What The Doctor Does
Doctors first ask questions about the persons symptoms and medical history. Doctors then do a physical examination. What they find during the history and physical examination often suggests a cause of the pain and the tests that may need to be done .
Doctors ask particularly about activities that relieve or worsen the pain. Whether the pain or other digestive upset occurs after eating or drinking dairy products is important because lactose intolerance is common, especially among Black, Hispanic, Asian , and American Indian people. Doctors also ask about other symptoms , about diet, and about any surgery involving the abdomen, drugs used, and previous tests and treatments for the pain. Whether any family members have disorders that cause abdominal pain is also important.
Doctors also ask about a persons diet because ingesting large amounts of cola beverages, fruit juices , or gas-producing foods can sometimes be the cause of otherwise puzzling abdominal pain.
Between the initial visit and follow-up visits, people are often asked to record information about the pain, bowel movements, diet, any activities that seem to trigger pain, any remedies tried, and the effects of the remedies.
Why Does Stress Cause Stomach Pain Or Gi Discomfort
We know through research there is a strong connection between our brain and our gut through the central nervous system. The enteric nervous system an out-branching of the central nervous system serves the GI tract, making a direct connection between our brain and gastrointestinal system. That connection can cause normal physiologic processes to be interpreted as painful under stressful or anxiety-provoking situations.
When were stressed, hormones and neurotransmitters are released in the body. This can negatively impact gut motility, or the way our intestines and stomach squeeze and move waste through the body. Also, stress can affect the delicate balance of bacteria in our gut, causing GI discomfort.
People experiencing chronic stress may also eat more or eat unhealthy foods with a higher amount of natural and artificial sugar that is poorly digested and causes GI distress. People may also smoke and drink more alcohol or caffeine than normal which can cause symptoms.
How Do Doctors Find The Cause Of A Stomachache
To find the cause of a stomachache, doctors ask about:
- your symptoms
- illnesses you’ve had in the past
- health conditions that other family members have
Be honest with your doctor, even if a symptom seems embarrassing.
The doctor will do an exam and sometimes might order tests, such as an X-ray, ultrasound, or blood test. It all depends on what the doctor thinks is causing the problem.
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If Your Stomach Hurts Suddenly
Acute stomach pain comes on quickly and lasts for a limited amount of time, typically a few hours to a few days. It’s usually caused by external factors, like a particular food or contaminant that didn’t agree with your stomach. Even people with completely healthy digestive tracts will experience occasional stomach pain.
Chronic Abdominal Pain Symptoms
Symptoms of chronic abdominal pain vary from patient to patient, and they may change with each episode. The most common symptoms include:
- Sharp or dull pain
- Severe pain that causes you to become sweaty, cry or bend over in pain
- Pain that lasts a few minutes or hours
- Pain in the belly button area or anywhere in the belly
- Pain that may or may not be related to eating
- Pain that occurs any time of the day or night
- Abdominal pain that occurs with vomiting, headaches, or pain in the arms or legs
- Not being hungry like usual or skipping meals, usually without losing weight
Symptoms that require a doctors immediate attention include a high fever, loss of appetite or weight, pain that awakens the person, blood in stool or urine, jaundice, severe nausea and vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and swelling of the legs or abdomen.
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How Can I Improve My Digestive System
Your digestive system breaks down food into nutrients your body needs to function properly. And when it comes to a healthy gut, bacteria plays a huge role. Balanced levels of healthy bacteria create normal gut flora and line the entire digestive system, synthesizing vitamin K, and promoting blood flow and enteric nerve functions.
Your diet and lifestyle can have a direct impact on your gut health. Here are signs of an unhealthy digestive system and what you can do to help it function efficiently and improve your overall health.
Menstrual Cramps Or Endometriosis
Menstruation can cause inflammation and pain in the abdomen. Bloating, gas, cramping, and constipation can also occur during menstruation, causing abdominal discomfort.
Women who have endometriosis may experience more severe or chronic inflammation and pain. Endometriosis is a condition in which tissue that normally grows in the uterus develops in other parts of the body, usually in the pelvic area but sometimes elsewhere.
