Everyone experiences stomach cramps or abdominal pain from time to time. Most of the time, it is not caused by a serious medical problem. However, stomach pain can be an indication of something more serious. There are a number of diseases and conditions that cause abdominal pain, including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, ulcer and kidney stones, to name a few.
Stomach Cramps or Abdominal Pain: When to Consult Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor if the pain does not go away after a few days, or if it is accompanied by other more serious symptoms such as bloody diarrhea or chest pain. And, if your stomach cramps do not go away after 48 hours and are accompanied by nausea and vomiting, you should also make an appointment with your doctor.
You should seek immediate medical attention if:
- The pain does not go away after a few days.
- You are pregnant or could be pregnant.
- It is accompanied by bloody diarrhea.
- It is accompanied by chest, neck or shoulder pain.
- Your stomach cramps do not go away after 48 hours and are accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
- You have a fever over 100 °F for adults or 100.4°F for children).
- You have bloating that persists for more than two days.
Causes of Stomach Cramps
There are many possible causes of stomach cramps. Organs of the abdomen include the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, and health problems in any of these organs may be the source of pain. The key is to know when to seek medical help for your stomach cramps.
Possible causes of stomach cramps include:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Cancer of the stomach, colon, and other organs
- Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Food allergies or food poisoning
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Kidney stones
- Muscle strain
- Urinary tract infections
What to Expect During Diagnostic tests
If your abdominal pain requires a visit to the doctor, he or she will do a physical exam. Depending on your symptoms, he or she will likely conduct further tests to diagnose what is causing the abdominal pain. Stomach cramps can have many causes, and each of these conditions has their own associated tests that your doctor will likely recommend.
Treatment Options for Abdominal Pain
Almost everyone suffers from stomach cramps at some point, and with so many possible causes, prevention is difficult. However, try to avoid the things that cause you bellyache such as heavy alcohol use. If you are prone to bloating, you may want to limit gas-producing foods, such as beans, fried foods, and dairy products.
If you have mild stomach cramps, you can try the following:
- Drink fluids: Sip water or other clear fluids.
- No food: Avoid solid food for the first few hours.
- After waiting, simple foods: If you have been vomiting, wait 6 hours, and then eat small amounts of simple foods such as rice, applesauce, crackers, plain toast, or bananas.
- Avoid irritating foods: Avoid dairy products, acidic foods such as tomatoes, and fast food (greasy foods).
- Antacids can help: If the pain is high up in your abdomen and occurs after meals, antacids may help, especially if you feel heartburn or indigestion.
- Lie down: Try lying on the floor with your knees bent or pull your knees into your chest depending on what give you relief.
- Laxative for constipation: If constipation is causing the cramps, consider taking a mild laxative.
- Be careful with medication: Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory medications, and narcotic pain medications unless your health care provider prescribes them. If you know that your pain is not related to your liver, you can try acetaminophen (Tylenol).
If these are not helping your stomach cramps, and they persist for more than a few days or are accompanied by some of the symptoms mentioned above, seek medical attention.
Stomach cramps or abdominal pain is a common condition that does not always require immediate treatment. There are many possible causes – some which will heal without treatment and some life-threatening. There are many natural remedies to ease your pain. Seek medical help if your pain does not go away after a few days and is accompanied by other more worrying symptoms.