You can get a stomach ache for many reasons. The cause can be obvious, for example in the case of food poisoning or menstrual pain. Sometimes it is more difficult to know what it is due to, for example, if the problems are about stress or a disease that is difficult to detect. Often, stomach pain goes away by itself but sometimes you may need treatment.
This text is for adults who have stomach aches. You can also read about stomach pain in children.
Stomach pain can be due to many different things
The term stomach is used to describe many different things. It can mean stomach. It can also mean what is usually called the gastrointestinal tract and which includes all organs that have to do with digestion, for example, the liver, pancreas or intestines.
It may also include other body parts that exist between the pelvis and lungs, such as the bladder, kidneys, prostate and uterus and ovaries.
Stomach pain may be a sign that you have had an illness. It may be an illness that comes suddenly or you may have more elongated problems that last for several weeks. Sometimes you may also have problems that improve and deteriorate periodically for several years, in so-called forests.
Many times it can be difficult to find any sure reason why you have stomach aches. Sometimes you may have severe stomach upset, but where it is not visible on samples or other examinations. Examples of this are IBS and functional dyspepsia. IBS is also called sensitive bowel and functional dyspepsia for sensitive stomachs.
What can I do for myself?
Try to find out the cause of your stomach ache. Sometimes there is a simple explanation. Then you may be able to get the hassle over by changing certain things in your diet or in your surroundings.
Here are some tips to avoid stomach upset:
- Move regularly. Do exercise at home or go for a walk every day. Physical activity is good for keeping the gut running.
- Try to have good and regular eating habits, and to get enough exercise and sleep.
- Wear clothes that are loose around the abdomen and do not squeeze.
- Think about your eating habits. Can the evil have to do with what you eat and drink? Try to exclude the type of food you suspect may be causing the trouble. Also, consider the situation at your meals. Is it calm or stressful? Try to relax, eat slowly and chew properly.
- You may get stomach upset by some medicines. Talk to your doctor if you think your inconvenience is caused by a drug.
- Reduce the stress of your life. Think about your life situation. Maybe your stomach aches from stress and worry? Try to find out what makes you feel anxious and stressed. Maybe it is possible to change something that reduces stress? It can be about lowering the demands on yourself, slowing down the pace of everyday life or reducing the interaction with people who affect how you feel in a negative way.
- Relax. Try soothing activities like mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises or a leisurely stroll.
When and where should I seek care?
The vast majority of people who get stomach aches do not need to seek care. The trouble usually goes by itself.
Contact a health care center if you have recurrent or prolonged discomfort. You can contact many receptions by logging in.
If you have one or more of the following problems, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic as soon as possible:
- You suddenly get a lot of stomach aches.
- You vomit and the stomach contents look like coffee grounds or contain blood.
- You have black or bloody stools.
- You have a stomach ache.
If it is closed at the health center or on-call reception, seek care at an emergency room.
If it’s in a hurry
Call medical assistance if you have stomach aches and at the same time are dizzy, dull, faint or feel very ill.
Sudden pain in the stomach
Stomach illness, broken stomach ulcer or kidney stones can suddenly cause your stomach ache.
Most people get stomach sick once or more in their lives. When you are sick, you feel sick and have stomach pain. It is also common to vomit and to have diarrhea. You may also have fever and muscle aches. You often feel very bad for one or a few days.
Appendicitis usually starts with you feeling ill and having a poor appetite. You may have a feeling of discomfort and pain in the middle of the stomach and it feels tender around the navel. After a few hours, the hassles usually change. Then you get a lot of pain right in the lower abdomen instead. After a few days, you may have a fever.
So-called kidney stones can get stuck in the ureter and prevent the urine from flowing past. Then you can get intense pain in the side. The pains alternate between being strong and weak. Evil can also radiate to your back or groin. You can also feel a more dull, grinding pain in the side. Often you feel unwell and feel bloated in your stomach. Sometimes it hurts less when you move. Sometimes you can see little blood in the urine.
Gallstones cause intense and cutting pain under the ribs on the right side. The pain comes in intervals after eating, especially if you have eaten fatty foods. Sometimes the pain can radiate backward to the back and up to the right shoulder. It is also common to feel sick and vomit.
