Stomach ache, also called abdominal pain or stomach cramps, is a symptom with multiple reasons. This pains is frequent and its causes are multiple ranging from a digestive, gynecological, urinary origin to a cardiac origin. For example, it is difficult to distinguish a stomach ache in a schoolboy back to school day of a pain based on an underlying pathology. Stomach ache is something that happens to everybody at some time of their lives. Most pains are easy to treat, and any doctor can give you advice. However, if it is a concurrent pain, or when the pain is unbearable, then it is something to worry about and you may even need a specialized doctor, or in the worse cases surgery.
1. Stomach Ache: What is it?
Everyone or almost had a stomach ache and felt this symptom at least one time in his life. This pain is located at the level of the abdomen. Stomach ache is very common and occurs at any age and at any time, and can have variable symptoms and origins. It may manifest as cramps, burns, stitches, etc.
1.1) The organs that may be the cause
It should be noted that the abdominal area is very complex; this is the cavity between the thorax (top), the pelvis (bottom) and the lumbar spine (back).
Any sort of stomach ache can be a sign that something inside is not working as it should. The following is a list of organs that may be broken. All of them are located in the abdominal area.
- The colon.
- The gallbladder.
- The gut.
- The kidneys.
- The liver.
- The lower part of the lungs.
- The ovaries (for women).
- The pancreas.
- The small intestine.
- The stomach.
- The uterus (for women).
Some of these organs are not precisely in the abdomen, but in adjacent zones. The problem is that when they cause inflammation it affects all its surroundings. This includes any pelvic area and the upper side where the ribs just start. So, any problem or disease that touch one of these organs may be the source of pain. In conclusion, stomach pains are as varied as acute or chronic, functional or organic, gynecological or digestive, etc.
2. Stomach Ache Types and Causes
Stomach ache manifests in multiple ways:
- gurgling, bloating,
- a swollen belly,
- a heaviness,
- violent and localized or more diffuse pain,
- diarrhea and / or vomiting may be associated with fever and constipation may also occur.
A stomach ache may have different intensities. Depending on the case, the pain may be:
- progressive or sudden onset,
- short or long term,
- mild or intense pain,
- localized or extended to the entire abdomen,
- isolated or accompanied by other symptoms (fever, vomiting, gastroenteritis, constipation, faintness, etc.)
These pains can be acute and short duration or chronic and repeating or evolving over a long period.
Mild pain is practically imperceptible if you are not paying attention. The difference between a standard stomach ache and abdominal cramps is the way you feel the pain. They both may feel with the same intensity, but a standard stomach ache is continuous, while the abdominal cramps are not.
2.1) Mild stomach ache
This kind of stomach ache can have many root causes. We will go through the most common so that you can avoid the risky behavior you’ve been having that resulted on mild stomach ache.
In the majority of cases, mild stomach ache is caused by intestinal spasms, that is, involuntary contractions of the intestine. These contractions are sudden, intense, transient and can occur at different times.
Certain foods can cause stomach ache like too much fat or spicy food because they may irritate your stomach. If you identify a particular food, then avoid it in the future. It is doing you no good, and the pain can turn into something else. Too much alcohol is another way to break the balance in your stomach. In fact, too much of anything can be harmful to your health.
Not doing enough exercise can slow down your digestive system. That may be why your stomach is feeling lazy and sick.
In general, most mild stomach aches are not serious, and the most common reasons for these aches include:
- acid reflux,
- gluten intolerance,
- lactose intolerance,
Some medications also may cause stomach aches. If you identify that your prescribed drugs are causing you troubles, then call your doctor immediately.
Other small things that can cause you stomach ache
Believe it or not, it is the small things that can cause you stomach ache. For instance, if you have gum on a regular basis, then it can be the source of your pain. Chewing gum activates your digestive system. If you don’t eat, then your digestive system will suffer. However, chewing in excess will confuse your digestive system, resulting on a stomach upset. If in addition you add substances like sorbitol, then the discomfort can cause gases and even diarrhea.
Stress is another common cause of discomforts, including stomach ache. In fact, when you are overstressed it turns your body upside down. When you feel like carrying a big burden over your shoulders, it might be the reason of your distresses.
Watch out for these and other small things. They may be harmful habits you are not seeing. In the end, they are just damaging your health. Even a bad posture could be the real cause of the issues you experience.
What to do with mild symptoms?
Before your symptoms turn into something serious, it is important to pay attention to your lifestyle. Most people who change their diets see significant improvements to their regular stomach ache. Issues like gases, acid reflux, and indigestion can be eradicated with this simple measure.
As for lactose intolerance, if you identify that you cannot bare lactose, then take special care of all dairy products. Whole milk in particular can be your worse enemy. Luckily, nowadays there are a whole line of products that have no lactose. These products fulfill the needs of the growing population that has some degree of lactose intolerance. Gluten is similar; You should look for products gluten free, which are widely available on the market.
If you disregard the symptoms and continue with unhealthy habits, you will then turn your stomach ache into something serious. The light and easy to cure diseases can turn into a serious health condition if you let it get to that point.
2.2) Chronic stomach ache
It is important to know when stomach ache is becoming serious or severe. Acute stomach ache may be chronic if it is accompanied by one of the following signs:
- When the pain is experienced for extended periods of time (over 3 to 6 hours).