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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
Belly Pain In The Lower Left Side That’s Worse When You Move
Abdominal pain in the left lower area of the abdomen may signify diverticulitis, small pockets in the colon that can become obstructed and tear. Traditional treatment includes antibiotics and stool softeners to reduce the risk of abscess formation. Physicians say according to recent research, antibiotics may no longer be needed in this scenario, and they recommend acetaminophen instead.
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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.
How To Treat Minor Stomach Pain At Home
Treatment depends on the underlying problem, of course, explains Dr. Greenwald. But your run-of-the-mill antacids and diet modifications are standard go-tos for relief, he says. Hydration, even frequent sips of fluids, is also crucial amid diarrhea, adds Dr. Mahidhara, and anti-inflammatory medications and a heating pad should help soothe abdominal cramps. Just be careful with medications, she advises, because they may help or worsen a situation depending on the cause.
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Why Does My Stomach Hurt
There are numerous reasons for abdominal pain. It may be related to digestion, injury, infection or disease. It may come from an organ inside, or from the muscles or skin in your abdominal wall. Or it may have spread from somewhere else nearby.
Your healthcare provider will ask you detailed questions about your pain to determine the cause. How bad it feels doesnt necessarily indicate how serious it is. Some common, transient conditions can be intense, and some life-threatening conditions may feel mild.
Reasons Your Stomach Hurts
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When To Call The Doctor About Abdominal Pain
If your abdominal pain is serious, doesn’t go away, or keeps coming back, talk to your doctor. Call 911 right away if your belly hurts because you had a recent injury there or if you have any chest pain.
You should also contact your doctor as soon as you can if you have symptoms along with the pain, such as:
- Can’t keep food down for more than 2 days
- Signs you’re getting dehydrated, including not urinating frequently, dark-colored urine, and being very thirsty
- Can’t have a bowel movement, especially if you’re also vomiting
- Pain when you pee, or you need to urinate often
Also call your doctor if:
- Your belly is tender to the touch
- Pain lasts more than a few hours
You may have other symptoms that could be a sign of a problem inside your body that needs treatment as soon as possible. Get medical care right away if you have abdominal pain and you also:
- Have unexplained weight loss
Pain That Wakes You Up At Night
“When we go to sleep, our intestines go to sleep,” Hanauer said. “Further, our brains usually turn off many pain signals while we sleep. So if the pain is bad enough to wake us up, that’s concerning. For example, severe, sudden pain that wakes us up in the middle of the night can mean the gall bladder is inflamed or a gall stone is passing.”
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Gut Feeling: How To Know If Stomach Pain Is Serious
Abdominal pain is the single leading reason for emergency room visits in the U.S. according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, accounting for more than 12 million of the nearly 139 million annual ER visits. Most people call it stomach pain, but it’s not always a stomach problem. Your abdomen holds many other organs, too, including your intestines , pancreas, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, spleen and appendix.
So its not surprising that, just as with chest pain or a headache, it can be difficult to tell whats really going on in there when your tummy’s not feeling well. Add in other vague symptoms such as nausea and vomiting and you could have the stomach flu, food poisoning, gallstones, kidney stones or any number of other conditions.
Here are some ways to tell what the source of your pain is and when you should seek medical care.
A Bladder Or Kidney Infection
Bladder infections can definitely cause abdominal pain, as well as painful and urgent urination, and/or blood in the urine. If its a kidney infection youre dealing with, you may also have a fever, chills, thigh pain, and joint tenderness.
How to treat it: Most cases can be treated with a course of oral antibiotics, though severe cases may require hospitalization and IV antibiotics. In rare cases, surgery may be required, says Dr. Dann.
How Is Abdominal Pain Treated
Treating abdominal pain depends on its cause. Options include:
- Medications for inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux disease or ulcers.
- Antibiotics for infection.
- Changes in personal behavior for abdominal pain caused by certain foods or beverages.
- Local or spinal injections of numbing agents or corticosteroids by pain management physicians.
In more severe cases like appendicitis and hernia, surgery is necessary.
