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 some point. Most of the time, it is not serious.

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

For example, you might have very bad abdominal pain if you have gas or stomach cramps due to viral gastroenteritis.

However, fatal conditions, such as colon cancer or early appendicitis, may only cause mild pain or no pain.

Other ways to describe pain in your abdomen include:

Causes

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

Less serious causes of abdominal pain include:

Other possible causes include:

Home Care

You can try the following home care steps to ease mild abdominal pain:

These additional steps may help prevent some types of abdominal pain:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Get medical help right away or call your local emergency number (such as 911) if you:

Contact your provider if you have:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

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

LOCATION OF YOUR PAIN

TYPE AND INTENSITY OF YOUR PAIN

HISTORY OF YOUR PAIN

OTHER MEDICAL HISTORY

Tests that may be done include:

References

McQuaid KR. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 123.

Landmann A, Bonds M, Postier R. Acute abdomen. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 46.

Smith KA. Abdominal pain. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 24.

Weber F. Gastrointestinal and hepatic manifestations of systemic diseases. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 37.


Review Date: 2/7/2022
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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