What is Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache? Stomach Pain, Belly Ache, Abdominal Cramps

Abdominal Pain: What Can Cause Pain in the Stomach?

What is Abdominal Pain or Stomach Ache?

Intra-abdominal pain is also known as stomach pain, stomachache, bellyache and abdominal cramps. Abdominal pain can be from abdominal wall or intra-abdominal organs.[1]

Intra-abdominal pain is not an abdominal wall pain. The abdomen is the section of body between chest and pelvis.[2] Intensity of intra-abdominal pain is mild to severe and duration can be short (acute) or long (chronic). Some intra-abdominal pain may be present for days, weeks or months. Intra-abdominal pain is often secondary to irritation of mucosal membrane causing inflammation such as gastritis or erosion of mucosal membrane causing ulcer. Pain may be secondary to spasm of intestine from large volume of gas, obstruction or constipation.[3] Acute and severe intra-abdominal pain secondary to perforation may need immediate medical attention. Perforation of stomach or intestine is preferably diagnosed and treated sooner to prevent life threatening peritonitis and septicemia.

Intra-abdominal organs initiating pain are stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, gallbladder, spleen, kidney, and pancreas. Occasional pain may be referred from chest initiated in lungs or bronchi. Other referred pains are from pelvic organs such as uterus, ovaries and vagina. Some of the pains generated in abdominal organs such as pain from pancreatitis or originating from kidney are referred to back and flank.

Abdominal Pain

Surface anatomy of the abdomen divides abdomen into 9 quadrants or regions.[2,5]

  • Top three are called left hypochondriac, epigastric and right hypochondriac.
  • Middle three quadrants are known as left lumbar, middle section umbilical and right lumbar quadrant.
  • Bottom three quadrants are left iliac, hypogastric in the middle and right iliac.