The gallbladder can also become inflamed. Then you often get a painful pain and it can feel tender if you touch the ribs on the right side. You can also get chills and fever.
Broken stomach ulcer
Gastric ulcer means that you have received a wound in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum. Sometimes a stomach ulcer can burst, although it is unusual. This means that the stomach ulcer goes right through the wall of the stomach or duodenum.
Then you suddenly get a lot of pain in the upper part of the stomach which becomes sore when touched. Evil is felt all the time and it is common to want to lie still. Sometimes the pain can radiate into the back.
A stomach ulcer can burst without you having any previous problems.
Inflammation of the pancreas
The pancreas sits far back in the stomach, in front of the spine. In the so-called acute inflammation of the pancreas, you may have a lot of pain high up in the middle of the stomach. Then the pain is often felt in the back between the shoulder blades. You may also have a fever.
The trouble can be mild but often it hurts so you get pale and cold sweaty. It is also common to feel sick and vomit and to get a swollen stomach in pancreatic inflammation.
Inflammation of the pancreas is also called pancreatitis.
When constipated you have difficulty in pooping, and the pooping can become hard and sluggish. In addition to hurting the stomach, you often feel bloated when constipated. You may also feel ill. Constipation can cause both sudden and prolonged problems.
There are two types of bowel movements. They are called intestinal obstructions and stagnant bowels.
Intestinal obstruction means that something prevents the intestinal contents from moving forward in the intestine. Then you get stomach upset. The pain increases and decreases at intervals as the intestine tries to push its contents past the obstacle. Then it is common to feel sick and vomit. The vomiting can sometimes resemble feces.
In the case of stagnant bowels, bowel movements have stopped. Then the stomach usually becomes inflamed and gas-filled, since neither gas nor feces are transported to the rectum.
Pulmonary artery hernia
Pulmonary artery hernia is also called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. You can have a hernia for a long time without having the trouble, but if the hernia breaks you often get suddenly very hurt.
The pain often sits on the left side of the stomach and radiates into the back. Due to the bleeding from the large body pulmonary artery, you are simultaneously in medical shock. Then you become pale, cold sweaty, get a high heart rate and may be faint.
A blood clot in the blood vessels of the intestines
A blood clot in the intestines produces severe pain that is felt throughout the stomach. You also feel nauseous, feel bloated and have diarrhea which can sometimes be bloody. Sometime before you get sick you may have had a little stomach ache, especially when you have eaten.
Stomach pain for a long time
For example, stomach pain that has been going on for a long time may be due to stress, gastric ulcer, dyspepsia or that you cannot tolerate a particular type of food. Longer time means several weeks.
You may get stomach pain from stress
It is common to have stomach problems if you feel stressed, have a difficult life situation or are going through a crisis.
Stress can cause stomach pain and even constipation or diarrhea. The trouble is usually due to the stress itself and not because there is something wrong with your stomach. Smoking, alcohol and some drugs can cause you more trouble.
Dyspepsia – sensitive stomach
Dyspepsia means you have a sensitive stomach. Often you have pain or feel discomfort at the top of your stomach as you eat. You may also feel a famine in the so-called stomach pit under the sternum.
It is also common to get measured quickly, feel bloated in the stomach, feel ill and have lighter heartburn or acid reflux. It is unusual for the trouble to be due to something serious.
In gastritis, the lining of the stomach is inflamed. The problems you experience in connection with gastritis are similar to those you have during gastric ulcer or dyspepsia. The pain is often sucking or grinding in the middle of the stomach or high up between the ribs. You also often feel unwell or have a burning sensation behind the sternum.
Gastric ulcer means that you have received a wound in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum.
The hassles can differ between people. For example, some get more trouble when eating, others less. But it is common for it to hurt at a certain location in the upper abdomen. It is also common to have pain during periods, such as having trouble for several weeks and being symptom-free in between. You can also feel ill and quickly get measured.
In the case of heartburn, gastric juice comes up in the esophagus. This is because the upper stomach mouth does not close really tightly but permits some gastric juice from the stomach up to the esophagus. You may get acid pulsations when you have heartburn. You may also have a burning sensation, pain behind the sternum or pain in the upper abdomen.
