Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Abdominal Pain

Overview

Your abdomen, or belly, is the area between your chest and groin. Most of us have occasional abdominal pain that isn’t serious. However, it can also alert us that something is wrong.

The amount of pain you feel doesn’t always tell us if the cause is serious. For example, you might feel:

  • Mild pain with a serious illness, such as appendicitis or colon cancer.
  • Severe pain with a nonserious condition, such as gas, stomach flu, or a pulled muscle.

Depending on the cause, we may treat:

  • Sudden pain with antibiotics, bowel rest, or surgery.
  • Long-term pain with medications.

Sometimes, we can’t identify the cause of the pain. If so, follow up with your doctor to get help managing symptoms.

Symptoms

Abdominal pain may be:

  • Centered in one area or felt all over your belly.
  • Constant or come and go in waves.
  • Sudden or last for weeks or months.

When abdominal pain is:

  • In one area of your belly, you might have a problem with your appendix, stomach, kidneys, or gallbladder.
  • In more than half of your belly, you may have a stomach virus, gas, or indigestion.
  • Severe, you might have a blockage in your intestines that prevents you from passing stool (bowel obstruction). This is serious and needs immediate medical attention.
  • Severe and comes in waves, you may have kidney stones or gallstones.
  • Associated with cramps and diarrhea, you may have gas and bloating. This is usually not serious.

Seek immediate medical attention when:

  • Pain lasts longer than 24 hours.
  • Pain gets worse.
  • You also develop a fever.
  •  You also vomit, including fluids.

Causes of Sudden Pain

Abdominal pain that comes on suddenly (acute pain) often needs immediate medical treatment. Common causes are:

  • Appendicitis.
  • Problems with pregnancy.
  • Women’s health issues, such as a ruptured ovarian cyst.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI).

 Underlying diseases that can cause acute abdominal pain include:

  • Inflammation of your pancreas or liver.
  • Infection of the colon or gallbladder.
  • Sores in your colon and rectum.
  • Cancer, such as colorectal or stomach cancer.
  • Bowel blockage or damage from poor blood flow.
  • A tear or leaking of a large blood vessel.
  • Heart attack or pneumonia.

Sudden abdominal pain can also be triggered by substance abuse, or result from taking too much aspirin or NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug).

Causes of Long-Term Pain

Long-term (chronic) abdominal pain lasts 1 week or longer. This kind of pain has many causes.

Your risk of developing conditions that cause abdominal pain increases as you age. Examples of more serious causes include:

  • A flare-up of pancreatitis, diverticulitis, colitis, or Crohn’s disease
  • Bleeding ulcer
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Colorectal or stomach cancer

In some cases, we aren’t able to diagnose the cause of chronic abdominal pain. This doesn’t mean that your pain isn’t real.

Diagnosis

We’ll ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. Be prepared to describe your pain. Questions we might ask are:

  • Is the pain sharp, dull, or cramping?
  • Where do you feel it: all over your abdomen or in one area?
  • Is it mild, moderate, or severe?
  • Is it constant, or does it come and go?
  • Does it wake you up at night?
  • Does it move (down your legs or up your back, for example)?
  • Have you ever felt this type of pain before? If so, when?

We’ll also ask when your pain is worse, and what seems to make it worse, or better.

Be sure to let us know if you:

  • Are pregnant.
  • Have cancer or another chronic condition.
  • Have a recent injury.
  • Are taking any medications.

Tests

We may order tests to identify the cause of your abdominal pain, such as blood, urine, or stool tests. We might also order other tests, such as:

  •  CT scan.
  • Ultrasound.
  • X-rays.
  • Heart tests, such as electrocardiogram (ECG).

We might also place a small flexible tube, with a tiny camera on one end, either:

  • Down your throat to view your digestive system (endoscopy).
  • Through your anus to view your rectum, colon, and intestines (colonoscopy).

We may also remove and evaluate a small sample of tissue (biopsy). For example, we may biopsy your liver, stomach, or colon.

Treatment

Treatment of abdominal pain depends on the cause.

We may recommend:

  • Nonprescription medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). They can make ulcers worse, so don’t take them unless we unless we recommend it.
  • Antibiotics if you have an infection.
  • Other medicines, such as for vomiting or constipation.
  • Surgery to treat a serious condition, such as appendicitis or a bowel obstruction.
  • Future, scheduled surgery to treat cancer and other conditions.
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids, if you’re in the hospital.
  • A clear liquid diet to rest your bowels. This may also help us diagnose the cause of your pain.

When you begin to eat regular food, eat a bland diet of low-fat, high-fiber foods for a few days. Eat rice, applesauce, crackers, and oatmeal. Avoid sugary foods, caffeine, and spicy foods.

If your pain continues or we’re not able to identify the cause, we may recommend additional treatment.

When to Call Us

Contact our Advice Call Center if you’re not sure when to seek treatment.

Contact us immediately or seek urgent medical care if you have sudden, sharp abdominal pain that’s worse when you move or that occurs with any of these symptoms:

  • Pain in your chest, back, shoulder, or neck.
  • Pain between your shoulder blades and nausea.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Fever of over 100°F for adults or 100.4°F for children.
  • Blood in your stool (it may look black or like coffee grounds).
  • Inability to have a bowel movement, especially if you’re vomiting.

Contact us or seek urgent care if you have abdominal pain and:

  • Vomit blood.
  • A stiff, rigid belly that’s sore when touched.
  • Vaginal bleeding that doesn't stop when expected.
  • Dry mouth and skin, headache, tiredness, and less urination (dehydration).

Seek urgent care if you have abdominal pain and are:

  • Having cancer treatment.
  • Pregnant.
  • Recovering from an injury.

Related Health Tools:

Prepare for Your Procedure

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.