Causes of Abdominal Pain
Helping You Unravel The Cause Of Your
Stomach, Bowel Or Pelvic Pain

The causes of abdominal pain (also referred to as belly or tummy pain) are many and can be difficult to identify. In fact, over half of the time, doctors are unable to tell what is causing pain in the abdomen. See common causes of abdominal pain and see if they relate to your symptoms! Have your say and leave us a comment or query on your experience with abdominal pain here too.

Abdominal (belly, tummy, stomach or bowel) pain refers to the feeling of any unpleasant or annoying sensation anywhere between the edge of your rib cage to the margins of your waist bone on the front or side.

Causes of abdominal pain are many. Bowel cancer could be one especially in the elderly. See what the symptoms are. Follow the link below.

The causes of abdominal or bowel pain ranges from common conditions like trapped wind, indigestion, anxiety, to appendicitis, or even more serious life threatening conditions like bowel cancer.

Constipation, trapped wind, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infection, menstrual pain, endometriosis and appendicitis and emotional distress are the most common causes of pain in the abdomen.

Often, episodes of pain in the abdomen resolves on its own without any serious repercussions. At other times, it is important to unravel the cause of an abdominal pain, as short delays in accurate diagnosis could leave unpleasant consequences.

The primary prerogative of a health care practitioner is therefore, to take seriously any complaint of abdominal pain lasting more than an hour, and to exclude any potentially dangerous cause of such pain that may in anyway pose threat to life.

This is done by way of taking a focused history to understand the pattern of the pain, detailed physical examination, and the conducting of ancillary tests and other investigations as may be necessary.

Once a potentially dangerous cause of pain in the abdomen has been excluded, most causes of abdominal pain would go away with time, and can be managed by treating associated symptoms.

Common Causes Of Abdominal Pain

So diverse could the cause of abdominal pain be that even very seasoned medical experts may not be able to tell the cause of pain in the tummy.

This complexity often arise because of the fact that unlike other parts of the body where you have a few things only that could go wrong, the abdomen is house to so many organs and structures, that problems in any one of such organs could cause pain and to pin point the origin is like looking for the proverbial needle in an hay sack.

Apart from the digestive system with all its organs, the abdomen also contains the kidneys, the adrenal glands, the spleen, bladder, ureters, urethra, ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus (womb), prostate, and the overlying skin, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, lymph channels, and more.

Also, organs far removed from the abdomen that share the same nerve with structures in the abdomen could be diseased, and cause the pain to be felt in the abdomen. So too are neighboring structures like the lower lungs, and heart frequent causes of abdominal pain when things go wrong in them.

To understand the cause of a tummy ache then, it is vital to try to narrow down the area of the most pain in the abdomen, be familiar with organs and structures in that part of the abdomen, and with the knowledge of how the different organs that area work, as well as the character of the pain, and other associated symptoms, work out what might be causing the pain.

To make this process simple even for the non medical person, lets take a look at the common causes of pain in the stomach, looking at the different regions of the abdomen, as well as age groups and sex.

Causes of Right Upper Abdominal Pain

The common causes of pain in the right upper abdomen in all age groups and sex include:

  • Liver infection (parasites and cysts)
  • Myofascial Pain Syndrome
  • Paracetamol (acetaminophen) overdose
  • Pulled Muscle
  • Right Sided Pneumonia
  • Right Sided Pulmonary Embolism (blood clot in the right lung)
  • Right Sided Renal Stones (Kidney stones)
  • Tietze Syndrome

Do you have a right upper belly ache? For more detailed discussion on the various causes of pain in the right upper abdomen and how to identify the possible cause from the list above, see the section on right upper abdominal pain here.