IBS – sensitive bowel
IBS means that you have various problems that have to do with the gastrointestinal tract. It is common to have a stomach ache and it goes over when you have poop. You may also have intermittent constipation and diarrhea. It is common to have too many gases. IBS is not serious but can feel very cumbersome.
Inflammatory bowel disease
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis belong to a group of diseases that are collectively called inflammatory bowel disease.
Common symptoms of these diseases are a pain in the stomach, diarrhea, blood in the stool, losing weight and feeling tired. Often, the trouble comes in the so-called forest. This means that you feel better during certain periods and then the hassles come back.
Inflammatory bowel pockets
It is common to get pain in the lower abdomen of inflamed bowel pockets, often on the left side. You may also have a fever, become stomach hard or have diarrhea. It is also common to feel bloated in the stomach.
You who have urinary tract infection may have a dull and grinding pain in your stomach. It often burns when you pee and you need to pee often. The urine can be darker than normal and sometimes it can smell bad. There may be some blood in the urine and you may feel a little frozen. You can get back pain, fever, chills and feel sick if the infection spreads to the kidneys.
You who have lactose intolerance have too little of the enzyme lactated. It is needed to break down milk sugar. In lactose intolerance, it is common to get gases in the stomach, diarrhea, stomach ache and swollen stomach after eating or drinking milk products.
Celia means you cannot tolerate the protein gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley. Symptoms of celiac disease are feeling tired, having diarrhea and having gases in the stomach, as well as losing weight. It is also common to have blisters in the mouth and pain in the skeleton. You can have celiac disease without knowing it.
The problems usually go away when you stop eating gluten-containing foods.
Celiac disease is also called gluten intolerance.
Both prescription and non-prescription drugs can cause stomach upset. This applies, for example, to anti-inflammatory painkillers, NSAIDs. Read more about the drugs in the text Medicines for prolonged pain.
Ask your doctor or staff at a pharmacy if your medication may cause your stomach ache.
You can get a stomach disease. Therefore, you should always seek care if you have stomach aches for a long time, especially if you are at the same time tired, have less appetite and lose weight.
Gynecological disorders that can cause stomach pain
Sometimes pain in the stomach can be due to gynecological disorders such as menstrual pain or endometriosis.
Menstrual pain can hurt the lower abdomen or back. You can also become dizzy and nauseous.
The most common thing is that it hurts someday before the period arrives. You may also get stomach upset when you ovulate, it usually occurs about mid-menstruation.
Endometriosis means that there is uterine mucosa outside the uterus. The uterine mucosa bleeds during menstruation and then causes inflammation.
It is common to get a lot of pain during menses if you have endometriosis. You may also be hurt at other times. It is common for the pain to sit like a band over the pelvis. It may feel like it is radiating into the lower back or down the legs. You can also get hurt when you have sex and when you pee or pee.
If you have fallopian tube inflammation, the fallopian tubes swell and hurt. Ovary inflammation is caused by an infection such as gonorrhea or chlamydia in one or both fallopian tubes.
You can have fallopian tube inflammation without any hassles, but it is common for you to have more fluids than usual, stomach ache or experiencing a feeling of weight in the genital area. You may also have a fever and feel tired.
Muscular nodules in the uterus
Knots can form in the uterine muscle tissue. These are also called myomas. You who have myoma often get large menstrual bleeding. It is also common to feel a weight in the abdomen and that it hurts a lot when you have menstruation.
Cervical cancer that has spread outside the uterus can hurt in a way reminiscent of menstrual pain.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often unclear. Diffuse stomach pain and a feeling of swelling in the stomach may be the first sign. Other symptoms may be that you need to urinate frequently, that it presses against the rectum, altered movements, a lump or tummy tuck, or that you feel very tired and lose a lot of weight.
Outpatient pregnancy means that you have had a pregnancy outside the uterus.
During pregnancy, it is common to have bleeding during the week of pregnancy five or six. At the same time, you also get a lot of stomach aches, often far down or on one side.
There may be greater bleeding in the stomach if the fallopian tube is broken. It is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. You get very hurt and at the same time, you become dizzy, cold sweat and feel dizzy.
Cysts on the ovaries
A cyst is a fluid-filled bladder. Ovarian cysts do not have to cause symptoms, but sometimes they can cause you stomach ache. You may be in pain all the time or when you exert yourself. The pain can also come suddenly.
