What is Stomach Pain?
Stomach pain is the sensation of pain in the upper part of the belly. This term is a general term which describes the pain that originates from any organ in the upper belly not only stomach. From a medical point of view, the belly is divided into regions; the upper belly, middle or central belly, and the lower belly. Pain that arises in any part has its own indications and different possible causes.
Types of Stomach Pain
We can classify stomach pain into three types:
- Visceral Pain: This is the pain that originate from a disease in any organ in the belly. Most organs in the belly do not have special nerves so pain from those organs will not be easily localized; it will be vaguer.
- Parietal Pain: This is the pain that occurs due to the irritation of the belly’s covering which is known as the peritoneum. This type of pain is easily localized as the nervous supply of the peritoneum is specific.
- Referred Pain: It is simply visceral pain that is localized away from the actual diseased organ. This is mainly because of shared nervous supply.
What Causes Stomach Pain?
There are many possible causes for stomach pain; following are some of them:
- Inflammation in one of the organs in that area; for example, inflammation of the stomach lining, inflammation in the gallbladder, inflammation in the liver…Etc
- Over distention of any hollow organ in that area; such as overdistention of the bile duct due to its obstruction by a stone
- Decrease in the blood supply of any organ in that area; for instance, ischemic colitis which is a disease caused by loss of blood supply to the intestine
- Functional or unknown cause; sometimes people may have stomach pain but not caused by any of the previous etiologies. For example, pain in irritable bowel syndrome. This type of pain is usually named functional pain
Characteristics, Symptoms, and Signs of the Stomach Pain
The first step in managing a patient with stomach pain is to take a detailed history from him about this pain; following are the most important points to ask about with their significance:
- Site of Pain: Site of pain is very important to include and exclude wide range of possible causes of stomach pain. For example, inflammation of the gallbladder causes pain in the right upper part of the belly while inflammation of the stomach lining causes pain in the middle upper belly
- Onset of Pain: How the pain started is very crucial in determining the possible etiology under it; for example, sudden pain usually indicates sudden event; such as perforation of stomach wall due to ulcers on it while slow onset of pain indicate a slow process; for example, inflammatory process
- Character of Pain: This means how the patient describes his pain. This has an important implication on the possible cause of this pain. Stomach cramping usually indicates hollow organ contractions; such as stomach, while dull pain indicates a disease in solid organ; such as liver
- Any other sites of Pain
- Any Associated Other Symptoms: Some patients may complain of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or any other complaints. This tights the range of possible causes
- Duration of Pain: The longer the duration of pain, the higher the possibility of chronic inflammatory process; for example, inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Changes Overtime: I mean any change in the quality, severity, location, and character of pain. This usually indicates the occurrence of complications of the primary cause of pain
- Anything that Relieves the Pain
- Anything that Exceeds the Pain
Stomach Pain Treatment
Following are some recommended steps to treat your stomach pain:
- Don’t eat for awhile, this may relieve the pain. Try to lie down and put a large pillow under your feet and then relax
- Drink some water to test if the pain will increase or decrease. Herbal tea is also useful
- Use ginger to reduce the sensation of nausea; this is available in form of capsules
- Use antacids
- Try to get some sleep
- Use the heating pad, put it on your stomach to relieve the pain
- Avoid dairy products as they increases the severity of the pain
- Avoid eating vegetables; especially broccoli, and cauliflower
- Don’t eat before sleep
- Consult your doctor if the pain persists
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What National Institutes of Health is saying about Stomach Pain?
Depending on the latest recommendation of the national institutes of health, it is recommended to adopt the following tips to prevent stomach pain:
- Don’t eat fatty foods
- Drink enough water daily
- Eat more small meals rather than less large meals
- Do regular exercising
- Add more fibers to your diet
- Avoid foods that increases the gases
When to Contact your Doctor About your Stomach Pain?
You have to contact your doctor as soon as possible in order to manage your stomach pain in the following situations:
- History of trauma such as car accident
- Pain in the chest
- Too much severe pain that can’t be tolerated
- Persistent vomiting with the pain
- Passage of bloody stools
- Change in the color of skin; especially if it becomes yellowish
- Swelling in the belly
- Chronic history of constipation