Abdominal pain is aching or cramping in your belly. The abdomen, or belly, is the area between the chest and the pelvis. The pain can range from mild discomfort to cramping or severe pain.
Many things can cause abdominal pain and it can sometimes be hard to know the exact cause of the pain. Some common causes of pain in the abdomen are:
Indigestion or heartburn
Infections, such as food poisoning or stomach flu
Stress and anxiety
Gastritis (an irritation of the stomach lining) or ulcers
Urinary tract infection
Diseases of the intestine
Pancreatitis or liver problems
Disease or infection in the uterus
Aortic dissection (tearing of the part of the aorta that is in your belly)
Sometimes abdominal pain is caused by a problem in another part of the body, such as the lungs or the heart. For example, a heart attack can cause upper abdominal pain.
You cannot always tell how serious the cause is from how bad the pain is. Mild conditions such as gas or stomach flu may cause severe pain, while more serious problems, such as cancer, may cause relatively mild pain.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
How long it takes to get better depends on the cause of your abdominal pain, the treatment you need, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
Relieve gas and bloating
Treat or prevent an infection
Treat or prevent nausea or constipation
Reduce the acid in your stomach
If you have had abdominal surgery, to care for your surgical wound:
Keep your surgical wound clean.
If you are told to change your dressing on your surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines or muscle relaxants.
If you have belly pain, it may help to take a bath or put a hot water bottle or heating pad on your stomach. Cover the hot water bottle with a towel or set the heating pad on low so you donâ€™t burn your skin.
Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need.
Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.
Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:
Chest pain or pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back (may feel like indigestion or heartburn)
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders, or in your back, neck, jaw, or stomach
Breaking out in a cold sweat for no known reason
Along with the previous symptoms, feeling very tired, faint, or sick to your stomach
Feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too slow, or skipping beats
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Pain, redness, or swelling in your legs or arms
Pain or cramping in your belly that goes away and then comes back worse than it was
Pain or cramping in your belly that:
Usually happens 12 to 24 hours after a large meal or heavy drinking
Is steady and sharp
Gets worse when you move
Feels better when you sit or lean forward
Makes you vomit
Change in bowel habits, such as pain, mucus, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
Pain or burning with urination
Urgent need to urinate often
Signs of infection around your surgical wound if you had surgery. These include:
The area around your wound is more red or painful
The wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from your surgical wound area
You have a fever higher than 101.5Â° F (38.6Â° C)
You have chills or muscle aches
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-12-19 Last reviewed: 2014-11-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Abdominal Pain Discharge Information: References
Marx, J, Hockberger, R., and Walls, R. (2014). Abdominal Pain in Rosen’s emergency medicine [8th ed.], 27, 22-231.e1. Philadelphia: Elesevier Saunders. Retrieved from http://www.clinicalkey.com.