Feeling Nauseous Or Vomiting
At some point in your life, you will feel nauseous which can be accompanied by vomiting . The reasons we feel nauseous and/or vomit are many, including motion sickness, overeating, gastrointestinal infection, or a bowel obstruction . If you or a loved one frequently feels nauseous with or without vomiting, its important to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
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When To Call Your Doctor
History of heart problems In case of abdominal pain, particularly if the pain arises in the stomach, people with a history of heart disease should immediately go for medical help.
History of diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol History of these chronic diseases demands medical attention.
Acute pain Sudden Acute pain might indicate a more serious condition, such as a gallbladder attack or appendicitis. Both of these organs are located on your right side.
If youre experiencing symptoms like the ones below, visit the emergency room:
- Chest pain, pressure or shortness of breath.
- Extreme stomach pain that continues to get worse.
- Stomach pain that releases to your back.
- Abdominal areas that feels hard or tender to the touch.
- High fever.
- Vomiting or coughing up blood.
- Blood in stools .
- Symbols of extreme dehydration Severe dehydration occur due to stomach flu.
- Lesser urine output or darker colour urine which defines that you are losing more liquid than you are taking in are the signs of dehydration
- Feeling woozy upon standing up and a rapid heart rate is also tell-tale signs of dehydration. If you are incapable to preserve fluids down for at least ten minutes, you may need to visit the ED to receive intravenous fluids.
Types Of Abdominal Pain And What You Can Do
Abdominal pain is any pain that occurs in the region between your chest and your groin.
Depending on the cause, abdominal pain can feel like a dull ache, a sharp, cramping pain or a sudden stabbing sensation. It can also be a constant pain, or it can come and go in waves.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease and Control, abdominal pain is one of the most common reasons that people visit emergency departments in the United States. Statistics released by the International Association for the Study of Pain also show that between 15-25% of the population could be suffering from abdominal pain at any one time.
If youre worried about abdominal pain, why not speak to a doctor.
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In some, abdominal pain is caused by digestive issues like IBS or gastroenteritis, and occurs alongside other symptoms like nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. This is why some people refer to all abdominal pain as stomach ache or tummy ache.
4 key locations to consider are the:
- upper abdomen
- right side of the abdomen
- left side of the abdomen
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When To Go To The Er With Stomach Pain
You should seek immediate medical attention or go to the ER if you have:
- Constant or severe abdominal pain
- Pain associated with a high fever
- Changes in pain intensity or location, such as going from a dull ache to a sharp stab or starting in one area and radiating to another
- Pain accompanied by other serious or unusual symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or change in behavior
- Pain localized to one particular area
- Right lower quadrant could indicate appendicitis
- Right upper quadrant could indicate cholecystitis or a gallbladder infection
- Left lower quadrant could indicate diverticulitis or a colon infection
How Do You Relieve Abdominal Pain
Stomach pain has a wide variety of causes and treatments. Some conditions, such as gallstones or appendicitis, may require surgery. Others, such as ulcers or infections, may be eased with medicine. And sometimes you may just have to get through a bout of stomach flu or a kidney stone until it passes.
If you dont know whats causing your abdominal pain, its important to find out, especially if it doesnt go away on its own. Remember that even mild cases can be serious. However, if you have a pretty good idea that your stomachache is related to digestion, you can begin by treating yourself with:
- Bowel rest. Stop eating, or only eat easy-to-digest foods like crackers or bananas.
- Hydration. Drink plenty of water or a hydration formula.
- Heat therapy. Try a warm water bottle or a soak in the bath.
- Home remedies. Try licorice for gas, ginger for indigestion, or peppermint to help relax your intestinal muscles.
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Signs Of Passing A Kidney Stone
David Cameron, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City Lewisville and Medical City McKinney, says that you will know immediately if you are passing a kidney stone, with pain in the side of your back or abdomen.
This is the worst pain of your life that youre experiencing, Dr. Cameron says. Its so profound that its beyond a 10. Youll be incapacitated with the pain, quite often. Itll lead to nausea and vomiting, the pain is so severe.