During an investigation, it is important that you describe the problems as carefully as possible. This makes it easier for the doctor to find the cause of the trouble.
For example, you may be told:
- Be in the stomach you hurt, as accurately as possible.
- How the pain feels, please describe with words like grinding, stinging, aching, chopping or razor-sharp.
- If it hurts all the time or if you have pain in periods.
- If there is a relationship with something special that you eat, that you eat, that you do not eat, stress or medication.
- If there is something that makes the pain better or worse, such as food, movement or deep breathing.
- If you have other problems, such as nausea or acid reflux.
- How it started and if the trouble has gotten better or worse since then.
You who have menstruation may also answer questions about it, for example when you had menstruation most recently.
Examination of the stomach
The doctor examines you by feeling your stomach. It makes it easier if you try to be as relaxed as possible. It is also good to tell how it feels when the doctor squeezes in different places.
Sometimes the doctor knocks the abdomen with his fingers or listens to it with a stethoscope. The doctor also usually feels in the rectum with a finger after smearing the glove with some lubricant.
These examinations can sometimes be enough for the doctor to understand what the problems are, but often the doctor wants you to be examined more. You will then receive a referral to the survey or investigations.
You can submit samples. There is no single test that answers the problems, but the doctor may need several different tests. For example, you may have blood, urine or stool tests.
Gastroscopy, colonoscopy, and rectoscopy
In a gastroscopy or colonoscopy, a flexible instrument is used that is either inserted through the mouth and esophagus to the stomach and first part of the duodenum or through the rectum to the large intestine. The instrument transfers images from the intestine to a screen that the doctor can view.
Rectoscopy means that the doctor brings up a plastic tube that is about as thick as a thumb in the rectum. Through the plastic tube, the doctor can see changes in the mucosa of the rectum. The doctor can also take small tissue samples from the mucosa using a small forceps. The samples are then examined under a microscope.
The examination can be painful or uncomfortable at the moment the instrument is inserted, but if needed, you will receive relaxing and analgesic medication.
Ultrasound examination is usually used especially if the doctor suspects that you have kidney, gallbladder or liver problems.
X-ray and other imaging examinations
X-rays are often used to examine the stomach. Then contrast agents are often used. Sometimes you get to drink the contrast agent and sometimes the contrast agent is injected into the blood. You can also be examined with computer tomography or a magnetic camera.
Sometimes a gynecological examination is needed. Then a doctor or midwife examines the inner part of the cervix, uterine body, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Sometimes an ultrasound examination is also done at the same time.
Treatment of stomach pain
Treatment for stomach pain varies widely. It all depends on what caused the trouble. Sometimes you can treat yourself and sometimes you need medicine. You may also need surgery.
Treatment of stomach pain with drugs
In some conditions, non-prescription drugs can help. It could be, for example, if you have stomach problems that come up in the esophagus, IBS, sensitive bowel or menstrual pain. At a pharmacy, you can get advice on which prescription drugs can be good when you have stomach problems.
Sometimes you can get medicines prescribed by a doctor. For example, you may need antibiotics if you have fallopian tubes or urinary tract infections. You may need medicines for sluggish stomach or diarrhea if you have IBS, or medicines that have an antispasmodic and calming effect on the intestine.
For kidney stones or gallstones, you may need to take painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
In the case of inflammatory bowel disease, you are allowed to take medicines during periods of trouble. You may also receive cortisone or other anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and sometimes even drugs that inhibit cell division.
Sometimes you need to get fluid and nutrition directly through the blood for the gastrointestinal tract to rest for a while, for example, if you have inflammatory bowel pockets or inflammatory bowel disease.
Treatment of stomach pain by surgery
Sometimes you may need surgery. This applies, for example, if treatment with drugs or changing the diet has not helped in, for example, kidney stones, gallstones, inflammatory bowel disease, inflamed bowel pockets, or uterine muscle nodules.
Stomach cancer can also be treated with surgery or anti-cellulite drugs, called cytostatic drugs. Cancer can also be treated with a combination of these.
You may also need to be operated on quickly, for example, if you have appendicitis, broken ulcer, ectopic pregnancy, intestinal obstruction, blood clot in the blood vessels of the intestines or a major pulmonary artery hernia.