Abdominal pain – what are the signs, symptoms, cause and treatments of a stomach ache

A stomach ache is a term often used to refer to cramps or a dull ache in the tummy (abdomen). It’s usually short-lived and is often not serious.

Stomach ache and abdominal pain - your guide
Stomach ache and abdominal pain – your guide

Severe abdominal pain is a greater cause for concern. If it starts suddenly and unexpectedly, it should be regarded as a medical emergency, especially if the pain is concentrated in a particular area.

Call your GP as soon as possible or go to your nearest hospital accident and emergency (A&E) department if this is the case.

If you feel pain in the area around your ribs, read about chest pain for information and advice.

Stomach cramps with bloating

Stomach cramps with bloating are often caused by trapped wind. This is a very common problem that can be embarrassing, but is easily dealt with. Your chemist will be able to recommend a product which can be bought over the counter to treat the problem.

Sudden stomach cramps with diarrhoea

If your stomach cramps have started recently and you also have diarrhoea, the cause may be a tummy bug (gastroenteritis). This means you have a viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and bowel, which should get better without treatment after a few days.

Gastroenteritis may be caused by coming into close contact with someone who’s infected, or by eating contaminated food (food poisoning).

If you have repeated bouts of stomach cramps and diarrhoea, you may have a long-term condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Sudden severe abdominal pain

If you have sudden agonising pain in a particular area of your tummy, call your GP immediately or go to your nearest A&E department. It may be a sign of a serious problem that could rapidly get worse without treatment.

Serious causes of sudden severe abdominal pain include:

appendicitis – the swelling of the appendix (a finger-like pouch connected to the large intestine), which causes agonising pain in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen, and means your appendix will need to be removed
a bleeding or perforated stomach ulcer – a bleeding, open sore in the lining of your stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine)
acute cholecystitis – inflammation of the gallbladder, which is often caused by gallstones; in many cases, your gallbladder will need to be removed
kidney stones – small stones may be passed out in your urine, but larger stones may block the kidney tubes, and you’ll need to go to hospital to have them broken up
diverticulitis – inflammation of the small pouches in the bowel that sometimes requires treatment with antibiotics in hospital

If your GP suspects you have one of these conditions, they may refer you to hospital immediately.

Sudden and severe pain in your abdomen can also sometimes be caused by an infection of the stomach and bowel (gastroenteritis). It may also be caused by a pulled muscle in your abdomen or by an injury.

Long-term or recurring abdominal pain

See your GP if you or your child have persistent or repeated abdominal pain. The cause is often not serious and can be managed.

Possible causes in adults include:

irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a common condition that causes bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation; the pain is often relieved when you go to the toilet
inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the gut, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
a urinary tract infection that keeps returning – in these cases, you will usually also experience a burning sensation when you urinate
period pain – painful muscle cramps in women that are linked to the menstrual cycle
other stomach-related problems – such as a stomach ulcer, heartburn and acid reflux, or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining)

Possible causes in children include:

a urinary tract infection that keeps returning
heartburn and acid reflux
abdominal migraines – recurrent episodes of abdominal pain with no identifiable cause


[Original article on NHS Choices website]

Diverticulitis – what it is, why it happens and how to treat it!


Many years ago I shared an office with a guy who suffered from Diverticulitis.  Most of the time he was fine but during a flare up he would often, in mid conversation, leave our office and make a run for the bathroom.  He could be there for, literally, hours.

He mentioned after the first episode that he had Diverticulitis and it being England no one enquired further.

It was only later when I started working in the healthcare branch of the market research industry that I found out more and realised how difficult life must have been for Edward.

So what actually is Diverticulitis?

Well actually it is a bit of a long story.    As you may know there are bulges which may appear in the colon (large intestine) which are called Diverticula.  These are very common and are normally related to the body’s aging process.   Indeed they are also associated with the passing of hard stools.  When you have Diverticula and no other symptoms it is called diverticulosis.

Diverticulitis is when symptoms do occur – which happens in around 25% of cases of people with Diverticula.  These can include:-

  • Constipation or diarrhoea.  Or indeed both in succession.
  • A bloated feeling
  • Bleeding from the back passage or bottom.
  • Stomach pain.
  • In some cases Diverticulitis can be associated with a fever.

Obviously if you have any concerns about Diverticulitis we would strongly suggest you contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible.  In fact the sooner Diverticulitis is treated then the lower the risk of any complications developing.

Treatments are pretty much as you might expect.  A high fibre diet is recommended.  This would include plenty of fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains and pulses such as lentils and beans.  But go easy to start with on such a diet as you run an increased risk of flatulence.  If you do develop flatulence (or high levels of gas in the bowels) then this blog on prevention may be of interest and value – http://patienttalk.org/flatulence-three-natural-ways-of-fighting-flatulence/.


Antibiotics are valuable as a way of eliminating infection from Diverticulitis.  In some very rare occasions surgery may be employed if symptoms are serious enough.

As regular readers of this blog will know, one of the aims of these kinds of posts is to get our readers to share their experiences of different medical conditions. So we were wondering if people who have had or still have Diverticulitis would be interested in sharing their stories with our readers.  It would be great if you would use the comments box below to do so.

It would be useful, but not essential, if you could think in terms of the following questions:-

1)   What were your first symptoms of Diverticulitis?

2)   What impact did it have on your lifestyle?

3)   How was the Diverticulitis treated and how successful were the treatments?

4)   What one piece of advice would you give to somebody who has just been diagnosed with Diverticulitis?

We really look forward to reading your comments.  Many thanks in advance.