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Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache) Symptoms

Abdominal pain can strike with little warning and intense waves of discomfort. In the moment, the cause is less important to you. Relief is. As your stomach churns and you feel as if your stomach pain will get better, what's the best treatment to try?

It depends on the cause of your abdominal pain symptoms. In some cases, the best treatment is time. But in others, immediate medical attention is necessary.

The good news is that abdominal pains are quite typical and may be a symptom of a common illness or condition. Most abdominal pain symptoms are temporary and only last a few hours. These cases are typically related to improper food consumption (like eating too many hot dogs in one sitting).

Abdominal pains can feel like cramps in the belly region. Sometimes the abdominal pain is mild and barely noticeable. Other times, it can be so intense that you may be unable to go about your normal activities. What makes abdominal pain even more frustrating is that there is a long list of causes that could be behind it.

Common stomach pain symptoms include:

When monitoring your abdominal pain symptoms, keep track of its starting position and whether or not it moves. For example, lower abdominal pain may indicate appendicitis or an obstruction. Generalized discomfort could be a symptom of the flu or an injury while upper pain could indicate gallstones, or in rare cases, a heart attack.

Once you're able to describe your abdominal pain, it's time to move onto the possible causes and start narrowing down the options.

Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache) Causes Overview

Abdominal pain symptoms can be commonly broken down into the following categories.

Infection-related abdominal pain causes:

  • Viral infections: There are two main types of viral infections, the norovirus and the rotavirus. Both can cause diarrhea, cramps, and nausea from gastroenteritis.

Dietary abdominal pain causes:

  • Indigestion: This is the number one culprit of abdominal pain woes. Bad eating habits and unhealthy lifestyles can upset your digestive system. This will result in discomfort in the stomach and possibly the chest. Indigestion is also a symptom of many gastrointestinal diseases such as ulcers, Crohn's disease, and acid reflux.
  • Drinking habits: Water is always best. That's no secret. But drinking too much of your favorite beverage, whether that's coffee, carbonated drinks, or alcohol, can lead to stomach discomfort — especially if you skip a meal or two.

Other abdominal pain causes:

  • Bowel issues: Both diarrhea and constipation can cause abdominal pain symptoms. If your bowel movements are less than normal, you can expect some form of abdominal pain.
  • Stress: Many diseases can come from mental and physical distress. Anxiety and panic disorders are connected to abdominal pain as well.
  • Internal injuries: Internal bleeding, stomach ulcers, and tearing in any of the stomach muscles, lining, or nearby organs can cause severe abdominal pain that should be treated as soon as possible.

9 Potential Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache) Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Normal Abdominal Pain

    The abdomen extends from below the chest to the groin. Often it is referred to as the stomach; however, the abdomen includes more organs than just the stomach like the pancreas & liver. Abdominal pain is not stomach-specific and may be radiating from another organ.

    Generally abdominal pain resolves within a few days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), vaginal discharge, fever, nausea
    Symptoms that always occur with normal abdominal pain:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache)
    Symptoms that never occur with normal abdominal pain:
    fever, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, severe abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, vaginal discharge, rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Menstrual Cramps

    Dysmenorrhea is a term describing pain associated with menstruation (or when one gets a period). It's very common, happening to about 50% of women. Primary dysmenorrhea means that the pain is directly caused by a menstrual period, which is different than "secondary" dysmenorrhea, where a disorder is causing the pain.

    2-3 days before a period. Peaks in the mid-20s and declines in frequency afterwards.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, lower back pain, abdominal pain that shoots to the back
    Symptoms that always occur with menstrual cramps:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache)
    Symptoms that never occur with menstrual cramps:
    being severely ill, post-menopausal
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Viral (Norovirus) Infection

    Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. These viruses cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    Usually resolves within 2-3 days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    severe abdominal pain, throbbing headache, severe headache, tarry stool, vaginal bleeding, alertness level change
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Traveler's Diarrhea

    Traveler's diarrhea is a digestive tract disorder that commonly causes loose stools and abdominal cramps. It's caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.

    Usually resolves within 3 to 5 days without antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), fever, stomach bloating
    Symptoms that always occur with traveler's diarrhea:
    diarrhea
    Symptoms that never occur with traveler's diarrhea:
    anxiety
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

    Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache) Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having abdominal pain (stomach ache).

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  5. 5.Ovulation Pain (Mittelschmerz) or Midcycle Spotting

    Mittelschmerz, also known as ovulation pain or mid-cycle pain, is abdominal pain that occurs around the time the egg is released from an ovary. Ovulation can sometimes cause some mild vaginal bleeding, spotting or blood-stained/brown discharge as well.

    As ovulation occurs monthly, it's possible you will experience this pain once a month.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), last period approximately 2 weeks ago, vaginal bleeding, bloody vaginal discharge, pelvis pain
    Symptoms that always occur with ovulation pain (mittelschmerz) or midcycle spotting:
    last period approximately 2 weeks ago
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Ibs)

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is very common problem that affects the large intestine. It can cause stomach pain, cramps, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Doctors think that IBS is caused by the brain sending wrong messages to the bowels, such as during times of high stress, causing physical changes.

    IBS is a chronic condition that may last for years, but it is not life-threatening and does not damage the bowels or lead to more serious illnesses.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, constipation, stool changes
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Food Poisoning

    Food poisoning is a common ailment that causes gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is caused by improperly handled or unrefrigerated food.

