What Are Stomach Cramps
Stomach cramps are cyclical tightening of the muscles of the gut that cause pain. It is a nonspecific symptom that refers to the pain present anywhere in the abdominal area. Organs in the abdomen include the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder and pancreas, and any disorder in these organs may cause pain. Most stomach cramps are not serious and heal with home remedies. However, cramps that last for a long time need a consultation with a physician.
Causes Of Nausea And Stomach Cramps
The diseases that cause stomach cramps and nausea have been discussed below. As mentioned it can occur with mental health disorders and may even be due to severe hunger. Sometimes it may also be seen with strenuous physical activity on an empty stomach and with extreme dieting. These symptoms may also be side effects that occur with certain drugs.
What Other Symptoms Relate To Abdominal Pain
Pain in the abdomen may be experienced as aching, stabbing, burning, twisting, cramping, dull, or a gnawing pain.
The pain may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as a feeling of discomfort in the abdomen, bloating, constipation, wind , belching , fever, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, fever, dehydration or loss of appetite
Describing the pattern and location of your symptoms to a doctor may help them in identifying the cause of your abdominal pain. These causes include:
- Peptic ulcer The pain is often felt in the upper abdomen, as a knife-like pain which goes through to the back.
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease The pain usually causes a central burning pain that develops just under the breastbone, and may rise upwards. It may be accompanied by belching.
- Appendicitis The pain usually starts near the navel before moving down to the lower right abdomen when it becomes more constant.
- Gallstones or gallbladder irritation The pain is felt in the upper right abdomen, back or right shoulder.
- Lower abdominal pain: Also referred to as lower stomach pain, it is probably coming from your bowel.
- Period pain This is usually a dull, cramping pain, felt low down, which may radiate through to the back.
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Cramps From Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
If your bad cramps aren’t caused by a workout or period pain, there can be another reason: pelvic inflammatory disease . According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , PID is the infection of the female reproductive organs, and can result from untreated sexually transmitted diseases or the use of an improperly placed intrauterine device .
The only way to avoid PID is to avoid all sexual activity. If you are sexually active, use protection or be smart about your choice of partners, making sure they also test negative for STDs. If you notice abnormal bleeding or severe cramping in the abdomen, it is best to get a diagnosis, as it is always better to treat a disease in its earlier stages because the cause could be PID.
WebMD shared that “PID is an infection of the organs of a women’s reproductive system. They include the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix.” This affects about 770,000 women in the U.S. every year, and can ultimately also affect fertility. Consult a doctor if you are sexually active and experience severe pain in your tummy that seems more unusual than period cramps. It can be treated with antibiotics, but serious cases may require hospitalization.
Ultimately, no matter what is causing them, we’ve got you covered with the best ways to relieve stomach cramps.
Sudden Stomach Cramps With Diarrhoea
If your stomach cramps have started recently and you also have diarrhoea, the cause may be a tummy bug . This means you have a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel. It should get better without treatment after a few days.
Gastroenteritis may be caused by:
- coming into close contact with someone who’s infected
- eating contaminated food
If you have repeated bouts of stomach cramps and diarrhoea, you may have a long-term condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome .
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What Does It Mean When When You Have Bad Cramps
Sometimes, when you near the time of your monthly period, you may experience cramping before the period itself begins. Commonly known as premenstrual syndrome , this phenomenon can consist of various physical and emotional signs such as bloating and irritability in addition to cramping, and more than 90 percent of women experience it, per the Office on Women’s Health. While some women are lucky to feel almost nothing before or during their periods, some have it so bad that they have to stay in bed, which feels like torture. You automatically turn to a pint of ice cream and cry, thinking about Noah and Allie’s love story in “The Notebook.”
Another common cramp you might have experienced is one during a workout. You’re biking away or lifting some weights, and suddenly you get a cramp and have to stop. That is a muscle spasm that can happen anytime, and according to WebMD, a cramp is most commonly experienced on your legs but could happen anywhere on your body. Generally, a quick rest or some stretching can fix the situation. It’s normal to experience cramps on random parts of your body due to movement or hormones, but some cramps are just too awful. Luckily, if you’ve ever wondered how to get rid of cramps, we’ve delved into the most common types of cramps so you don’t have to.
When To Call Your Healthcare Provider
Some kinds of stomach pain need immediate attention. With others, you can call or visit your healthcare provider. It can be hard to know what you should do. Listen to your body and trust your instincts if you’re not sure.
