Why Does My Stomach Hurt? 12 of the Most Common Reasons

Stomach pain is very common and can include a wide range of discomforts. There are many causes of stomach pain, which can include standard stomach problems all the way up to heart disease. When is it time to see a doctor?

Dr. Asya

Scientific Advisor

When should you seek medical attention?

First, you need to determine whether your pain is acute, chronic, or recurrent. Acute pain occurs suddenly, which affects the person’s normal lifestyle 99 percent of the time a doctor must be seen. That is why it is considered, paradoxically, the least dangerous in terms of consequences.

Chronic pain is worse. It usually has a low intensity, develops gradually, and the person gets accustomed to living with a little discomfort. Recurrent pain is similar to chronic pain except that it is only felt periodically. It can occur in response to certain influences or at a certain time (for example, after eating or during menstruation for women).

To properly deal with the symptoms, let's divide the abdomen into three levels: upper, middle, and lower.

If the upper abdomen hurts, it could be

Gastritis: a stomach disease that is accompanied by heartburn, belching, and nausea. The pain, in this case, is aching, increases after eating, and subsides roughly an hour after eating. If these discomforts do not disappear within 2–3 days, you should consult a doctor.

Peptic ulcer: pain is felt like burning and localized to one part of the body. It can occur during different times — after eating, on an empty stomach, even at night when at complete rest. If you suspect you have an ulcer, you should immediately consult a doctor!

Pain under the right side of the ribs is usually caused by problems with the biliary tract, also known as “dyskinesia”. This pain usually subsides if the person stays on an empty stomach, and almost never occurs at night or rest. Another symptom is a very bitter taste in the mouth. Choleretic teas and herbal preparations can help if this condition is occurring for the first time. However, visit a gastroenterologist if it does not improve in 1–2 days.

Pain in the left hypochondrium can be completely harmless — but it can be intense if you do physical activity straight after eating. This is the result of a sudden redistribution of blood and increased heart rate and pressure although painful no special treatment is required. Just lie down and the pain will subside in 5–10 minutes.

However! Pain in the left hypochondrium (usually not associated with brisk walking or running, as is the case with the spleen) can also be the symptom of an abdominal heart attack. It can be easily mistaken for food poisoning, indigestion, or other temporary stomach problems. Abdominal pain followed by a heart attack will be sharp and acute. It may be accompanied by vomiting, weakness, and shortness of breath. If you experience these symptoms, call an ambulance immediately!

If the central abdomen hurts, it could be ...

Intestinal infection or poisoning: spasmodic and occasional pain. Relief comes after a bowel movement (lavage). The body temperature may rise, but not higher than 100 °F. If you rest and drink a lot of water, this will usually pass within a few hours.

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that is accompanied by frequent diarrhea and an abundance of mucus in the feces. In this case, the pain displaces — the side and center of the abdomen feel stretched, or you may feel the pain moving down the abdomen and back to the navel. Crohn's disease requires treatment by specialists and a specific diet. Scientists have discovered that Crohn's disease primarily develops in people raised in conditions of sterile purity and strict lifestyle from early childhood. Excessive use of cleaning products is in itself much more harmful than a few sips of non-potable water.

Irritated bowel syndrome (IBS) is a temporary digestive disorder associated with the nervous system. It often occurs during chronic stress, such as exams for students or a long-term traumatic situation for others. The primary symptom is the alternation of constipation and diarrhea without correlation with the diet. It usually passes with no treatment when the source of stress is eliminated. If it does not go away, you should contact a neurologist or psychotherapist to prescribe sedatives.

Pyelonephritis and other inflammatory kidney diseases manifest themselves with a sharp pain that is described by patients as back pain radiating to the abdomen. The lower back may ache, but changing the position will not bring relief. Pyelonephritis is treated with antibiotics under medical supervision.

If the lower abdomen hurts, it could be ...

Prostatitis: Appearing in men, this is an inflammation of the prostate gland. Often it only causes a slight discomfort especially when urinating. It requires constant therapy and monitoring.

Cystitis: an inflammation of the bladder. This pain shows up along with a frequent urge to urinate (which is often unsuccessful), and blood may appear. Cystitis can be easily cured with antibiotics at home, but doctors should recommend the appropriate treatment after passing the necessary tests.

Endometriosis in women: an inflammatory disease of the inner surface of the uterus. It is often accompanied by very painful and heavy menstruation, dizziness, and weakness. Observation by a gynecologist and drug therapy is required.

Appendicitis: Acute inflammation of the appendix of the caecum. Migratory pain around the appendix is characteristic, often on the right side. Nausea and vomiting may occur in the very first stage followed by diarrhea and a significant darkening of urine. The body temperature rises to 100 °F and the heartbeat increases to 90-100 beats per minute. The appendix must be removed surgically and quickly since dirty liquids will accumulate. In case of a breakthrough, these liquids enter the abdominal region and cause extensive peritonitis, which can lead to very serious complications, including the possibility of death.

What do experts recommend?

The primary medical methods for diagnosing stomach and abdominal pain are ultrasounds and colonoscopies as well as urgent blood, urine, and feces tests. In case of unsuccessful diagnosis through these tests, patients are recommended computed tomography, with or without a contrast agent.

What should your next steps be?

If you feel ok and do not exhibit any major symptoms, you can take a mild pain reliever and antispasmodic. Do not use acetylsalicylic acid or laxatives. In no case should you take antipyretic drugs, as this could make your condition worse and make it harder for doctors to determine the cause of your pain. Your body should recover within several days. If you don’t recover, or start to develop additional symptoms, book an appointment with a doctor!

23 March 2021

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