Abdominal Pain

Abdominal Pain

Overview

Abdominal pain is a common concern for people of all ages. The pain can vary in severity and duration and can be a sign of various conditions, from mild to more serious medical issues. Understanding the source of the discomfort is essential for proper diagnosis and an effective course of action. We emphasise the importance of not overlooking abdominal pain and invite you to consult with our team of experienced professionals. When seeking our care, you receive comprehensive guidance and support, aimed at diagnosing and managing your condition effectively.

What is abdominal pain?

Pain in the abdomen can be attributed to many concerns due to the number of organs housed in the abdomen. This area is between the pelvis and lower chest. Sometimes this pain can be mistaken for stomach ache but it can be caused by organs such as the liver, pancreas and uterus in women. Other organs which are housed in the abdomen include the appendix, gallbladder, small & large intestines and the stomach.

It is important to acknowledge abdominal pain as many of the organs housed here can cause acute significant illness if not investigated thoroughly. Some stomach pain can be normal but pain to look out for would include sharp or dull pain and the severity. If you have consistent bloating or issues with cramps then you should speak with a medical professional in confidence.

Types of abdominal pain

At your appointment, the Doctor you speak with will aim to determine which region of the abdomen your pain is located, i.e. upper or lower and left or right-sided. This will give them a clear picture of which organ may be causing the problem. They will likely carry out a simple assessment to palpate the organs close to the area causing concern to see if there is an acute pain when applying pressure. Again this will help with the determination of what is causing the pain.

Symptoms of Abdominal Pain

While many people experience pain as a symptom, it is important that during your appointment you articulate what the pain feels like to you as it can look and feel different to others. The Doctor you see at your appointment will ask questions to determine what type of pain you are experiencing, i.e.

  • Sharp or dull?
  • Consistent ache or do you notice the pain is more prominent at any time?
  • Lifestyle or eating habits?
  • Persistent cramps?
  • Cyclical?
  • Previous diagnosis e.g. IBS, Crohn’s or Coeliac

Causes Of Abdominal Pain

Determining the underlying causes of your pain is part of diagnosis and is essential for developing an effective course of treatment.

Why does my stomach hurt?

Due to the abdomen housing so many organs, there can be a number of reasons for you to experience any type of abdominal pain. Infection, disease either known or unknown, abdominal injury, poor digestion or gynaecological reasons. Depending on who you access to discuss your case, they will ask some questions to determine if there is a pattern to the pain or to locate which organ is causing problems. Extreme pain doesn’t necessarily mean a serious issue but it should be discussed with a professional to ensure there is not a sinister cause.

Common causes of abdominal pain

Abdominal pain can be common and can be related to many things, such as indigestion or inflammation. A stomach virus can also contribute to abdominal pain and is seasonal in nature. For women, abdominal pain can be a monthly occurrence and it is important to know what is normal for your cycle. Is this pain more extreme or has it changed in its pattern? Previous diagnosis should also be considered, IBS or Crohn’s/ colitis as this can indeed be a flare of the existing condition.

Indigestion – issues or pain associated with eating habits:

  • Constipation/ diarrhoea
  • Food allergies/ intolerance
  • Food poisoning
  • Pain associated with trapped wind

Inflammation – Irritation caused either by a brief illness or existing condition:

  • Stomach Ulcers
  • Reflux
  • Stomach bug (gastroenteritis)
  • Infection of the organs
  • IBS, Crohn’s, Colitis
  • Diverticulitis

Cyclical menstruation – Pain associated with women’s reproductive health:

  • Menstrual pain
  • Ovulation pain
  • Endometriosis
  • PCOS

Serious causes of abdominal pain

Pain in the abdomen should be considered and discussed with a medical professional if it is new, persistent or ongoing.
While it can be common to have a stomach ache, you might be unable to determine the nature of the pain and if this is potentially something sinister. Self-diagnosis is not recommended and it is important to speak to someone in confidence. Most stomach pain is easily treatable and patients will recover from their symptoms. Sharp or dull aches or pain in the abdominal region should be assessed appropriately to ensure that the appropriate treatment is accessed before it progresses.

If your pain is upper right-sided this can be a quick indication that the symptom is concerning. Pain in the upper right abdomen can be linked to liver and gallbladder issues and should not be ignored. If the pain is stemming from the back it can also involve the kidney.

If the pain is in the left upper side then this concerns your stomach, pancreas and spleen, or kidney if stemming from the back. Stomach ulcers are a common complaint but the pain could be related to these additional organs.

Pain in the lower abdomen can be a symptom of common conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s, but it is important to rule out a bowel obstruction or hernia, which can require emergency surgery if not treated early.

Pelvic pain can more commonly be linked to endometriosis, PCOS or ovarian activity such as ovulation or a cyst on the organ which can cause acute pain for the patient. Ovarian cysts can self-resolve, but if the pain is persistent you are encouraged to speak to a professional.

Right lower abdominal pain is common, and initially, your doctor will look to rule out appendicitis. This can be mild inflammation, but if not assessed can lead to emergency surgery in advance of rupture.

Left lower pain relates to the colon, and can lead to a diagnosis of diverticulosis following the appropriate investigations.

Diagnosing Abdominal Pain

When you visit your healthcare professional to discuss your abdominal concerns they will ask you questions to determine the nature of your pain and the location. They will also ask you to consider if this pain is cyclical, is it persistent or are there other symptoms that may be linked to this? Following a detailed discussion with your input, they may ask to palpate the area to determine if there are any areas of concern. This can also be an opportunity to see if the pain is only with the application of pressure or how much can be tolerated. In some cases you will have an answer at the time of your consultation, in other cases more investigations may be required to provide an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Diagnosis of your pain may require simple investigations such as a blood test, stool sample, ultrasound or specialist imaging.

Abdominal Pain That We Treat

Treatment options are based on a number of factors such as the diagnosis provided. You may need urgent care and therefore be referred to the appropriate provider, this will be discussed with you at the time of your appointment where possible.

Trials of medication can be considered to help relieve the abdominal pain again this will be dependent on the diagnosis and patient history.

Patient lifestyle interventions might be an option to consider in the case of sluggish bowels, constipation and food intolerances. Trials of diet changes can help patients to see some relief in symptoms.

Pelvic menstrual pain can be treated with over-the-counter medications, but if the pain is extreme it is important to speak with your medical professional to ensure your treatment is effective.

When To Get Help for Abdominal Pain

It is important to know what is common for you. New pain that is persistent or extreme is enough reason to seek medical advice. As the abdomen houses so many organs, there can be several reasons for the pain, ranging from mild to extreme. Our team of specialists in The Mid Ulster Clinic can help with a wide range of issues in the abdominal area. Your best outcomes will be considered and you will be able to discuss your concerns in a comfortable setting with a medical professional who will work with you towards either a diagnosis or tailored treatment plan.

Why Go Private for Abdominal Pain Treatment?

Private health care offers an opportunity to speak to a health professional about your medical concerns in a safe and comfortable environment. You will find a reduced waiting time for assessment and treatment, and your input will be considered at every step of your journey.

Last Reviewed By A Medical Professional On 01/29/24