.
What Kind of Abdominal Pain Are You Having?
To help narrow things down, especially when speaking with a medical professional, consider the type of pain you are feeling.
- Localized pain is found in one part of your abdominal area. This tends to indicate a concern with an organ
- Generalized pain is felt in more than half if your abdominal area. It could be as simple as gas or indigestion, but could also indicate a stomach virus. If the pain increases in intensity, this could be a sign of an intestinal blockage.
- Colicky pain comes in waves, and may be sudden as it comes and goes. It can be a very severe pain, and could be related to gallstones or kidney stones.
- Cramp-like pain can be intense, but is not usually serious. It is often related to bloating and gas, and may be followed by loose stools. As with many pains, if it is accompanied by a fever, comes back frequently or lasts more than 24 hours, then it could be more serious.
What Can Cause Abdominal Pain?
It is important not to self-diagnose, but it does help to have an idea of what could be the source of it. Some are usually less of a cause for concern, such as food allergies, food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach flu, or constipation.
Some other causes of abdominal pain might be:
- Stomach cancer, or cancer of other organs
- Kidney Stones
- Cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation)
- Muscle strain
When Should I Seek Medical Attention?
There are options for treating abdominal pain at home, but it helps to know when you should seek out the help of a medical professional, including calling for emergency help (911).
- Cannot pass stool (more urgent if you are vomiting as well)
- Vomiting blood or blood in the stool
- Pain in the chest, shoulder or neck
- Abdominal pain is sharp and sudden
- You are currently undergoing cancer treatment
- Pain is in or between your shoulder blades, accompanied by nausea
- Abdomen is tender, or rigid and hard to the touch
- Pregnant or could be pregnant
- Recent abdominal injury
- You are having difficulty breathing
A more comprehensive list of problem pains and symptoms, as well as causes, can be found at the National Library of Medicine.