    1-3 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), dizziness
    Symptoms that never occur with food poisoning:
    severe fever, being severely ill, bloody diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Normal Variation of Constipation

    Constipation is a very common condition affecting the large intestine. It is characterized by difficulty passing stool, or passing stool less often. Commonly it is linked to not eating enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids, or not getting enough exercise. Some medications can cause constipation as well.

    Variable, but can resolve in days to weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, constipation, constipation
    Symptoms that always occur with normal variation of constipation:
    constipation
    Symptoms that never occur with normal variation of constipation:
    vomiting
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  9. 9.Coxsackie b Virus Infection

    Coxsackie B Virus usually doesn't cause any symptoms but can be the cause of nonspecific fever and, in rare cases, lung or heart infections. The disease is most common in children but adults are susceptible too.

    3-4 days

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, loss of appetite
    Symptoms that always occur with coxsackie b virus infection:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache) Treatments and Relief

Given that there are many causes for abdominal pain, you might be uncertain when to seek treatment. If any of the following symptoms are present, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Yellow skin
  • Tenderness in the abdomen area that worsens with very light palpation (pressing on the abdomen)
  • Uncontrollably vomiting
  • Associated lightheadedness or dizziness suggesting severe dehydration
  • Absence of bowel movements in the past few days
  • Taking steroids such as prednisone that may mask some symptoms

If the abdominal pain is minimal and tolerable, here are some first aid measures or treatments you can try.

  • Heating Pad: Grab a heating pad and apply to your belly area.
  • Chamomile or Peppermint Tea: Both are known to help soothe pain.
  • Fiber: Eat foods that are fibrous in nature to improve digestion and help relieve constipation.
  • Medications: Keep medications such as antacids nearby. For diarrhea, grab a banana. If that is not enough, medicines that contain loperamide will help. For constipation, consider a stool softener or a laxative.

In most cases, give your stomach pain a little time to die down on its own. It's uncomfortable but it will pass hopefully sooner rather than later.

FAQs About Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)

Here are some frequently asked questions about abdominal pain (stomach ache).

Why does my stomach hurt?

Your stomach may hurt for a variety of reasons. Indigestion due to a large meal, a lack of food, or gas are the most common reasons. The most common pathologic reasons is a "stomach bug" or an infection of the stomach that usually resolves in 7–10 days. If your stomach pain does not resolve, visit a healthcare provider for evaluation.

Why does the top of my stomach hurt?

The top of your stomach may hurt because of heartburn or reflux of stomach acid into the bottom portion of the esophagus. The stomach is divided into different regions. The top of the stomach is called the "cardia" and this region connects to the esophagus, the tube that food travels through. The cardia can cause pain when stomach acid splashes up through the opening between the esophagus and stomach and burns the lower end of the esophagus.

What causes sharp pain in stomach?

Sharp pain in the stomach can be caused by indigestion, stomach or intestinal infection, ulcer, or a stomach tumor. Indigestion and stomach infections usually self-resolve and are much more common. Many sharp stomach pains are benign, and if they happen infrequently, they can be ignored. Infrequently is not frequently enough to be remembered. Additionally, sharp pains may also come from intense muscle contractions associated with vomiting. However, in this case, it is best to treat the cause of vomiting as the sharp pains will abate as vomiting stops.

What causes pain in the lower abdomen?

Pain in the lower abdomen can be caused by problems with the descending colon, rectum, or genitalia. To determine the cause of pain in the lower abdomen, it is important to recall what activities have occurred recently. Have you been constipated? Have you had trouble urinating? Have you been sick in any way recently? Have you eaten anything unusual or taken any prescribed or illicit drugs recently? Pain in the lower abdomen is commonly caused by stretching or tension placed on organs. Whether muscle contractions during an upset stomach, stretching of bowel from constipation, or an overfull bladder pressing on other organs, lower abdominal pain is common caused by stretching of an organ irritating a nerve. The other common cause of lower abdominal pain is inflammation which can occur in the setting of infection or, more rarely, malignancy.

Why does my stomach hurt after I eat?

Your stomach may hurt after you eat if you haven't eaten in a long time, if you've eaten a particularly large meal, or if you have an ulcer, tumor, or other mass that is not protected from stomach acid by mucus within the stomach. Stomach pain after eating is most commonly caused by the normal contractions/motions of the stomach as it churns and breaks down food with stomach acid. If you have damage to the stomach or a mass of some sort, these motions can aggravate that point of tenderness causing additional stomach pain. Gas is also a common cause of stomach pain after eating. An antacid or fizzy drink may help you belch, releasing the gas and discomfort.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Q.How would you describe the nature of your abdominal pain?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our abdominal pain (stomach ache) symptom checker to find out more.

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Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache) Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced abdominal pain (stomach ache) have also experienced:

    • 11% Nausea
    • 8% Diarrhea
    • 4% Stomach Bloating
  • People who have experienced abdominal pain (stomach ache) had symptoms persist for:

    • 41% Less Than a Day
    • 34% Less Than a Week
    • 10% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced abdominal pain (stomach ache) were most often matched with:

    • 22% Viral (Norovirus) Infection
    • 8% Normal Abdominal Pain
    • 2% Menstrual Cramps
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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