Stomach cramps is a broad term that refers to a variety of symptoms or sensations within the abdominal area. Colloquially, this term is used to refer to the pain sensed in any part of the abdominal area.
The causes of the pain may stem from any of the organs in this area including the following:
- Small intestine
Underlying problems with these organs may cause the pain concentrated on the abdominal area. However, there are cases where in the pain felt in the abdominal area stem from organs are not within the abdominal cavity but are close to it. These organs include:
- Lower Lungs
Causes of Abdominal Cramps
Abdominal pain is caused by inflammation, organ distention or stretch, loss of blood supply to an organ. Whether the pain stems from mild or severe stomach cramps, there are a number of common causes which are as follows:
- Menstrual cramps
- Food allergy
- Stomach gas
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Food poisoning
- Stomach virus
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Urinary Tract Infection
- Lactose Intolerance
- Crohn’s disease
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Kidney Stones
The exact cause of the abdominal pain can be diagnosed through the following:
- Characteristics of the Pain
- Results of physical examinations such as laboratory tests
Diagnosis of the Abdominal Pain
The patient’s medical history is taken to help identify the possible cause of the pain. The following information are collected:
Collection of Medical Information to Know How to Stop Stomach Cramps
The reach of the pain in areas of the abdomen has a lot to say about the underlying cause of the pain. For example, if the pain is caused by appendicitis, the middle to the lower right of the abdomen senses the pain since this is where the appendix is located. If the pain stems from the upper portion of the abdomen, the possibility is huge that it is because of a problem in the gallbladder.
The type of pain experienced can be sharp, stabbing, severe, dull, or any other characteristic radiating from other parts of the body such as the shoulders, rear, or lower back. The pattern of the pain is another aspect used to identify the cause. Distention of the intestine will create a pain similar to cramps due to h3 contractions in the intestinal muscles. Steady abdominal pain is most likely caused by an obstruction in an organ within the abdominal cavity.
The duration of the pain refers to the span of time the pain lasts when it is sensed as well as the length of time that you have been experiencing this kind of pain. Some conditions such as the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can come and go for months or several years. Pancreatitis, on the other hand, can last for days. There are causes where in the pain worsens and then relieves. Such an example is GERD where in worse pains occur for weeks or months then the pain alleviates for a period of weeks to months as well.
How the pain began
Telling the doctor the instance when the pain started will have a great contribution in the identification of the cause. The times when the pain occurs such as experiencing stomach cramps after eating or sparks as well as how long the pain lasts help in determining the cause. Abdominal pain characterized by sudden bursts of pain may indicate interruption of bloody supply in an organ or impediment from a gallstone.
Factors that worsen the pain
The factors that make the pain worse is also important in the determination of the cause. If there is an activity such as eating, coughing, walking, or running that worsens the pain, the doctor will be able to deduce the cause. For example, pain that worsens from vibrating movements such as sneezing or coughing may be caused by organ inflammation. Appendicitis, cholecysititis, and diverticulitis are some of the causes in this case.
Factors that alleviate the pain
If the pain is relieved from avoiding a certain activity or staying still in a particular position can help in further diagnosis. In IBS, the pain is relieved for some time by excretions. Stomach cramps and nausea are related such that vomiting relieves pain from organ distention and obstruction. For organ inflammation, lying still makes the pain temporarily go away.
- Relevant symptoms such as stomach cramps and diarrhea, fever, and bleeding are taken into consideration when finding the cause.
If a patient experiences fever, the cause of the pain is most likely organ inflammation. Diarrhea and anal bleeding may be due to intestinal obstruction or distention. While these two symptoms combined, may be an indication of infectious and non-infectious intestinal diseases.
To confirm the hypothesis on what causes stomach cramps and the painful sensation based on the aforementioned pain characteristics, physical examinations must be performed. Additional indications can be identified with the initial patient examination. The following must be verified by the doctor:
- Sounds originating from the intestine if intestinal obstruction is suspected
- Tenderness of any part of the abdomen
- Mass within the abdominal area indicating a tumor, abscess, or enlarged organ
- Signs of swelling
- Blood in the fecal matter as an indication of ulcer, colitis, or colon cancer
After the doctor’s simple and initial examination of the patient, tests will be ordered. The following might be necessary:
- Laboratory Tests
-complete blood count
– amylase and lipase analysis
-liver enzyme evaluation
- Radiology Test
-Abdominal ultrasound is the diagnosis of stones, inflammation, or ruptures that may cause the pain.
-Computerized Tomography (CT) is done on the abdomen and intestine to diagnose inflammation or blockages.
-Magnetic Resonance Imaging is useful in the diagnosis of conditions similar to the ones diagnosed in CT.
-Barium X-rays are done on the stomach and intestine for the diagnosis of perforations, ulcer, inflammation, and obstruction.
-Capsule Enteroscopy is the use of a minute camera to take pictures in the intestine, which is essential in the diagnosis of tumors, lesions, and bleeding.