- Severe vomiting, in particular, if you vomit everything you eat for more than 2 days or if you vomit blood.
- Significant bloating.
- Strong contracture of the abdominal muscles.
- Diarrhea, dehydratation.
- If you have problems when urinating.
- If your stomach feels much more tender than usual when you touch it.
- If your poo is black and bloody.
- When you have troubles in breathing.
- If you swell constantly.
- When your skin turns yellow.
When stomach aches are chronic, they usually affect other parts of your body. The first symptoms are on the nearby area. The most common is that they expand to your back. To feel discomfort in your buttocks, groin, legs, or shoulders is not common, but it may happen.
Even when it is moderate, chronic stomach ache requires a medical consultation when it is accompanied by general signs or it resists the treatments already prescribed. There are many health conditions that may cause severe or chronic stomach ache. For instance, we have:
- Allergies to certain foods.
- Food poisoning.
- Crohn’s Disease (also known as Ulcerative Colitis, IBD or Inflammatory Bowel Disease).
- Stones inside the Gallbladder.
- Pancreatitis or pancreas inflammation.
- Stomach Ulcers.
- Stones in the Kidney.
- The GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).
- The IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
- The PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases).
- Thyroid issues (hormones can create a strong unbalance all over your body).
- Ectopic pregnancy.
- Painful menstruation.
- A low urinary tract infection “cystitis”, or high “pyelonephritis”
All these causes must be determined by a doctor who can then propose an effective solution (drugs, food measures or surgical measures) and to make it as fast and efficient as possible, it is important to be attentive to your body and to properly note the characteristics of the abdominal pain in order to gain precious time during the medical consultation.
Some of the previous diseases will require surgery, which is another common cause. If your surgery went wrong, even if there were no pain involved, your abdominal area will suffer. You can experience complications such as strong stomach ache. In such cases it is important to get an ultrasound to find out what went wrong with surgery. It may even lead to a new procedure to fix whatever went wrong at first.
3. A Doctor Knows How to Identify the True Cause of Stomach Ache
We already went through the many causes of stomach ache on a previous section. However, for common people it is not easy to identify why you have the pain, unless it is a repeated event and you have the exact same symptoms.
While you are in the medical consultation, you will be asked further questions to identify your exact symptoms. The doctor will be looking for other clues that may explain your pain. Be accurate with your descriptions to let him know how you feel and hope for an accurate diagnosis.
In addition, the doctor will perform a physical examination. That way he will identify if there is any visible damage from the outside. The osculation is usually done in the abdominal area, and when the pain is extended to other places, it will include all the affected zones.
Most times, and the first time you have a serious problem, it is very important that you visit a doctor. They know how to identify the true cause of stomach ache. Depending on the experience and confidence of your doctor, if it is a common disease, he will give you medication right away. However, when the case seems harder than usual, he may opt to ask for further studies.
4. Common Questions Your Doctor Will Want to Know
The first thing to do before consulting a doctor is to identify the area of pain. As mentioned above, and given the complexity of this area, the cause of these stomach aches can be one of the organs located in this area. Stomach ache can occur in :
- Epigastric area: located above the stomach.
- The umbilical region: located at the navel.
- Just below the pelvic region.
- And finally on each side of this pelvic region are the left iliac fossa and the right iliac fossa.
To help your doctor identify the cause of these ailments, it is important to identify precisely the location of the pain, its intensity and frequency.
Next, be prepared to answer your doctor’s questions. He may ask you things like:
- Are you pregnant? (for women only).
- Are you under prescript medications?
- Is your pain related to a certain time of the day?
- Do you do something to make your pain go away?
- Do you eat a food supplement?
- Do you have a recent injury?
- For how long has it hurt you?
- Have you identified the pain coming after you eat or drink something in particular?
- How often do you experience stomach ache?
- Is your pain just in the stomach, or somewhere else?
- Is your pain related to your menstrual period? (for women only).
5. Further Tests to Find the Root Cause of a Stomach Ache
The typical tests to find the root cause of your stomach ache are:
- Barium swallow.
- Blood test.
- CT Scan.
- Stool test.
- Urine test.
6. Treating Cramps with Nonprescription Drugs and Other Remedies
If you feel like you cannot take it, but you are sure it is not a serious illness, then try some of these tips:
- Add probiotics to your diet, so that your bacteria and gut improve inside your tummy.
- Get a soothing tea. Chamomile, mint, lemon, ginger root, and peppermint are good choices.
- Look for an acupressure therapy.
- Take natural pain relievers.
- Put some hot package where it hurts.
- Simply walk around 15 minutes.
- Specific medications to relieve stomach discomforts (Ask your pharmacist)
- Stop overeating.
We will give you in a next article tips and recommendations of how to relieve stomach ache naturally. However, if your stomach aches don’t stop, then stop the medication immediately and call your doctor. When the drugs are incorrect for your illness, then they may worsen the problem.
As for the other remedies, most of them are useful in all cases. Even after consulting your physician, you may want to try some of the remedies on the list to improve your condition.
From rich meals to sometimes severe diseases, the causes of abdominal pain in adults can be very diverse. Just like the manifestations of stomach ache that can range from burning to cramps, going through the stitches. We have seen that the majority of cases are mild and relieve in a short time. On the other hand, there are signs that indicate that these pains can hide a serious illness that require urgent medical consultation. So, never neglect a stomach ache accompanied by unusual signs.