General

9 types of abdominal pain and their potential causes

You can get belly pain in very different shapes and sizes: sometimes sharp, sometimes dull, sometimes bloated, sometimes tight. Because so many of our bodies’ essential functions happen in this area there are many possible reasons. In addition to our various organs, we also have numerous nerve endings in our abdomens: the cause of a tummy ache could be anything from fear or stress to an excessive meal… or, of course, something more serious.

If you can locate the pain though, you’re often more than half-way there. The area gives you a big hint about what might be happening.

1. Middle left

If your pain is at about waist height on the left side it could indicate a kidney infection or kidney stones. If it’s also painful to urinate and you’re constipated, then be sure to see your doctor. A kidney infection is likely.

If not though, it could be related to the lumbar part of your spine.

2. Middle center

If you have a dull pain in the center of your belly around or just above your navel, it could be a sign of appendicitis (especially if it gets sharper as it moves down to the right, you have nausea, and can’t pass gas) or pancreatitis (if you’re throwing up as well).

3. Middle right

If the pain is on the right side at waist height, it could be a problem with your kidneys as well, or be related to constipation. Another cause could be diverticulitis, where pouches grow on the wall of the colon.

4. Lower left

Most intestinal problems will be indicated by pain in the lower abdomen. Women also experience period cramps in this area, though generally on both sides.

5. Lower center 

Aches or pains below your navel could be the result of a urinary tract infection or inflammatory bowel disease. Women may be suffering from a condition related to the reproductive organs. (Be sure to have regular check-ups with your gynecologist!)

6. Lower right

Pain on just one side of the lower abdomen can also be a sign of a strained muscle or overwork in general. But if it appears frequently then you should check with your doctor. And if you have a sharp, worsening pain in the lower right, definitely check the other symptoms of appendicitis to see if that’s a possibility.

7. Upper left

If your ache is in the upper left part of your abdomen then the likely cause is your stomach. Another possibility is an ulcer, or a problem with the pancreas. If the pain is intense and getting worse quickly, you may have a gallstone stuck in a bile duct. See your doctor if it doesn’t resolve itself within a short time.

8. Upper middle

A bellyache right in the upper middle of your abdomen is often related to acid reflux or another issue with the stomach or end of your esophagus. Again, depending on the exact sensation of the pain, an ulcer or gallstones could be an issue too.

9. Upper right

Pain in the upper right part of your belly could be an indication of an ulcer in your small intestine (a duodenal ulcer). The cause is often an excess secretion of gastric juices.

If a bellyache lasts more than a few days it’s generally a good idea to get it checked by a medical professional. Be persistent and keep searching for the right diagnosis, even if a first trip to the doctor isn’t conclusive: it can take awhile sometimes to figure out what’s going on in there since there are so many possibilities. (Especially if it’s caused by food or stress, the two perhaps most complicating factors…)

But at least now you have a map to start you on the right path

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