see also Abdominal Pain in Children, Abdominal Pain in Pregnancy
Strictly speaking, the term abdominal pain covers all forms of pain (aches, cramps, colic, etc.) felt between diaphragm and groin; it therefore includes 'stomach ache', although pain due to ailments of the upper parts of the digestive tract - stomach, duodenum, pancreas, gall bladder, and liver - is likely to be felt in the upper abdomen, behind the lower ribs or between the ribs and the navel.
Acute abdominal pain, pain so severe that the slightest movement is agony, may be due to Appendicitis (if appendix ruptures, there is severe pain in lower right abdomen, with vomiting and fever), obstruction of part of the intestine or bowel (abdomen distended, vomiting, constipation or diarrhoea inability to pass wind), acute Pancreatitis (severe pain in upper abdomen, radiating to back, with vomiting), a perforated Peptic Ulcer (sudden intense pain, followed by shock), diverticulitis (pain in lower left abdomen, fever, nausea - see Diverticular Disease), or internal injury, all of which can very swiftly lead to Peritonitis. All are emergency situations, so contact Emergency Medical Services; once in hospital, it may be necessary to open up the abdomen to find out what is wrong.
Acute abdominal pain can also be due to Gastroenteritis or Food Poisoning (diarrhoea, vomiting, fever), Renal Colic (pain extends from small of back to groin), acute Pyelonephritis (fever as well as pain), Gallstones or Cholecystitis (pain under right ribs), Cystitis (painful or frequent urination), Shingles (burning pain localised to strip down one side of abdomen, tenderness), Indigestion (especially after alcohol or heavy meals), diverticulosis or diverticulitis (cramps and tenderness in lower left abdomen - see Diverticular Disease), Constipation, disruption to blood flow in the area of bowel and intestines (possibly caused by Thrombosis, a haemorrhage, or an aortic aneurysm), or even a sudden change of diet (constipation, lots of wind). In pregnancy, acute lower abdominal pain, especially if associated with vaginal bleeding, may signal an Ectopic Pregnancy or a Miscarriage.
If pain is severe and continues unabated for more than 1 hour, or occurs during first 3 months of pregnant, consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 2 hours.
Among the many causes of chronic or recurrent abdominal pain are Pelvic Infection (smelly vaginal discharge), endometriosis, Hiatus Hernia (heartburn made worse by bending or lying down), Indigestion and Peptic Ulcer (pain relieved by antacids), Pancreatitis (pain in upper abdomen), Gallstones (pain in upper right abdomen), Crohn's Disease (cramps after eating, diarrhoea), Hernias in the abdominal wall in the area of the navel or groin, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (often one-sided abdominal cramps), and Ulcerative Colitis (left-side abdominal pain relieved by passing stools).
If pain is localized between navel and breastbone and person is losing weight at rate of 0.5 kg (1 lb) or more per week, cause may be cancer of the stomach (see Cancer); if there is persistent pain in the lower abdomen, with fever, and alternate bouts of constipation and diarrhoea, cause may be cancer of the colon (see Cancer). In either case, appropriate action is consult your doctor if there is no improvement in 48 hours.
Self-help: if pain is severe, do not drink or eat until you have seen your medical doctor, and do not take painkillers or drink alcohol. A hot-water bottle or an ice pack applied to the site of the pain may help.
Specific remedies to be given, for up to 10 doses only, until medical help arrives
- Suspected burst appendix Lachesis 30c every 5 minutes
- Suspected obstruction China 30c every 5 minutes
- Person in state of fear and shock Aconite 30c every 10 minutes
- If pain follows injury Arnica 30c every 10 minutes
If abdominal pain can be traced to any of the causes mentioned above, see relevant entry for homeopathic treatment. Where pain is recurrent but the cause cannot be found, constitutional treatment would be a sensible course.
Specific remedies to be given ½ -hourly for up to 10 doses when pain comes on
- Pain onsets and stops with equal suddenness, as if abdomen has been gripped by a hand and then released, face red and hot, abdomen tender and sensitive to slightest jarring Belladonna 30c
- Pain like a stitch, abdomen feels as if it is about to burst, pressure makes pain worse, pain so severe that person cannot move, think, or talk, breathing shallow Bryonia 30c
- Cutting pain causes person to double up and cry out, abdomen distended with wind, attack may follow anger outburst Chamomilla 30c
- Violent, cutting, twisting pain just below navel, relieved by passing wind, bending forwards, or pressing on abdomen Colocynth 30c
- Pain so violent that person cries out, relieved by warmth, friction, and pressure on abdomen Magnesia phos. 30c