Skip to Content

Chronic Abdominal Pain

AMBULATORY CARE:

Chronic abdominal pain

lasts longer than 3 months.

Abdominal Organs

Signs and symptoms of chronic abdominal pain

will come and go. You may feel pain in all areas of your abdomen, or just in 1 place. You may not want to eat. You may not want to do your daily activities. You may also have any of the following:

  • Cramping
  • Acid reflux
  • Bloating and gas
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss without trying

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your abdominal pain gets worse, and spreads to your back.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You have blood or mucus in your bowel movement.
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have diarrhea for more than 1 week.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.
  • Your abdomen is larger than usual, more painful, and hard.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have new symptoms.
  • You lose weight without trying.
  • Your pain prevents you from doing your daily activities.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment:

Healthcare providers may not find a medical problem that is causing your abdominal pain. You may need any of the following if a cause is found:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Medicines may be given to manage symptoms such as vomiting or constipation. Medicines may also be used to help manage a cause of your pain, such as anxiety.
  • Therapy can help you learn to cope with stress and anxiety. This may help decrease your abdominal pain.
  • Surgery is rarely needed, but may be done if there is a problem with an organ in your abdomen. Examples include an organ that is stuck to tissue or a hernia.

Self-care:

  • Apply heat on your abdomen for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Make changes to the food you eat, if needed. Do not eat foods that cause abdominal pain or other symptoms. Eat small meals more often. The following changes may also help:
    • Eat more high-fiber foods if you are constipated. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, and legumes.

    • Do not eat foods that cause gas if you have bloating. Examples include broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Do not drink soda or carbonated drinks, because these may also cause gas.
    • Do not eat foods or drinks that contain sorbitol or fructose if you have diarrhea and bloating. Some examples are fruit juices, candy, jelly, and sugar-free gum.
    • Do not eat high-fat foods. Examples include fried foods, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and desserts.
    • Limit or do not have caffeine. Caffeine may make symptoms, such as heart burn or nausea, worse.
    • Drink more liquids to prevent dehydration from diarrhea or vomiting. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Keep a diary of your abdominal pain. A diary may help your healthcare provider learn what is causing your abdominal pain. Include when the pain happens, how long it lasts, and what the pain feels like. Write down any other symptoms you have with abdominal pain. Also write down what you eat, and what symptoms you have after you eat.
  • Manage your stress. Stress may cause abdominal pain. Your healthcare provider may recommend relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercises to help decrease your stress. Your healthcare provider may recommend you talk to someone about your stress or anxiety, such as a counselor or a trusted friend. Get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly.
    Hispanic Family Walking for Exercise
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can make your abdominal pain worse. Ask your healthcare provider if it is okay for you to drink alcohol. Also ask how much is safe for you to drink. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, ½ ounces of liquor, or 5 ounces of wine.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes can damage your esophagus and stomach. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

You may need more tests. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.