Abdominal Pain


Abdominal pain is a relatively common condition and it is something that we experience at least once in a lifetime. There are different types of abdominal pain, from simple to moderate to life-threatening. Irrespective of the frequency, severity and cause; abdominal pain can be particularly troublesome for the caregivers and the sufferers. Abdomen is an area of the body that’s located between the pelvis and the thorax. An imaginary plane separates the abdomen from the true pelvis and the diaphragm separates it from the thorax. Posteriorly, the abdomen is supported by the back and the spine muscles anteriorly is is supported by the anterior abdominal wall.

The abdomen is where many digestive, urinary and reproductive organs are located. This is among the reasons why abdominal pain is relatively common in the general population. There are three types of abdominal pain based on the cause:

  1. Visceral pain happens when the visceral nerves are stimulated by specific factors, such as mechanical stimuli, toxins and living organisms. This type of pain is usually felt in the midline, poorly localized and dull in nature.
  2. Parietal pain or somatic pain happens when the parietal peritoneum is stimulated. This type of pain could get worse by movements. It feels sharp and usually localized.
  3. Referred pain is caused by multiple causes, such as pericarditis, pleurisy, torsion of testes and others.

Abdominal pain is often considered as agonizing for the affected individuals. However, the intensity of pain doesn’t always indicate the severity of the condition. Mild pain can be caused by potentially life-threatening conditions such as growth of tumor and perforation, while severe pain could simply be caused by flatulency and indigestion. Based on their characteristics, there are three types of pain:

  1. Acute abdominal pain may emerge suddenly with short course and rapid onset. Patients often complain of acute pain in the abdomen, which may or may not suggest life-threatening condition.
  2. Chronic abdominal pain is usually characterized by long duration, high intensity and high frequency. With the fluctuated intensity, complaints among patients may persist for a longer duration of time.
  3. Sub-acute abdominal pain lies somewhere between chronic and acute conditions.

Causes of abdominal pain may include lesions outside or inside the abdomen, metabolic problems, lesions in the urinary tract and; obstetrical and gynecological problems. Common problems in children may include aerophagy, food allergy, overfeeding, congenital megacolon, streptococcal throat infection, accidental swallowing, milk allergy and baby colic.