The Difference Between a Bellyache and Abdominal Pain

“My tummy hurts” is probably one of the most frequent complaints parents will hear once their kiddos figure out how to string a few words together. And those bellyaches tend to follow us throughout all the stages and phases of life.

Most bellyaches are temporary and may be due to overindulgence in a favorite food, a simple flu bug, or another issue that resolves quickly. Some conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may become chronic (long-term) and require changes in your diet. And a few problems that cause pain, such as pancreatitis or appendicitis, require urgent medical attention. 

It’s also possible that the abdominal pain you’re experiencing isn’t coming from your gut at all. Kidney stones, for instance, can cause pain that travels from your lower back or side to your abdomen.

Because abdominal pain can arise from so many sources, identifying the location and nature of your pain often helps Dr. Pothuri narrow down the underlying cause of your discomfort.

Regardless of what’s causing it, however, when your belly pain doesn’t resolve quickly, resolves and then returns, or is severe enough to wake you from sleep, it’s time to visit GastroDoxs.

What are the characteristics of a bellyache?

Dull, aching discomfort, cramping, and nausea are often used to describe what doctors refer to as stomachaches, tummy aches, or bellyaches. These symptoms typically start gradually and may be accompanied by gas, bloating, or diarrhea. They may be significant enough to make you want to lie down or just cause a general unease that has you rubbing your belly now and then.

What causes bellyaches?

Numerous issues can cause a bellyache. Trapped gas is often the culprit when you have cramping pain and a bloated sensation shortly after eating. This is often relieved with a bowel movement or when you pass gas.

It’s important to note that gas can cause significant pain, enough that some patients believe they may be having a heart attack. Never hesitate to immediately seek emergency medical care for pain that makes you think “heart attack.”   

Stomach cramps with diarrhea and nausea are often due to gastroenteritis, a viral illness commonly referred to as the stomach flu. The virus can be transferred via close contact with someone who is sick or by eating contaminated food. The symptoms tend to start mild, worsen or peak, and then gradually recede over a day or two.

What other conditions cause bellyaches and abdominal pain?

IBS also causes the dull aching, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea associated with bellyaches, but it’s a chronic condition that can linger for days and weeks or return repeatedly. At GastroDoxs, we partner with you to develop a treatment strategy that relieves your symptoms and helps prevent IBS from interfering with your life.

Other conditions that can lead to stomach discomfort include:

When should I see a doctor for abdominal pain?

We encourage our patients to come in for a visit any time they’re experiencing abdominal discomfort they find worrisome. There’s really no reason to suffer in silence when we can provide treatment that eases your symptoms and addresses the underlying cause.

Abdominal pain that typically requires urgent care includes:

If you’re experiencing belly pain that’s not an emergency, give GastroDoxs a call today to schedule an appointment, or you can click the button to book your visit online.


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