Abdominal pain may range from dull to sharp, shooting to burning. Most common types of pain that are not associated with other symptoms are usually treatable and not life-threatening. Abdominal pain may arise from the tissues that surround the abdominal cavity or may be due to pain originating from the organs within the abdominal cavity, which includes the stomach, small intestines, colon, liver, gallbladder, spleen, kidney and pancreas.
Abdominal Pain that Radiates to the Back
Abdominal pain may be caused by inflammation, stretching of an organ or loss of blood supply to an organ. However, abdominal pain may also occur due to pain without recognizable causes such as abnormal contraction of intestinal muscles or abnormal sensitivity of nerves in the intestines.
Pain that starts at the navel and moves to the lower right side of the abdomen can signal appendicitis, an inflammation of the appendix. Persistence or worsening of right lower quadrant pain also points to appendicitis.
If detected early, mild appendicitis can be treated with antibiotics. Serious cases required surgery to remove appendix, which if left untreated, may rupture, causing a very serious infection or condition. For any symptoms (sharp pain and tenderness in the lower right side of the abdomen, inability to walk upright, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite or fever), consult your doctor immediately.
Pain in the lower left side of the abdomen can be a sign of diverticulitis. Small, balloon-like sacs called diverticula develop in the walls of the colon and become infected and inflamed. Other symptoms of diverticulitis are nausea and vomiting, chills, fever, you will also experience cramping and constipation.
The exact cause of diverticulitis is not known. However, there is a theory that increased pressure in the colon due to straining during constipation may weaken the wall of diverticula, leading to infection. Diverticulitis may also be caused by fecal matter that can be trapped in the diverticula.
Treatment of Diverticulitis includes eliminating the infection by taking antibiotic medication and relieving of inflammation and also resting the colon. Your doctor may recommend antibiotics and/or a pain reliever, a liquid diet and several days bed rest.
In some cases, diverticulitis may require hospital stay. If complications develop, surgery may be needed.
Eating a high-fiber diet can prevent diverticulitis. Fiber in foods aids in digestion, reducing pressure in the colon. You can also prevent diverticulitis by not delaying of deferring defecation when you feel the urge. Delaying increases pressure in the colon
Sharp pain under the right rib cage that worsens after eating may be gallbladder disease. Types of gallbladder disease include gallstones and cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). Gallstones occur when bile, the fluid stored in the gallbladder that helps break down fats, forms solid particles. A gallstone attack may include the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting or pain that starts usually 30 minutes after fatty meals, that may radiate to the right shoulder or back. Cholecystitis results from the obstruction of the flow of bile by a gallstone. Chronic cholecystitis can manifest as upper abdominal discomfort or gassiness after eating. Sometimes through, people with gallstones do not experience any symptoms at all.
When complications develop. Gallbladder disease causes other symptoms, like jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes), tea-colored urine, white stools, high fever and chills. When any of the above advance symptoms occur, alone or in combination, it is best to seek prompt consultation with a physician.
Gallstones and gallbladder pain may be managed in various ways, including observing the symptoms over time with no treatment, prescribing medications and surgery. Reducing fat consumption may also relieve the symptoms of gallbladder disease.
Crampy abdominal pain with or without diarrhea may signal gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the GIT, affecting both the stomach and the intestines. Gastro enteritis is frequently caused by visures or bacteria, but may also be caused by parasites, food allergies and some medications. Symptoms may also include low-grade fever and nausea with or without vomiting. Consult your doctor if gastroenteritis occurs with fever and bloody stools.
Fluid replacement is essential to prevent dehydration and allow the body to recover from and fight infection. Balance rehydration solutions (oral rehydration solution) are recommended because water alone will not replenish important elements lost in diarrhea like potassium, sodium and chloride. It is better to avoid fruit juices or milk. If the patient is unable to take in fluid orally, consult your doctor, who may recommend intravenous (IV) rehydration and admission. Gastroenteritis may be prevented by strict hand washing and eating properly cooked and stored food. Vaccines are also available particularly for infants and children.
Irritable bowel syndrome
If you experience abdominal pain that can be relieved by bowel movements but you also experiencing occasional diarrhea and also constipation. This may indicate that the diagnosis of your abdominal pain is called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Other symptoms that you will experience are gassiness, cramping and bloating. You will also have mucus-covered stools and lastly, a strong urge to pas again soon after one. In irritable bowel syndrome, the wall of the intestine fails to function properly. It might contract too forcefully or weakly, too slowly or rapidly.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be alleviated by drinking lots of water and increasing fiber intake, most importantly, avoiding too much caffeine intake because this type of condition cannot be treated by doctor’s medication or by surgery.
Sharp, burning pain felt after meals and in the middle of the night in the upper middle part of the stomach (between breast bone and navel) can be an ulcer. It is a sore that forms in the lining of the stomach or the upper part of the intestine. It occurs when the lining of these organs is damaged by the acid that helps digest food.
Causes include smoking and long-term use of aspirin, ubiprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications; inability of the stomach to protect itself from powerful digestive fluids; and helicobacter pylori, a kind of bacteria found in the stomach. Emotional stress or spicy foods do not cause ulcer, but can make them worse.
Heartburn alone is not a sign of ulcer. Intense, heartburn-like pain can also indicate a less serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux diseases. Conversely, dark, tarry, foul-smelling stools can be a sign of a bleeding ulcer, gastric cancer or other upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
Conditions of the reproductive system
In women, abdominal discomfort can signal a problem in their reproductive system. Pelvic pain that occurs each month just before a woman’s period suggests endometriosis, a condition wherein tissue from the lining of the uterus moves through the Fallopian tubes and attaches to the ovaries, pelvis, bladder or other areas. Tenderness in the lower abdominal area may mean pelvic inflammatory disease which is an infection in the lining of the uterus, Fallopian tubes or ovaries.
For pregnant women, an ectopic pregnancy can cause sudden sharp, stabbing abdominal pain with vaginal bleeding, a history of missed or light periods or pain radiating to the shoulder. Ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids can also cause abdominal pain in women.
Other causes of abdominal pain are urinary tract infection, food poisoning, food allergy, hernia, kidney stones, and lactose intolerance.
What you can do
- Mild abdominal pain not caused by ulcers, diverticulitis, or gallbladder disease can usually be treated at home.
Avoid alcohol, carbonated beverages and caffeine.
Do not use laxatives or enemas.
Take warm baths or roll warm bottled water over the affected area to ease pain.
What your doctor can do
- Consult your doctor for further evaluation and management.
- To determine the cause of your pain, your doctor may ask you these questions:
What type of pain is it? (crampy, sharp or dull? Steady or on and off?)
Where did it start? Is it getting worse or better?
Where is the pain?
When did it begin? How long does it last?
When does it occur? (Does it occur with your period? Is it worse after eating?) the treatment will depend on the cause of the abdominal pain.
What incites it? What aggravates it? What relieves it?
- Perform lab tests or imaging to help confirm your disease.
- Refer you to a surgeon or gynecologist, if needed.