Abdominal pain is essentially defined as a sensation of discomfort, distress or agony in the abdominal region, generally associated with functional disorders, tissue injuries and diseases.
The abdomen is an anatomical area, bounded by the lower margin of the ribs above, the pelvic bone (pubic ramus) below and the flanks on each side.
The term ‘abdominal pain’ is also generally used to refer to the pain that originates from organs within the abdominal cavity (from beneath skin and muscles), including the stomach, small intestine, colon, liver gallbladder and pancreas.
A pain in abdomen is termed as ‘chronic abdominal pain’ if it lasts for more than 6 months.
Subcategories of Pain
Pain in the abdomen can be further classified in to various subcategories, including:
Acute abdominal pain
Chronic Abdominal Pain in children
Chronic abdominal pain in children is defined as a pain of more than two weeks duration. The pain might be persistent or recurrent and the intensity varies with age, gender, genetic predisposition, nutritional exposure and many environmental factors.
This type of pain is a common pediatric problem encountered by primary care physicians, medical subspecialists and surgical specialists. According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, this syndrome causes a vast number of children to miss more schooldays, suffer social withdrawal and feel anxious and depressed about their condition.
Especially in children, there are a series of warning signs to look for. Immediate medical intervention should be sought if any of the below seem to exist:
Severe abdominal pain that wakes up the child at night
Having bloody stools or vomiting blood
A series of symptoms indicate that the abdominal pain is chronic in nature. Here we list the few main symptoms of chronic abdominal pain:
Pain that becomes worse with eating
Pressure in the abdomen when you lie down at night
Pain relief after having antacids
Sharp pangs of pain brought on by greasy or fatty foods
Repetitive and alternate episodes of loose and hard bowel movements
Diarrhea-like bowel movements mixed with mucus and blood
Recurrent bouts of pain with fever
Loss of appetite
Chronic abdominal pain is most commonly caused by a series of gastrointestinal causes. Here we list a few main ones amongst these causes:
Loss of appetite
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Irritable bowel syndrome
Inflammatory bowel disease
However, chronic abdominal pain also might be the result of certain uncommon and rare causes, often difficult to diagnose. These include:
Abdominal wall pain
Fibromyalgia (Myofacial Pain Syndrome)
Painful rib syndrome
Thoracic disk herniation
Spinal-muscle or vertebral-body disorder
The aim of a treatment plan for chronic abdominal pain is to help gain control over the symptoms and improve daily life efficiency. Various forms of treatment adopted include:
Medications (painkillers and antidepressants)