If you have any of these symptoms along with stomach pain, call your healthcare provider within a day or two:
- Excessive vaginal bleeding or blood clots
- Vaginal bleeding that lasts for longer than usual
You should also call your healthcare provider if you have stomach pain while you are being treated for cancer.
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When To Call The Doctor
If you experience symptoms for more than a week, its wise to make a doctors appointment. However, if you have severe symptoms at any point throughout, it is also a good idea to be seen. Other symptoms that warrant a doctor visit include high fever, nausea and vomiting, confusion, difficulty speaking, vision problems, rapid heart rate, and seizures. While the most common symptoms of diarrhea and stomach problems are flu, food reactions, medications, stress, alcohol consumption, IBD, and IBS, these conditions can also be indicative of cancer, cystic fibrosis, appendicitis, or intestinal obstruction. If you have persistent symptoms, its best to be safe and be seen.
If you need to see a doctor for diarrhea and abdominal pain, or you are experiencing other GI upset, book an appointment at Carolina Digestive today.
How To Deal If You Think Your Have Ibs Or You Already Have Ibs:
If you think IBS is the cause of your stomach cramps and gas consult your doctor. Your doctor with review your symptoms and may need some laboratory investigations to confirm your condition.
REMEMBER: you cannot diagnose yourself for the first time with IBS, you have to see a doctor.
Read more about How is IBS diagnosed
If you already have IBS, then it is probably the cause of your stomach cramps and gas, try to:
- Stay away from diets that trigger your IBS and cause Gas plus other specific foods that may play a role in your IBS like FODMAPs and grassy foods.
- Eat slowly, move after eating.
- Take over-the-counter medications for stomach cramps and gas .
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How Is Abdominal Pain Diagnosed
The cause of abdominal pain is diagnosed based on your symptom history, a physical examination, and testing, if needed. Your doctor is likely to ask you questions about the characteristics of your pain, and whether you have any underlying physical or mental health conditions that could be contributing to your abdominal pain.
Questions from your doctor may address the following aspects of your abdominal pain:
- Where its located
- Whether its dull, stabbing, burning, or cramping
- Whether it comes and goes
- When you experience or notice it most
- Whether it radiates outward to other areas of your body
- How long youve had it
- Whether any activities or actions seem to make it worse or better
Your doctor may also ask about your overall health history, any recent injuries, and whether you might be pregnant.
- Blood, urine, or stool tests
- X-ray of the abdomen
- Computerized tomography scan of the abdomen
- Barium enema
- Endoscopic procedures
Treating Cramps After Menopause
Treatment for postmenopausal cramps will vary depending on the underlying cause. Some possible treatment options may include:
Fibroids: If you do have pain caused by fibroids, painkillers will usually be recommended first.
There are medications available to help shrink fibroids. If these prove ineffective, surgery, such as a myomectomy or hysterectomy, may be recommended.
Endometriosis: There’s no cure for endometriosis and it can be difficult to treat. Treatment aims to ease symptoms so the condition does not interfere with your daily life.
- Medication: Pain medication may be prescribed to ease discomfort.
- Surgery: Surgery is usually reserved for severe symptoms when hormones are not providing relief. During the operation, the surgeon can locate the sites of your endometriosis and may remove the endometrial patches.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Treatment for IBS can include changes to diet and lifestyle, mind/body therapies , and medications. Often, a combination of treatments will provide the most relief. There is still much that is not understood about IBS, so it may take some experimentation with different therapies to achieve positive results.
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Can Stomachaches Be Prevented
Not all belly pain can be prevented. But to help avoid common types of stomachaches:
- Wash your hands before eating or preparing food, and after using the bathroom.
- Don’t overeat, and try not to eat right before going to sleep.
- Drink plenty of water and eat fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to keep food moving through your digestive system.
- Avoid foods that have passed their expiration date or or weren’t stored properly.
- If you have a food allergy or intolerance, avoid eating foods that make you sick. If you have a food allergy, always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors, and know when you should use them.
When Should I See My Doctor
In some cases, you should seek urgent medical attention or consult a doctor if you have abdominal pain.
If you have a sudden, severe, incapacitating pain in your abdomen, go immediately to your nearest emergency department or call triple zero and ask for an ambulance.
You should also seek urgent medical attention if you have pain that:
- is severe and/or getting worse
- has lasted for several hours or more
- wakes you from sleep
- is spreading to your neck, chest or shoulders
- makes it difficult to swallow
Urgent medical attention is also required if you have abdominal pain accompanied by
- unexplained weight loss
- skin that appears yellow
If you are experiencing pain high up in your abdomen that is made worse by exercise it could be angina or a heart attack. If you, or someone near you is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, call triple zero immediately and ask for an ambulance.
