FAQs on What Causes Tummy Ache or Stomach Pain

What is Tummy Ache?

Tummy means stomach or abdomen. Tummy ache is referred to ache or pain mostly localized over left upper quadrant of abdomen and pain spread around umbilicus. Tummy ache is caused by diseases of stomach, duodenum and small intestine. Tummy ache is also known as stomach ache and abdominal pain.

What is Stomach Pain?

Stomach pain is caused by diseases of stomach. Abdominal pain is also known as stomach pain. Esophagus ends in stomach. Stomach is J shaped viscera lies in upper left quadrant of abdomen (see figure 1). Stomach continues as duodenum. Duodenum is a first part of small intestine. Most of the tummy ache or stomach pain is localized over left upper quadrant of abdomen. Occasionally stomach ache is also felt in lower middle chest under the lower end of sternum.

Most left upper abdominal pain caused by diseases of stomach is described as stomach pain and also tummy ache. Tummy ache or stomach pain is caused by diseases of stomach and duodenum. Tummy ache in most case is same as stomach pain. Occasionally few individual may described upper abdominal pain that is spread on both side as tummy ache.

What Causes Tummy Ache or Stomach Pain

What Causes Tummy Ache or Stomach Pain?

Common causes of tummy ache or stomach pain are as follows-

  • Muscle cramps that are mostly localized over left upper quadrant.
  • Gas in Stomach- Distension of stomach and duodenum results in stomach ache or tummy ache.
  • Food Poisoning
  • Gastritis
  • Dyspepsia
  • Stomach Ulcer- Mostly causes tummy ache on left side and middle of lower chest behind sternum.
  • Duodenal Ulcer- Tummy ache or stomach pain is localized over left upper quadrant of abdomen and around umbilicus.
  • Pancreatitis– Inflammation or infection of tail of pancreas.
  • Cancer- Cancer of stomach, duodenum and tail of pancreas causes left sided stomach pain or tummy ache.

What is Stomach Cramps or Tummy Muscle Cramps?

  • Individual may feel tummy ache on left side when abdominal muscles goes in spasm or cramps.
  • Muscle contraction and relaxation are caused by movements of microscopic actin and myosin that lies within muscle fibers.
  • Occasionally actin and myosin filaments stays in contracted position and such sustain contraction causes pain known as muscle cramps or muscle spasm.
  • Fatigue muscle causes actin-myosin filament in sustained close position. Such action results in muscle cramp or spasm.
  • Prolonged muscle cramp or spasm become painful if muscle stays in contracted position.

What Causes Tummy Muscle Cramps Or Muscle Spasm?

Causes of muscles cramps or spasm are as follows-

  • Dehydration1
  • Persistent Diarrhea
  • Prolonged vomiting
  • Mineral deficiency
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Overuse of muscles
  • Prolonged inappropriate posture
  • Weight lifting
  • Participation in outdoor sports

What Causes Dehydration That Results In Tummy Ache Or Stomach Muscle Cramps?

Dehydration is lack of adequate fluid in body. Following conditions causes dehydration-

Why Dehydration Causes Tummy Ache?

  • Dehydration causes decreased water concentration in nerve cells.
  • The change of cellular osmotic pressure affects the initiation and conduction of nerve signals.
  • The dehydration slows down the action potential that creates nerve signals.2

What Are The Causes Of Dehydration?

Dehydration is caused by following abnormal conditions-

  • Lack of adequate fluid intake,
  • Excessive sweating,
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Why Vomiting And Diarrhea Causes Tummy Ache Or Stomach Muscle Cramps?

  • Dehydration- Diarrhea and vomiting causes loss of body fluid that results in dehydration. Dehydration decreases the intracellular water content and that changes muscle function during contraction and relaxation.
  • Mineral Deficiency- Persistent vomiting and diarrhea causes mineral deficiency. Deficiency of minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium causes muscle cramps.
  • Combination of dehydration and mineral deficiency causes persistent muscle cramps.

Why Stomach Muscle Fatigue Causes Tummy Ache Or Stomach Muscle Cramps?

  • Weak Muscle Contractility- Muscle contractility is depending on movement of microscopic actin and myosin filaments within muscle fibers. The decrease in force of movement of these filaments causes decreased contractile activity that results in muscle fatigue.2
  • Overuse Muscle Unable To Relax- Fatigued abdominal muscle often goes in spasm or cramps when abdominal muscle is overused2 as observed during exercise or participation in outdoor sport.

What Causes Muscle Fatigue?

Muscle fatigue is caused by overuse of muscles and muscle diseases.2 Most common causes of muscle fatigue are as follows-

  • Vigorous exercise
  • Overuse of muscles
  • Muscle dehydration
  • Muscle degeneration in elderly
  • Neurological disorders- neuritis
  • Muscle disorders- myalgia and fibromyalgia
  • Dehydration is lack of adequate fluid in body.

Why Mineral Deficiency Causes Tummy Ache Or Stomach Pain?

Sodium and Potassium Deficiency-

Sodium and potassium are essential for transmission of nerve signals and also initiate muscle contraction. Sodium and potassium deficiency transmits abnormal signal to muscles that results in prolonged contraction of stomach as well as several other skeletal muscles.

Deficiency of sodium and potassium causes formation of abnormal signals that triggers continuous muscle contraction.

Calcium Deficiency 4

  • Calcium is essential for movement of actin and myosin filaments.
  • Calcium ion (Ca2) binds several protein sites of muscles like troponin. Myosin and calmodulin. Decreased concentration of calcium causes abnormal binding that affects muscle contraction and relaxation. Such imbalance causes muscle spasm and cramps.

Magnesium Deficiency 4

  • Magnesium ion Mg2 helps to release the binding of actin and myosin filaments.
  • Magnesium deficiency interferes with relaxation of contracted muscles that often results in muscle spasm.

Why Increased Gas In Stomach Causes Tummy Ache Or Stomach Pain?

  • Distension of Stomach Wall- Stomach content often is mixed with gas. Occasionally the volume of gas collection in stomach increases. The increased gas in stomach causes distension of stomach. Significant distension causes tummy ache or stomach pain.
  • Irritation of Stomach Mucosa- Distension of stomach wall stretches stomach mucosa that often causes irritation of stomach mucosa. Such irritation often causes tummy ache or stomach pain.
  • Mucosal Erosion- Some of the gas like ammonia and Sulphur di oxide irritates the stomach mucosa and causes tummy ache or stomach pain.

What Causes Increased Volume Of Gas In Stomach That Result In Tummy Ache Or Stomach Pain?

Following are the causes of increased volume of gas in stomach-

  • Swallowing of air, eating food, or chewing gum
  • Over eating
  • Smoking too many cigarettes
  • Consumption of certain food that breaks down into gases
  • Toxins secreted by stomach viruses during stomach infection causes formation of gas in stomach.

References:  

  1. Aetiology of skeletal muscle “cramps” during exercise: a novel hypothesis. Schwellnus MP, Derman EW, Noakes TD. J Sports Sci. 1997;15:277–285. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  2. Muscle fatigue: general understanding and treatment 

    Jing-jing Wan,1,2 Zhen Qin,1,2 Peng-yuan Wang,1 Yang Sun,1 and Xia Liu1,* Exp Mol Med. 2017 Oct; 49(10): e384.

  3. Muscle cramps: A comparison of the two-leading hypothesis. 

    Giuriato G1Pedrinolla A1Schena F1Venturelli M2.

    J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2018 Aug;41:89-95.

  4. Magnesium and the regulation of muscle contraction. 

    Potter JDRobertson SPJohnson JD., Fed Proc. 1981 Oct;40(12):2653-6.

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