Stomach Pain symptoms, causes and treatment

Abdominal discomfort is quite normal, especially if you have eaten something that might’ve upset your stomach, however, if the pain continues and becomes difficult to ignore, then you might be suffering from severe stomach pain. 

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Stomach pain is characterized by a feeling of discomfort in the area between the pelvis and the chest. The majority of these cases are mild and not severe. The symptoms of this condition usually stop without any treatment. However, acute or chronic symptoms might be associated with an underlying medical complication, such as organ failure or cancer.

Causes of stomach pain

Digestive complications are one of the most prevalent causes of stomach pain. Irregularities or discomfort in any part of the abdomen can be felt all over the area.

Most people treat stomach pain as a mere stomach-ache. But, the abdomen houses vital organs, blood vessels, muscles, and connective tissues, including kidneys, stomach, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas, small and large intestines, liver, and appendix. The abdomen is a passage for the major artery of the heart called aorta and another heart vein known as the inferior vena cava. It is also home to the four categories of abdominal muscles, as well as the core muscles that provide trunk stability and protection to the organs.

Since various parts might be affected, stomach pain has different causes as well including:

  • Stomach flu or gastroenteritis — If the stomach pain is due to gastroenteritis, the patient usually experiences vomiting, nausea, and loose-watery stools that take place more often than usual after meals. 
  • Irritable bowel movements or IBS – for reasons that are still unknown, people with IBS are unable to digest various kinds of foods efficiently. Stomach pain is the main symptom for those with IBS, which resolves after a bowel movement.
  • Gas – gas happens when the bacteria in the small intestine digest foods that the human body considers intolerant. High gas pressure in the intestine can lead to sharp pain. Also, gas can result in restriction and tightness in the areas of the abdomen, as well as burping and flatulence.
  • Gastritis – if the lining of the stomach experiences pain, swelling, or inflammation, stomach pain might happen. Vomiting, cause nausea, bloating, and gas are widespread symptoms of gastritis.
  • Vomiting – vomiting usually leads to stomach pain since stomach acids move backward to the digestive tract, distressing the tissues that it meets along the way. Aside from this, the physical vomiting act can also result in stomach pain since the muscles in the abdomen tend to become sore. There is a vast array of factors that can trigger vomiting, including alcohol poisoning and intestinal blockage.
  • Acid reflux – as mentioned above, stomach acids move in a backward manner, traveling up towards the throat. This particular reflux typically causes a feeling of burning and pain in the stomach. 
  • Constipation. When an extreme amount of waste collects in the bowel, the pressure in the colon increases, resulting in stomach pain, which can take place due to many causes, including the utilization of a particular medication, less liquid or fiber intake, or lower physical activity. 
  • Menstrual cramps or endometriosis – menstruation can result in stomach pain and inflammation and is specifically common among women.
  • Food intolerances – if the body has less capacity to digest food particles, stomach, and intestinal bacteria will facilitate the digestion and release gas along the process when too much-undigested particles are present, which produces plenty of gas and causes stomach pains. 

Other causes of stomach pain include:

Diagnosis and Treatment

Stomach pain is diagnosed according to its characteristics and results of exams and testing. Your doctor will typically ask you to explain the nature, frequency, and patterns of the pain. He/she will also inquire about any existing mental or physical conditions that could contribute to your stomach pain.

Diagnosis of stomach pain might include:

  • radiographic studies
  • physical examinations
  • laboratory tests including live enzymes, complete blood count or CBC, pancreatic enzymes (lipase and amylase), urinalysis tests, and a pregnancy test
  • ultrasound
  • standard x-rays of the stomach
  • Barium x-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI
  • endoscopic ultrasound or EUS
  • flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
  • capsule endoscopy
  • endoscopic procedures

The treatment for stomach pain also varies according to the cause. Typically, treatments range from medications or drugs for GERD, ulcers, inflammation, or antibiotics for infections that cause stomach pain. In other cases, like hernia or appendicitis, diagnostic exams, including evaluation of the stool, urine, or blood samples, endoscopy, and CT scans are recommended to confirm or rule out specific diagnosis and surgery in case needed.

