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When Should You Be Concerned About Abdominal Pain?

Abdominal pain is common, and everyone experiences it at times.  In fact, it is the most common reason people are evaluated in most emergency rooms.  While most abdominal pain resolves on its own, it can represent something serious or even deadly.  

So, how can one know when to be concerned?  Below are some characteristics that can help a person decide when evaluation is necessary.

Nature of the pain

Certain features of the abdominal pain increase the likelihood that it represents something serious.  The presence of any of the following should raise concern.

  1. Sudden onset of pain
  2. Pain that persists beyond an hour or two
  3. Severe pain
  4. Pain in only one part of the abdomen, rather than throughout the entire abdomen
  5. Pain that is also felt in other areas, such as the chest or testicles
  6. Pain that is worse when pressing against the abdomen or with movement

Associated symptoms

Abdominal pain is often accompanied by other symptoms that can indicate a more serious condition such as:

  1. Fever
  2. Persistent vomiting
  3. Vomiting blood
  4. Persistent diarrhea
  5. Blood in the stool
  6. Yellowing of the skin
  7. Abdominal bloating

High risk groups

Certain groups of people are more likely to have a serious condition when they experience abdominal pain, including:

  1. Pregnant women
  2. Infants and children below age 5
  3. Patients older than 65
  4. Patients who have had prior surgeries on their abdomen
  5. Patients with numerous other medical problems

Even for physicians, determining which abdominal pain is serious can be a real challenge.  Therefore, while the above pointers are helpful, and should prompt evaluation by your doctor or at an emergency department (most abdominal pain cannot be evaluated effectively in an urgent care), any time you have any symptoms that concern you, you should see a doctor right away.  

CapRock is expert with the diagnosis and treatment of abdominal pain and our emergency rooms are open 24-7 where you can be seen immediately.

Is this pain something to worry about? 

You may be reclining in your chair or sofa when you start to feel a cramping in your abdominal area. The cramping may become so severe that it transitions into actual pain. You may feel nauseous or sweaty. However, you may not be able to tell if the pain is due to gas, something you ate, or for the women, if it’s the start of a menstrual cycle. While it can be easy to write off stomach pain as something else, there are times when the pain could be a sign of a larger problem. To determine if you need to call your doctor or head to the ER, consider some of these signs that could indicate a severe problem. 

What kind of pain?

Sometimes you can tell if the symptoms suggest something more problematic based on the kind of pain that you’re experiencing. For example, if you consider the pain to be widespread, as in, the pain is felt across your abdomen and may extend to other parts of your torso, it could be a sign of indigestion or a stomach virus. However, pain that is localized in one area could be a sign of a more serious condition with your gallbladder or appendix.  If either of these organs rupture or are they have problems functioning, then the consequences could be very serious. Therefore, if your abdominal pain is consistent and localized, you will either want to schedule an appointment with your doctor if you think the pain is mild enough or visit the ER if the pain is intense. 

If the pain seems to be more similar to a cramping feeling, it may be harmless. This could be due to menstruation, indigestion, or any other benign problem. However, if the cramping becomes severe and lasts for more than 24 hours, it could be a sign of a larger problem. If the cramping pain is also associated with a fever, then it could be a problem with your kidneys or another organ. In this case, you should see your doctor or visit the emergency room as soon as you can to prevent further damage from occurring to your organs. 

One final aspect of pain to consider is a colicky kind of pain. This is pain that occurs in waves and could be a sign that something is obstructed. Your body may be experiencing kidney problems or gallstones. These can cause your body great harm if they’ve become large, so you should contact the emergency room.

Are there other symptoms?

To make that final decision as to whether you should be concerned about your abdominal pain, you should always be on the lookout for additional symptoms. If you notice any of the following symptoms along with your abdominal pain, then you should call your doctor or visit the emergency room.



To make that final decision as to whether you should be concerned about your abdominal pain, you should always be on the lookout for additional symptoms. If you notice any of the following symptoms along with your abdominal pain, then you should call your doctor or visit the emergency room.

Symptoms like vomiting blood, bloody or tarry stools, unable to pass stools but are vomiting, pain extending far beyond the abdominal area, pain is severe or sharp, experiencing shortness of breath, if you’re pregnant or have abdominal distension should all be taken seriously. 

Is it time to make the call?

If you notice any of those symptoms above or your abdominal pain is severe or lasting, then you should go straight to the emergency room or at least call your physician right away. Depending on the cause, the call could end up saving your life. At Caprock Health, we can help, please give us a call (979) 314-2323.