Any pain occurring in the front of the body, between the chest and pelvis, is considered abdominal pain. Most causes of minor abdominal pain are nothing to worry about. On the other hand, severe abdominal pain is often an indication of a more serious underlying issue.
The doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, Texas recommend that patients see their doctors if they are at all concerned about abdominal pain. With that said, mild to moderate abdominal pain should be expected from time to time. There are routine causes of such pain, including the five described below.
Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the intestines and stomach caused by a virus. We normally refer to this as the stomach flu, even though the flu virus may not be involved. Gastroenteritis is one of the most common causes of abdominal pain among patients around the world. Unfortunately, the viruses that cause it are very easily spread.
In addition to abdominal pain, gastroenteritis presents numerous other symptoms including diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, joint and muscle pain, headache, fever, chills and more.
Constipation is a condition that occurs when the colon is not absorbing enough water to maintain a soft stool and pass it easily. A patient is considered constipated when bowel movements are excessively hard and dry, or bowel movements occur fewer than three times per week.
Constipation causes pain by leading to increased intestinal pressure as waste material builds up inside. Additional pain is experienced as cramps when the bowels attempt to expunge waste that doesn’t easily move.
Believe it or not, stress can cause abdominal pain. Medical science has not yet identified the specific mechanics behind it, but we do know that stress throws off the delicate chemical balances within the body. Stress also activates the production of a number of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Both hormones can cause abdominal pain when sporadically produced in large volumes.
4. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to digest lactose. What is lactose? It is a sugar found in dairy products. Because lactose cannot be ingested, it moves into the large intestine where it interacts with the bacteria there. That interaction creates gas and leads to bloating, both of which can cause abdominal pain. Bacterial reactions can cause diarrhea as well. And as you know, diarrhea is yet another contributor to abdominal pain.
5. Kidney Stones
Kidney stones, while they can be quite painful, are considered routine by doctors. They are largely harmless in most cases. The stones are usually passed by the urinary tract naturally, though there are times when invasive or noninvasive interventions are necessary.
Kidney stones are caused by a buildup of one of several different substances in the kidneys. Stones can be made up of calcium, uric acid, struvite, or cystine. Calcium stones are the most common. They cause pain as they travel through the urinary tract and aggravate the soft tissues thereof.
For some people, kidney stone pain is only mild to moderate. It is easily tolerated with an over-the-counter analgesic. For other people though, kidney stones can be debilitating enough to render them bedridden. Pain is often related to the size of the stone. Unusually large stones can be addressed with medication, lithotripsy, or surgery.
We have all experienced abdominal pain of some sort. We will continue to experience it throughout our lives. Abdominal pain is normal, and most of the time it is nothing to be worried about. The exception is severe abdominal pain. This should be addressed by a doctor immediately.