The following are conventional treatments for stomach pain:

  • antibiotics
  • over-the-counter pain relievers
  • the minimum dose of antidepressants
  • prescription medications for ulcers, GERD, inflammation, or overall stomach pain
  • surgery to eliminate infected organs, hernia, or intestinal blockages
  • behavioral changes, such as removal of particular drinks or foods that might cause stomach pain

What are the typical conditions?

Stomach pain can be a sharp pain or dull ache that takes place in your abdomen. It can result in bloating, having nausea, and feeling of fullness. It can also disrupt your healthy life for a short while or several days. With so many types of stomach pain, it’s no longer surprising why it also has various causes.

Here are some ways on how you can achieve reasonable abdominal condition and ward off stomach pain and its symptoms:

  • Slow down when eating. If you take huge bites and eat your food without bothering to chew it, there’s a possibility that you’ll swallow a lot of air, which puts gas inside your stomach and result in stomach pain.
  • Evaluate the food you eat. Usually, spicy, fried, and fatty foods are the main culprit behind stomach pain. They can alter the standard mechanism on your gut as your body breaks them down. They can also impede the efficient process and make you suffer from constipation.
  • Change the way you eat. Some people develop stomach pain between meals since there’s no substance in the stomach to digest. The stomach acid begins to irritate the stomach lining. In case this happens, make sure you eat a minimum amount of food and snacks at a different time of the day, so your stomach doesn’t remain empty for an extended period.
  • Drink a lot of water and less soda. Water is known to support movements in your gut, so it functions properly. Notice how your body reacts when you are thirsty and drink a glass of water. Skip the soda because the carbonated water can result in stomach pain since the fizz can cause gas. Steer clear from alcoholic drinks as well.
  • Manage your stress. Stay away from stressful situations as much as possible. Since this might be difficult at times, you can start by practicing these stress-relieving activities, including regular exercise, proper medication, or developing a hobby. 

Risk of having stomach pain

Risk factors for stomach pain are the factors that link to the condition, but they do not directly cause it. These include conditions that cripple the immune system like chemotherapy, organ transplant, AIDS, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia. If you have any of the conditions above, you are at risk of experiencing stomach pain. Other possible risk factors of stomach pain are:

  • bowel disorders history
  • older age
  • exposure to abdominal parasites or virus
  • prior stomach surgery

When to seek medical attention

The majority of stomach pain cases are not severe, and the signs are remedied by hydration and rest for several hours or days. However, acute or chronic stomach pain is usually a sign of underlying health complications that need special medical treatment.

If you experience any of the following, call your doctor right away:

  • unintentional weight loss
  • abnormalities or changes in bowel movements like diarrhea or chronic constipation that don’t heal after a few hours or days
  • abnormal tiredness
  • unexplained vaginal discharge
  • mild rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • symptoms of urinary tract infection
  • chronic pain that persists right after consuming prescribed or over-the-counter medications

Call emergency care as soon as possible if you experience the following:

  • abrupt, severe stomach pain with a fever that’s more than 102°F
  • sticky, black or bloody stool 
  • extreme stomach pain that is super concentrated
  • uncontrolled vomiting with blood
  • stomach pain gets extremely worse rapidly
  • unable to urinate
  • a super painful stomach that is sensitive to touch
  • unconsciousness or fainting
  • severe stomach pain that progresses when lying extremely still
  • pain in the chest area that spreads to the stomach

Even if it’s rare, it is vital for individuals who had these symptoms to look for immediate medical help. It is also highly recommended to consult your healthcare provider, may it be your doctor or physician, when you suspect that you have stomach pain or symptoms of stomach pain. 

Table of Medications

  • ondansetron
  • Zofran
  • promethazine
  • Phenergan
  • Zofran ODT
  • metoclopramide
  • prochlorperazine
  • Ativan
  • Reglan
  • Antivert