Abdominal pain (also known as stomach ache) is very common and has many causes. The majority are not caused by anything worrying and improve on their own or with simple over-the-counter treatment. The most common causes are trapped wind, indigestion or stomach irritation, and then constipation or conditions that cause diarrhoea such as food poisoning or even irritable bowel syndrome. Abdominal pain can also be a normal part of many women’s menstruation symptoms. There are more serious causes of abdominal pain however these are less common. Some examples of these include inflammatory bowel disease, appendicitis, kidney infection or stones, and gallstones.
You can speak to your pharmacist about your abdominal pain and they can advise you on what over-the-counter medications may help. These may include simple pain relief such as paracetamol, or some acid neutralising medication. You can try these for a short period such as one to two weeks, but if you find no improvement or your symptoms get worse then you should see your doctor.
You should book a routine appointment with your doctor if the pain continues for more than one to two weeks without improvement, or keeps coming back. Other reasons to speak to your doctor would be if you have lost weight unintentionally or you have noticed blood or mucus in your stools. If you have pain when passing urine you should speak to your doctor on the day, or the next day as you may need a urine test, and to start antibiotics for a urine infection. Reasons to seek medical attention urgently via an urgent visit with your doctor or calling NHS 111 would be if you have severe pain, you have a fever with your abdominal pain or you feel particularly unwell.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, your medical history, any relevant family medical history, and what medications you are currently taking. They will ask you detailed questions about the pain such as what type of pain it is, how it started, and if it has moved anywhere or got worse. They will examine and have a feel of your abdomen and may take your temperature, blood pressure and pulse. Depending on what the doctor feels is the cause, they may do further tests such as blood tests or refer you for a scan of your abdomen.