Causes of Central Upper Abdominal Pain

Pain in the central upper abdomen is very common, and the usual suspects causing such pain include:

  • Acid Reflux (GERD or GORD)
  • Directing aortic aneurysm
  • Discitis
  • Dyspepsia or Indigestion
  • Epigastric hernia
  • Gastritis or Alcoholic Gastritis
  • Heart attack
  • Heartburns
  • H pylori infection
  • Mallory Weisis Syndrome
  • Muscle strain following severe vomiting.
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic tumour
  • Side effect of Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Erythromycin, or some blood pressure medications - calcium channel blockers
  • Spasm of the oesophagus
  • Trapped Wind
  • Worms and Parasitic Infections

See here for more information on central upper abdominal (epigastric) pain

Causes of Left Upper Abdominal Pain

Left upper abdominal pain is perhaps not has common as pain in other sides of the abdomen, depending on where you live. The common causes of pain in the left upper abdomen include:

  • Adrenal gland tumour (Left Side)
  • Bowel cancer

  • Constipation
  • Heart attack
  • Hepatitis (affecting the left lobe of the liver)
  • Kidney infection (Left sided pyelonephritis)
  • Kidney Stone (left sided)

  • Lymphoma affecting the spleen (spleen pain)
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Pancreatitis / Pancreatic cancer affecting mainly the left side of the pancreas
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Splenic artery aneurysm
  • Spleenic enlargement (e.g malaria spleen)
  • Splenic rupture
  • Tietze syndrome
  • Trapped wind

See more information on left upper abdominal pain here

Causes of Central Abdominal Pain

Pain around the belly button or umbilicus is referred to as central abdominal pain. Pain in this area can be caused by:

Causes of Right Lower Abdominal Pain

This is a very common site of abdominal pain. Causes include:

  • Acute Appendicitis and complications of appendicitis like appendiceal abscess, appendiceal mucocele
  • Bowel Cancer
  • Benign Lymphoid Hyperplasia
  • Cecitis (inflammation of the caecum)
  • Caecal diverticulitis
  • Caecal tumours
  • Carcinoid Tumour
  • Crohn's Disease
  • Epiploic Appendagitis
  • Eosinophilic gastroenteritis
  • Ectopic Pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Fabry's disease
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Hernia (obstructed or strangulated inguinal or femoral hernia)
  • Ileal plasmacytoma
  • Iliac artery aneurysm
  • Intestinal lymphoma
  • Intussusception

Causes of Central Lower Abdominal Pain

Pain along the bikini line to the middle, just under the umbilicus is referred to as central lower abdominal pain, supra pubic pain or just as lower abdominal pain.

Causes of abdominal pain in this area are often more specific, and are commonest in women. Such causes include:

Of these, urine infection, constipation, cystitis, menstrual cramps, pain from fibroid and endometriosis and irritable bowel syndrome are the more common causes of abdominal pain in this region.

Causes of Lower Left Abdominal Pain

This is another area of the abdomen where pain is frequently localized. Causes of abdominal pain in this region include:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
  • Bowel cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Endometriosis
  • Epididymitis
  • Epiploic Appendagitis
  • Hernia (obstructed or strangulated inguinal or femoral hernia)
  • Ileal plasmacytoma
  • Iliac artery aneurysm
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Intestinal lymphoma
  • Intussusception
  • Loin Pain Haematuria Syndrome.

The most common causes of abdominal pain in the left lower abdomen are irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cyst problems, trapped wind, diverticular disease in the elderly, urine infection, and mid cycle pain.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Other causes like intestinal worms, emotional problems and accidents would be mentioned in passing, and they should always be considered, when trying to decipher the probable cause or causes of abdominal pain in any individual.

Last Updated: 28th September 2013

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Useful Links

See related info and useful links from third part sources that could prove insightful.

Upper Abdominal Pain

Central Abdominal Pain

Right Sided Abdominal Pain

Left Sided Abdominal Pain

Lower Abdominal Pain

Abdominal And Back Pain

Abdominal Pain In Women

Abdominal Pain In Pregnancy

Abdominal Pain In Men

What Is Abdominal Pain


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