Stomach Cramps and Abdominal Pains: What Could It Be?

August 28, 2013
by Michael Barber
Stomach Cramps and Abdominal Pains: What Could It Be?

Pain in the abdomen or stomach cramps could be a sign of everything from appendicitis to gas to kidney stones. Many people diagnose abdominal pains on their own and then treat them with over the counter (OTC) medications when in fact, the pain could be something that requires medical attention at a walk-in clinic.

Gas or Indigestion

WedMD explains that gas and gallstones can cause pain in the abdomen and usually occurs after eating. It can also be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The pain may increase when lying down. Mild gas and indigestion are easily treated with OTC antacid medications but if other symptoms are present, you may need to seek urgent care. These include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bloated feeling not relieved by antacids
  • Growling tummy
  • Belching not cured by antacids or OTC gas medications
  • Burning in the upper abdomen or stomach
  • Intense abdominal pain


Appendicitis can happen in people of all ages from the very young to the very old. If misdiagnosed at home, the appendix may burst causing severe medical problems like internal viruses that are hard to treat. In addition, the location of the abdominal pain may vary based on the age of the person. Seek immediate medical care if pain also includes:

  • An aching type of pain that starts around your belly button and then shifts to your lower right abdomen
  • Abdominal tenderness upon touching
  • Sharp pain that increases over time
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Low-grade fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea or abdominal swelling
  • Constipation or inability to pass gas
  • Swelling in the abdominal region

Food Poisoning

WedMD says there are over 250 types of food that can cause food poisoning if not cooked or stored properly and then eaten. Seek immediate care from a physician if you experience the following symptoms along with abdominal pain:

  • Diarrhea not relieved by OTC medications or bloody diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe cramping
  • Fever

Kidney Stones

Small kidney stones may pass on their own, but many do not and require urgent care and medical instructions such as increased water intake or other prescription medications. Along with abdominal pain, kidney stone symptoms include:

  • Pain that moves from the abdomen to the lower sides and back
  • Groin pain
  • Pain that comes and goes and fluctuates in intensity
  • Pain when urinating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cloudy urine
  • Fever or chills
  • Red, pink or brown urine


Many people develop gallstones and have no symptoms. On the other hand, others may suffer from a variety of symptoms. When abdominal pain is severe, people should seek immediate care so a CAT scan or sonogram can be performed to assess the size of the stone. Some common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen and back that continues for several hours
  • Some patients will have pain under the ribs and above the abdomen
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Low-grade fever
  • Bloating, heartburn, indigestion or gas
  • Weakness or tiredness

Abdominal pain that hasn't been doctor-diagnosed or isn't eased by OTC medications recommended by your physician may be a sign of a medical condition that requires urgent care. Instead of waiting to see if the symptoms subside, it's often best to seek out emergency care to ensure you aren't suffering from one of the above conditions.