If you are pregnant and experiencing abdominal pain, check with your doctor or midwife. Abdominal pains are common in pregnancy, but should always be checked out.
If your abdominal pain does not match the situations above, but it is recurrent or persistent , or it started mild but is worsening, you should still consult a doctor.
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When To Contact A Medical Professional
Get medical help right away or call your local emergency number if you:
- Are currently being treated for cancer
- Are unable to pass stool, especially if you are also vomiting
- Are vomiting blood or have blood in your stool
- Have chest, neck, or shoulder pain
- Have sudden, sharp abdominal pain
- Have pain in, or between, your shoulder blades with nausea
- Have tenderness in your belly, or your belly is rigid and hard to the touch
- Are pregnant or could be pregnant
- Had a recent injury to your abdomen
- Have difficulty breathing
Remember: Take A Test
The most important thing you can do if you feel you may be pregnant is take a pregnancy test. These are inexpensive and widely available. You can even find them sometimes at the dollar stores! There are also community resources available such as Planned Parenthood, where you can get a test for free if you cannot afford to pay.
If you are too shy to buy one yourself, ask a friend to pick one up for you. You can even buy them on Amazon. For your health and your baby’s health, it’s best to know as soon as you can if you are indeed pregnant. Buck up and get one!
When taken properly, home pregnancy tests are 99% accurate. Though some say you can take them up for five days before your missed period, the earlier you test, the more likely you are to get a false negative. If the test is negative and your period still doesnt come, try again.
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Types Of Abdominal Pain
There are several types of abdominal pain, which are based on how quickly your pain starts and how long it lasts:
- Acute pain starts over a few hours or days and may come with other symptoms.
- Chronic pain lasts longer — from weeks to months or more — and may come and go.
- Progressive pain gets worse over time and often comes with other symptoms.
Muscle Pain And Injuries
Muscle overuse, a sedentary lifestyle, and trauma from falling or other injuries can cause pain in the abdominal or back muscles. These injuries can cause pain that comes and goes.
Pain that appears only in certain positions, while lifting, or after exercise could be a sign of a muscle injury.
A muscle injury is not a medical emergency. Most people can treat muscle injuries at home with rest, hot and cold packs, and gentle massage. Ice packs for pain relief are available for purchase online.
If home treatment does not work or the pain is very intense, it is best to see a doctor.
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You Might Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Its not clear exactly what causes IBS, but there are a few theories. People with IBS may have abnormalities in how their brains and guts interact that lead to digestive problems and pain, the NIDDK explains.
This can manifest in a few different ways. Dr. Chey says that people with IBS may have large intestines that contract more strongly and more frequently when they eat a meal than other peoples, which can then cause abdominal pain and other issues. Another theory is that people with IBS are extra sensitive to the stretch that is normal in the intestines from the breakdown of food products, Dr. Krishnareddy says.
The Muscle Cramp Aka Charley Horse
According to Medline Plus, muscle cramps, are “involuntary contractions or spasms in one or more of your muscles” and can happen for multiple reasons, such as muscle strain or dehydration. Muscle cramps can happen anytime and anywhere, but are most common when exercising. With proper warmups, stretching, a healthy diet, and plenty of fluids, you can try to prevent them. However, they aren’t inherently dangerous most of the time. It is also possible to experience these cramps while sleeping.
The problem with muscle cramps do you know the surprising reason they’re called charley horses? is when they happen too often, last too long, and are severely painful, which could have other underlying reasons such as being caused by a nerve disorder, per WebMD. Suppose you are also experiencing vomiting, numbness, diarrhea, weakness, or ample sweating, and it is just hurting a lot: In that case, see a doctor to get some blood work and tests done to make sure you are okay or catch it early to treat it properly. Otherwise, you don’t have to worry about them, because almost everyone gets them.
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Red Sings: When To See Your Doctor For Your Stomach Cramps And Gas
The above 7 conditions are the common causes of stomach cramps and gas. But this is not the complete list of causes. Some other medical conditions can cause stomach cramps and gas. Some of these medical conditions may be dangerous and require emergency medical consultation.
They include :
- Intestinal obstruction.
Hormone Therapy And Uterine Fibroids
The use of hormone therapy after menopause is associated with a greater risk for a fibroids diagnosis, as reported in a 2017 peer-review article of most studies to date. The risk of surgically confirmed fibroids increased up to sixfold in people using estrogen or combined estrogen-progestin therapy compared with nonusers.
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