Abdominal Pain (Belly ache)

Abdominal (belly) pain can occur anywhere between the chest and groin. It may be continuous or come and go. Abdominal pain can be short-lived (acute) or occur over weeks, months, or years (chronic). We will focus on the basics of acute abdominal pain in this article.

You need to learn how bad (severe) your symptoms are.

How bad is my acute abdominal pain?

Your clinic team will use this scale (see figure on the right) to measure how bad your pain is.

Visual analogue scale for pain assessment
The scale used to measure pain.

Mild: Pain score of 3 or less on the VAS scale. This pain should not stop you from doing activities of daily life (like grocery shopping, laundry, and cooking).

Moderate: Pain score of 4 to 6. This pain stops you from doing instrumental activities of daily life (preparing meals, managing money, shopping, doing housework, and using the telephone). Call your health care provider if the pain is moderate and getting worse quickly, or if it lasts more than a day without any explanation.

Severe: Pain score of 7 or higher. This pain is bad enough to stop you from even the most basic (self-care) activities of daily life, like eating, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, taking a bath or shower, and using the toilet. Seek medical help from the doctor immediately.

Keep track of your pain levels using Ankr (myAnkr web portal or the Ankr app). It will help you describe the pain to your doctor or nurse.

Warning signs/severe symptoms of abdominal pain that need immediate medical attention

  • sudden and sharp abdominal pain
  • chest, neck or shoulder pain
  • vomiting blood
  • blood in your stool
  • Have stiff, hard and tender abdomen
  • Can’t move your bowels for more than three days

Supportive care for abdominal pain

  • Sip water or other clear fluids in small amounts. Diabetic people must check their blood sugar often and adjust their medicines as needed.
  • Avoid solid food for the first few hours.
  • Eat small amounts of foods (rice, applesauce, or crackers) if you have been vomiting.
  • Avoid dairy products.
  • Antacid may curb the pain that occurs after meals and is high up in the abdomen.
  • Avoid citrus, high-fat, fried, spicy, sour or greasy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated beverages.
  • Do not take any medicine without consulting your healthcare team.

What caused my abdominal pain?

Non-abdominal causes

  • Pneumonia (lung infection)
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Pleurisy (irritation of the lining around the lungs)
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clots to the lungs)

Chest wall

  • Shingles (herpes zoster infection)
  • Costochondritis (inflammation of the rib cartilages)
  • Injury (blunt trauma, muscle pulls)
  • Nerve irritation (neuropathy)
  • Hernias (protrusions of structures through the abdominal wall)
  • Scars

Inflammatory conditions of the upper abdomen

  • Ulcer disease (duodenal ulcer, gastric ulcer)
  • Esophagitis (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Gastritis (irritation of the lining of the stomach)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder)
  • Choledocholithiasis (passage of gall stones through the bile duct)
  • Hepatitis (infection or inflammation of the liver)
  • Colitis (infection or inflammation of the colon)

Functional problems of the abdomen

  • Non-ulcer dyspepsia
  • Sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (problems with the bile duct valve)
  • Functional (pain without clear cause)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (pain associated with bowel movements)

Cancers of the upper abdomen

  • Hepatoma (liver cancer)
  • Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct or gall bladder cancer)
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Lymphoma (cancer of the immune cells)

Vascular problems

  • Mesenteric vascular insufficiency (blocked arteries or veins)
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm (swelling of the main artery in the belly)

Inflammatory conditions in the mid- and lower abdomen

  • Enteritis (infections of the small bowel, Crohn’s disease)
  • Colitis (infection or inflammation of the colon)
  • Diverticulitis (inflammation of pouches that form in the colon)
  • Appendicitis

Bowel obstruction

  • Adhesions (scars in the belly that form after surgery or inflammation)
  • Tumor
  • Inflammation
  • Colorectal cancer

Urinary tract problems

  • Kidney stones
  • Urinary tract infections (kidneys, bladder)
  • Tumors of the kidneys or bladder

Pelvic problems in women

  • Ovarian cancer or cysts
  • Infection of the tubes (salpingitis)
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Fibroid tumors of the uterus (womb)
  • Spreading tumors of the uterus or cervix
  • Endometriosis
  • Adhesions (scars)

How can Ankr help with your abdominal pain?

Don’t try to treat moderate and severe abdominal pain by yourself. Use Ankr to:
(1) learn about the common symptoms of abdominal pain
(2) send message to your Doctor if they use Ankr platform*
(3) be better informed about how to prevent another abdominal pain

Sign up for a free 30-day trial now

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