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Lower Abdominal Pain and Cramps

Lower Abdominal Pain and Cramps

This article will tell you everything that you need to know about lower abdominal pain and cramps - its causes, accompanying symptoms, and treatment options.
Reshma Jirage
Last Updated: Apr 20, 2018
Abdominal pain is a common condition that people suffer from on many occasions in their lives. Although the related reason for this condition might vary from person to person, most of the causes that lead to abdominal pain are not very serious in nature, and the issue can be easily diagnosed and treated accordingly. Nevertheless, there is also the possibility that the pain which is felt in the lower abdomen can sometimes be an indication of a serious malady, and that is why it is important that it isn't ignored, and treated on time.

Pain and cramps experienced in the lower abdominal region can be defined as a kind of discomfort felt just below the umbilicus or near the belly button area. Such a pain can be associated with various organs, like the aorta, spleen, appendix, kidneys, and the uterus (in case of women). Apart from these, other organs that help in digestion, such as the stomach, liver, small and large intestines, pancreas and gallbladder, may also be linked to cramps and pain in the abdominal region. In women, lower abdominal pain is more common due to ovaries-related troubles.
Main Causes Leading to Abdominal Pain

Lower Abdominal Pain on the Right Side

Appendicitis - Inflammation of the vermiform appendix

Cholecystitis - Gallbladder inflammation and swelling

Diverticulitis - Inflammation of a diverticulum in the digestive tract

Ectopic Pregnancy - Development of the fetus outside the uterus, mainly in the Fallopian tube

Endometriosis - Presence of a tissue-like substance similar to the lining of the uterus, in other parts of the body

Inguinal Hernia - A loop of intestine entering the inguinal canal through a weak spot in the abdominal wall

Injury - Any kind of trauma to the abdomen due to a violent act, accident, or fracture

Intestinal Obstruction - The contents of the intestine that pass to the lower bowel are blocked

Kidney Infections - A particular type of UTI which starts in the bladder or urethra and goes up to the kidneys

Kidney Stones - Crystallized stones of excessive urea and calcium formed in the kidneys

Mittelschmerz - A German name and a medical term for mid-cycle pain or ovulation pain

Ovarian Cysts - A sac-like (cyst) tumor of the ovary which is generally benign

Salpingitis - Inflamed Fallopian tubes

Seminal Vesiculitis - Inflammation of the small bladder or sac (seminal vesicle) containing liquid

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm - A sac-like widening of the aorta (aneurysm) which presents itself mainly in the thorax

Testicular Torsion - Twisting of the spermatic cord that supplies blood to the testicles

Uterine Fibroids - Benign tumor/growth of the muscle tissues in the uterus

Sickle Cell Anemia - A hereditary condition leading to crescent-shaped, stiff and sticky red blood cells

Pyelonephritis - A bacterial infection that results in the inflammation of the kidneys (kidney infection)

Psoas Abscess - A pus-filled abscess in the psoas muscle (abdomen and pelvis muscle), common in people diagnosed with lumbar tuberculosis

Tubo-ovarian Abscess - An inflammation and abscess of the Fallopian tube and ovary

Viral Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) - The gastrointestinal tract of the intestine is inflamed because of a virus, along with vomiting and abdominal cramps

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - Microorganisms like gonococci and chlamydia, cause an infection in the female reproductive tract (mainly the Fallopian tubes)

Mesenteric Lymphadenitis - Swollen and inflamed lymph nodes (especially in children)
Lower Abdominal Pain on the Left Side

Crohn's Disease - Chronic inflammation of the small intestine

Ulcerative Colitis - A severe, chronic and acute inflammatory disorder of the rectum and large intestine, marked by recurrent abdominal pain

Rectus Sheath Hematoma (RSH) - Collection of blood in the sheath of the rectus abdominis muscle

Pancreatitis - Pancreatic inflammation and swelling, characterized by abdominal pain

Gallstone - A hard lump-like stone formed in the gallbladder or the biliary tract

Colon Cancer - A malignant cancerous tumor of the colon, resulting in bloody stools

Cystitis - Inflamed urinary bladder and ureters

Menstrual Cramps - A painful muscular contraction during menses

Sigmoid Volvulus - A kind of colonic volvulus which has a twisted extended section of sigmoid colon at its peritoneum fold, i.e. mesenteric axis (common in elders)

Uterine Disorders - Every disorder involving the uterus, like urinary tract infection (UTI), inflammation of the urinary bladder, etc.

