Abdominal pain

There are a number of organs in your abdomen, such as the small intestine, the kidneys and the stomach – so there are many potential causes of belly pain. If your pain is new, severe or accompanied by nausea, vomiting and fever, it’s time for you to seek medical advice.

Woman on couch looking at tablet screen

How to know if your abdominal pain is serious

Any abdominal pain could be serious, as the underlying cause may need immediate care. You should seek emergency care if your abdominal pain:

  • Comes on suddenly and is severe, especially in the lower right side.
  • Comes on suddenly in the lower abdomen on either side, and you’re a woman.
  • Gets increasingly worse in a short time.

Pain is pain, but if you also have any of these symptoms, you should seek urgent care:

  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Black or bloody stools.
  • Constipation in spite of urge.
  • Diarrhea or loose, watery stool.
  • Fever.
  • Gas and bloating, or the inability to pass gas.
  • Nausea, vomiting.
  • Radiating or pulsing sensation near the navel.
  • Rash.
  • Severe pain after eating a fatty meal.
  • Weight loss.

Relieving abdominal pain

For mild discomfort

If your abdominal discomfort is not severe and you want to try to relieve it yourself, you can try over the counter (OTC) medicines. These may work if you simply have indigestion, heart burn, an upset stomach or mild food poisoning.

You might find some relief from a heating pad or hot bath, and you can try a dietary remedy, like:

  • Baking soda in small amounts.
  • BRAT diet. Eat only bananas, rice, applesauce and toast for a day or two.
  • Cinnamon, cloves, cumin, honey, mint.
  • Chamomile tea.
  • Water.

You certainly shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol, and avoid fatty foods.

When stomach pain is worse at night

This is typically due to a digestive issue like acid reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or eating too soon before lying down. It might be due to gallstones, or stomach or intestinal ulcers.

If nighttime pain is accompanied by any of the serious symptoms listed above, you should seek urgent care.

Pay attention to persistent pain.

If the pain keeps occurring over several days, visit your primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic.


MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Abdominal pain (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003120.htm)

National Library of Medicine. Abdominal pain (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK412/)