Abdominal pain is pain that you feel anywhere between your chest and groin. This is often referred to as the stomach region or belly. Abdominal pain can be caused by many conditions. However, the main causes are infection, abnormal growths, inflammation, obstruction (blockage), and intestinal disorders. Infections in the throat, intestines, and blood can cause bacteria to enter your digestive tract, resulting in abdominal pain. These infections may also cause changes in digestion, such as diarrhea or constipation.
Cramps associated with menstruation are also a potential source of lower abdominal pain, but these are more commonly known to cause pelvic pain. Other common causes of abdominal pain include: constipation, diarrhea, gastroenteritis (stomach flu), acid reflux (when stomach contents leak backward into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms), vomiting, stress.
Other ways to describe pain in your abdomen include:
Generalized pain -- This means that you feel it in more than half of your belly. This type of pain is more typical for a stomach virus, indigestion, or gas. If the pain becomes more severe, it may be caused by a blockage of the intestines.
Localized pain -- This is pain found in only one area of your belly. It is more likely to be a sign of a problem in an organ, such as the appendix, gallbladder, or stomach.
Cramp-like pain -- This type of pain is not serious most of the time. It is likely to be due to gas and bloating, and is often followed by diarrhea. More worrisome signs include pain that occurs more often, lasts more than 24 hours, or occurs with a fever.
Colicky pain -- This type of pain comes in waves. It very often starts and ends suddenly, and is often severe. Kidney stones and gallstones are common causes of this type of belly pain.
The cause of abdominal pain can be diagnosed through a series of tests. Before ordering tests, your doctor will do a physical examination. This includes gently pressing on various areas of your abdomen to check for tenderness and swelling. This information, combined with the severity of the pain and its location within the abdomen, will help your doctor determine which tests to order.
Imaging tests, such as MRI scans, ultrasounds, and X-rays, are used to view organs, tissues, and other structures in the abdomen in detail. These tests can help diagnose tumors, fractures, ruptures, and inflammation.