Stomach Cancer - A tumorous and malignant growth in the abdomen due to abnormal cell division, which spreads to other parts of the body either through the blood stream or the lymphatic system

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm - A cardiovascular disease of the abdominal aorta related to hypertension or old age

Bowel Cancer - Also known as colorectal cancer, this is a tumorous growth due to uncontrollable cell division in the rectum, appendix or colon

Apart from the aforementioned conditions, there are a few other conditions which are the same as the ones that cause cramps and pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, like pelvic inflammatory disease, diverticulitis, hernia, endometriosis, appendicitis, kidney stones, ectopic pregnancy, irritable bowel syndrome, food poisoning, etc.
Other Causes

Trapped Wind - An excessive amount of air or gas accumulated in the gut leading to abdominal pain and bloating

Diarrhea - Passing of frequent and watery feces due to food poisoning or colitis

Peptic Ulcer - A wound in the lining of the digestive tract

Heartburn - Burning sensation and discomfort due to acid reflux

Strenuous Physical Exercise - Straining the body due to heavy workouts, resulting in cramping of the stomach muscles

Intestinal Gas - Use of antibiotics, artificial food flavors, excess intake of proteins, and a few medical conditions like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, etc., might lead to intestinal gas

Prostatitis - Inflamed prostate gland causing abdominal pain and irregular urination

Symptoms that Accompany Stomach Pain

A few other symptoms that may sometimes accompany cramping and the pain are:

» Loss of appetite
» Weight loss
» Fatigue
» Ataxia
» Vomiting
» Fecal incontinence
» Weakness
» Heaviness within the pelvis
» Tenderness in the lower abdomen

Diagnostic Options

As the causes for this particular condition are way too many, various types of tests are suggested in order to detect the exact cause.

The diagnostic tests include:

» Laparoscopy
» Abdominal X-ray
» Abdominal CT scan
» Abdominal ultrasound
» Culture and sensitivity testing (for infection)
» MRI scan
» Blood test (full blood count)
» Urinalysis
» Colonoscopy or endoscopy
» Tomography of the abdomen/pelvis

Treatment Alternatives

Stomach cramps which seem to be mild and are not accompanied by any other symptoms, usually resolve on their own. However, the treatment for this condition depends on the exact underlying cause and diagnosis. Mild cramps and pain can be cured by taking the help of certain home remedies, and there are also a few over-the-counter medicines and antibiotics available. Nevertheless, do consult your doctor and let him find out the actual reason for the pain, and accordingly prescribe medication. If a serious medical condition is identified as the underlying cause, surgical treatment might be needed. For example, an acute jabbing pain might be an indication of a serious condition, like appendicitis.

Few Dos and Don'ts

✔ Adequate intake of water and other fluids
✘ Avoid eating any solid food while you experience pain and cramps
✔ Consumption of foods such as bananas, rice, plain crackers or applesauce, is advised
✔ Try going for a walk, as it might ease the discomfort a little
✔ Deep breathing exercises have proved to be very effective and will also help you relax
✘ Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, or any other aerated drink
✘ Do not indulge in any abdominal exercises which involve stretching of the stomach muscles
✔ Practicing yoga might help in easing the cramps
✔ Herbal teas like chamomile, fennel or peppermint, are very helpful
✔ Over-the-counter antacids like Pepto-Bismol, Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, etc., may prove beneficial in case of an upset stomach

Some other treatment options are physical therapy, massage, heat therapy, nerve blocks, muscle relaxants, and other relaxation techniques. In some cases, lower abdominal pain and cramps are associated with psychological or social problems, such as depression, personality disorders, troubled relationships, sexual abuse, or a family crisis. In such situations, you can take the help of counseling to cope with these problems and relieve pelvic pain. Taking adequate rest and applying heat to the affected area of the abdomen using a hot water bottle usually does the trick and relieves lower abdominal cramping during menstruation.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by a medical professional.