Abdominal pain

Definition

Abdominal pain is pain that you feel anywhere between your chest and groin. This is often referred to as the stomach region or belly.

Alternative Names

Stomach pain; Pain - abdomen; Belly ache; Abdominal cramps; Bellyache; Stomachache

Considerations

Almost everyone has pain in the abdomen at one time or another. Most of the time, it is not caused by a serious medical problem.

How bad your pain is does not always reflect the seriousness of the condition causing the pain.

For example, you might feel severe abdominal pain if you have gas or stomach cramps due to a viral gastroenteritis.

Sometimes, life-threatening conditions such as colon cancer or early appendicitis may only cause mild pain or no pain.

Other ways of describing pain in your abdomen include:

Causes

Many different conditions can cause abdominal pain. The key is to know when you need to get immediate medical care. Sometimes you may only need to call a doctor if your symptoms continue.

Less serious causes of abdominal pain include:

Other possible causes include:

Sometimes, abdominal pain may occur due to a problem somewhere else in your body, such as your chest or pelvic area. For example, you may have abdominal pain if you have:

Home Care

If you have mild abdominal pain, the following tips might be helpful:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Seek immediate medical help or call your local emergency number (such as 911) if you:

Call your doctor if you have:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. Your specific symptoms, the location of pain and when it occurs will help your health care provider diagnosis the cause.

You may be asked the following questions:

Tests that may be done include:

Prevention

The following steps may help prevent some types of abdominal pain:

References

Ebell MH. Diagnosis of appendicitis: part 1. History and physical examination. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:828-830.

Bundy DG, Byerley JS, Liles EA, Perrin EM, Katznelson J, Rice HE. Does this child have appendicitis? JAMA. 2007;25:438-451.

Millham FH. Acute abdominal pain. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 10.

Postier RG, Squires RA. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr., Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 45.

Rimon, N, Bengiamin RN, Budhram GR, King KE, Wightman JM. Abdominal pain. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 21.