The cause of abdominal problems can be hard
to pinpoint. Sometimes minor and serious abdominal problems start with the same
symptoms. Fortunately, most abdominal problems are minor, and home treatment is
all that is needed.
Many times the exact
cause of abdominal pain is hard to find. The severity of your pain, its
location , and other symptoms you have may help determine what is causing the
- Generalized pain occurs in half of the
abdomen or more. Generalized pain can occur with many different illnesses and
will usually go away without medical treatment.
an upset stomach are common problems that can cause
generalized pain. Home treatment may help relieve some of the discomfort.
Generalized mild pain or crampy pain that becomes more severe over several
hours may be a symptom of a blockage of the intestines (bowel obstruction).
- Localized pain is located in one area
of the abdomen. Localized pain that comes on suddenly and gets worse is more
likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. The pain of
appendicitis may start as generalized pain, but it
often moves (localizes) to one area of the abdomen. The pain from gallbladder
peptic ulcer disease often starts in one area of the
abdomen and stays in that same location. Localized pain that gradually becomes
more severe may be a symptom of inflammation of an abdominal
- Cramping is a type of pain that comes and goes (intermittent) or
that changes in position or severity. Cramping is rarely serious
if it is relieved by passing gas or a stool. Many women have cramping pain with
their menstrual periods. Generalized cramping pain is usually not a cause for
concern unless it gets worse, lasts for longer than 24 hours, or localizes.
Cramping that starts suddenly with diarrhea or other minor health problems can
be quite painful but is usually not serious.
Occasionally, severe pain that comes on suddenly may be a
symptom of a rupture of the stomach or intestines (perforation),
torsion of the testicle or
gallbladder disease, or blood vessel problems, such as
aortic aneurysm. The pain caused by appendicitis or
gallbladder disease may increase when you move or cough. Pain that increases
with movement or coughing and does not appear to be caused by strained muscles
is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem. A visit to a doctor is usually needed when
severe abdominal pain comes on suddenly, or when new and
different mild pain slowly becomes more severe over several hours or
After a minor
abdominal injury, pain, nausea, or vomiting may occur
but often gets better in a few minutes. Pain and other symptoms that continue,
increase, or develop following an injury may mean an abdominal organ has been
medicines can cause abdominal pain. Some medicines
also cause side effects, such as constipation, that can make abdominal pain
Specific abdominal symptoms have been linked to ovarian cancer. These symptoms include abdominal or
pelvic pain , increased abdominal size or bloating, and trouble eating or
feeling full quickly. If you have one or more of these symptoms, and it occurs almost daily for more than 2 or 3 weeks, talk with your doctor.
your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Most of the time, abdominal pain
improves with home treatment and you do not need a visit to a doctor. Specific home treatment for abdominal pain often depends on the
symptoms you have along with the pain, such as diarrhea or nausea and
If you have mild abdominal pain without other symptoms,
try the following:
- Rest until you are feeling
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent
dehydration. You may find that taking small, frequent
sips of a beverage is easier on your stomach than trying to drink a whole glass
at once. Do not drink carbonated or caffeinated drinks, such as soda pop, tea,
- Try eating several small meals instead of 2 or 3 large
ones. Eat mild foods, such as rice, dry toast or crackers, bananas, and
applesauce. Do not eat spicy foods, other fruits, alcohol, and drinks that have
caffeine until 48 hours after all symptoms have gone away.
- Do not
eat foods that are high in fat. Foods high in fat may increase your abdominal
- Do not use aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
medicines, such as ibuprofen and naproxen. These medicines may irritate your
stomach and increase your pain.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Pain increases, does not improve, or
localizes to one specific area of the
symptoms develop, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or a fever.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
Abdominal pain can often be
- Develop regular bowel habits to prevent
abdominal pain caused by constipation. For more information, see the topic
Constipation, Age 12 and Older.
regular eating habits. Overeating is a common cause of abdominal discomfort.
Eat slowly and stop when you feel full.
- To prevent abdominal pain
caused by swallowing air (aerophagia), do not chew gum or drink carbonated
- Prevent abdominal injuries by wearing your seat belt
safely and correctly every time you drive or are a passenger in a car.
- Wear both your lap and shoulder belts. The
shoulder strap should cross the collarbone, and the lap belt should fit low and
- Do not wear your shoulder strap slipped behind the back or
under the arm. This dangerous habit can cause severe injury, especially in cars
with air bags.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to
answer the following questions:
- How long have you had the pain?
were you doing when the pain started?
- Did the pain start suddenly
or develop gradually?
severe is your pain? Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to
- Is your pain generalized or
localized ? If you have localized pain, where is it
- Is your pain
cramping, a steady ache, burning, or a tearing
- Is your pain changing? If so, how?
- Is the
pain constant, or does it come and go?
- Have you had other symptoms,
such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, a change in urination, or
- Have you had this type of pain before? If so, did you see a
doctor? How was the pain treated?
- What makes the pain
better? What makes the pain worse?
- Have you recently traveled
outside of the country?
- Have you drunk any untreated well, stream,
or lake water?
- Do you have any
- Constipation, Age 12 and Older
- Female Genital Problems and Injuries
- Male Genital Problems and Injuries
- Nausea and Vomiting, Age 12 and Older
- Urinary Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older