- Abdominal X-ray
Abdominal X-ray is referred as the KUB (kidney, ureter, and bladder) X-ray. Enlarged organs, obstruction, perforations, kidney stones can be seen through this test. More details about the underlying cause of the pain are revealed through an X-ray.
Endoscopy for Abdominal Pain
Endoscopy procedures examine the internal bodily system including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines using an instrument called endoscope. Endoscopic procedures are as follows:
- Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) is used to spot ulcers, inflammation, and stomach cancer.
- Colonoscopy is used for the diagnosis of colitis and colon cancer.
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is used for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer or gallstones that might be obstructing the intestines.
- Balloon Enteroscopy uses endoscopes passed through the oral or anal area into the small intestine for the diagnosis, biopsy, and treatment of abdominal pain as well as bleeding.
Surgery for Abdominal Pain
Surgery for diagnostic purposes such as in the case of determining the root cause of stomach cramps does not require huge incisions to be made on the patient. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that examines the abdominal cavity through making minute incisions through which a laparoscope will be placed so that the internal abdominal area can be viewed.
How to Stop Stomach Cramps
Whether you are experiencing severe stomach cramps or just mild abdominal pain, you need to address it immediately. You can go to a physician or implement the following remedies first:
- Determine the cause of the pain.
These two are different conditions but indigestion can lead to heartburn. Indigestion produces an uncomfortable sensation in the upper portion of the abdomen. Along with it comes a feeling of fullness. As a result, the gastric acids engage in a reflux that lead food back into the esophagus. This causes heartburn, which is a burning sensation below the breastbone. This can be very painful. This is easy to diagnose since stomach cramps after eating is readily felt.
Another common cause of stomach pain is gas. You will feel bloated and experiencing repeated burping and flatulence. It can lead to tight sensation in the abdomen.
A menstrual cramp is another common reason for stomach pain. The pain radiates from the lower abdomen before, during, or after periods. While this may seem harmless, intense menstrual cramps may sometimes indicate endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
Stomach flu also known as gastroenteritis or stomach bug produces severe abdominal pain. Stomach cramps and diarrhea as well as fever, nausea, and vomiting accompany this kind of abdominal pain.
- Make a shift in lifestyle.
If you find that you are currently experiencing abdominal pain, it is an indication that there is something wrong with your lifestyle. Here are some changes you can do to minimize incidences of abdominal or stomach pain:
- Drink water instead of alcoholic and carbonated beverages. Refrain from drinking caffeinated drinks as well.
- Consume small meals in intervals rather than eating a large meal at a time.
- Decrease your intake of oily, spicy, and fatty foods since this can upset your stomach.
- Eat healthy foods, suitable for your body type and your health.
- Chew your food well before you swallow it. Food that has not been properly ground will be hard to digest and may block your esophagus.
- Take note of your food allergies. You might be eating foods that your body is allergic to, which is why you experience stomach pain.
- Shed off some excess pounds.
- Take supplements.
- For menstrual cramps, applying a warm compress over the painful area will help relieve the pain.
- If you are suffering from gas, it is best that you pass it. This will help relieve the pain. To spare yourself from the embarrassment, you might want to go to a place where no one can smell it when you pass gas.
- Soak in a warm bath. In some cases, a warm sensation can calm a person feeling pain. Generally, having a warm bath is calming so you can try this to see if the pain has somehow been relieved.
- Keep your entire body in good overall health.
- Take over-the-counter medications like antacids.
If your stomach pain is not that serious and not a recurring thing in your daily life, taking antacids can help relieve the pain. Remember that these medications provide short-term relief only, so if your stomach pain is constant and persistent or recurring for a couple of days or weeks, it is best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.
- Drink herbal teas.
Herbal teas derived from chamomile, peppermint, and licorice root are known to remedy an upset stomach. You can try this remedy if you are experiencing some level of stomach pain. Aside from teas, these herbs are also available in capsules. It is best to consult a physician before taking any herbal remedy to verify if you have any allergies with the ingredients.
- Utilize breathing techniques.
Even if you are not having difficulties breathing, using breathing techniques will help take your mind off the abdominal pain. Focus on your fast and shallow breathing as you lay in a comfortable position. You can follow a 1-2 rhythm. Relaxing your body and mind will help in pain management.
- Contact your doctor.
There are cases when stomach or abdominal pain is more than just a passing condition. If you experience the following symptoms, it is best you call your doctor or proceed to the emergency room:
- Sudden, sharp abdominal pain accompanies by chest, shoulder, or neck pain, or if the pain is your abdomen is unbearable
- Blood in vomit or stool
- Tender abdomen, when touched
- Inability to relieve oneself on the restroom
- Symptoms do not improve even with medication
- Excessive weight loss in just a few days
- Trouble swallowing
- Skins and eyes are pale and yellowish
- Vomiting persists for more than 2 days
- Higher fever (101°F)
- Fainting, lightheadedness, and confusion
- Signs of dehydration such as inability to urinate or cry with tears
- Painful urination
- Pain lasts for hours
- Pain during pregnancy
Abdominal pain should not be disregarded or dismissed as a passing ailment. If the pain is extreme or recurring over days, weeks, or months, seeking medical help is advised.