Everyone experiences abdominal pain from time to time. Other terms used to describe abdominal pain are stomachache, tummy ache, gut ache and bellyache. Abdominal pain can be mild or severe. It may be continuous or come and go. Abdominal pain can be short-lived (acute) or occur over weeks, months or years (chronic).
Call your doctor right away if you have abdominal pain so severe that you can't move without causing more pain, or you can't sit still or find a comfortable position.
Seek immediate medical help if pain is accompanied by other worrisome signs and symptoms, including:
Abdominal pain has many potential causes. The most common causes — such as gas pains, indigestion or a pulled muscle — usually aren't serious. Other conditions may require urgent medical attention.
While the location and pattern of abdominal pain can provide important clues, its time course is particularly useful when determining its cause.
Acute abdominal pain develops and often resolves over a few hours to a few days. Chronic abdominal pain may be intermittent (episodic), meaning it may come and go. This type of pain may be present for weeks to months, or even years. Some chronic conditions cause progressive pain, which steadily gets worse over time.
The various conditions that cause acute abdominal pain are usually accompanied by other symptoms that develop over hours to days. Causes can range from minor conditions that resolve without any treatment to serious medical emergencies, including:
The specific cause of chronic abdominal pain is often difficult to determine. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, coming and going but not necessarily worsening over time. Conditions that may cause chronic abdominal pain include:
Abdominal pain that steadily worsens over time, often accompanied by the development of other symptoms, is usually serious. Causes of progressive abdominal pain include:
Seek help if your abdominal pain is severe and is associated with:
Have someone drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if you have:
Make an appointment with your doctor if your abdominal pain worries you or lasts more than a few days.
In the meantime, find ways to ease your pain. For instance, eat smaller meals if your pain is accompanied by indigestion. Avoid taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) because these can cause stomach irritation that may worsen abdominal pain.