What is a stomach ache?

Often, pain or discomfort anywhere in the abdomen is described as a stomach ache, although the stomach may not actually be the source of the pain. Stomach aches are often caused by conditions of the digestive tract, but can also be caused by conditions of the body wall, blood vessels, urinary tract, reproductive organs, or organs of the chest.

Localized pain may be due to the organs near the site of the pain, such as the gallbladder or stomach in the upper abdomen or the appendix in the lower abdomen. Generalized stomach aches may be associated with diet, inflammation, or infection. Obstruction occurring anywhere along the intestinal tract can manifest as stomach ache. Menstrual cramps, endometriosis (in which tissues resembling the uterine lining grow in other areas of the body), and pelvic inflammatory disease are known to cause generalized stomach aches or lower abdominal pain in women.

Pain originating in the stomach can be due to heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), hiatal hernias (weakening in the diaphragm that allows the stomach to protrude into the chest), gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), or peptic ulcers. Symptoms may be brought on by certain foods and may worsen when lying flat. Pain from gas, abdominal cramps, or bloating may arise from the intestines, and can also be related to food intake or may be related to intestinal infection or inflammation.

Pain associated with shingles, a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, may be attributed to stomach problems until the characteristic blistering rash becomes apparent. Abdominal trauma, poisoning, heart attack, lung problems, conditions of the reproductive organs, and stones or infections of the urinary tract can also cause symptoms that are perceived as stomach problems.

Stomach aches that are severe or that do not improve within a day or two can be symptoms of serious medical conditions. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe pain that comes on suddenly, an inability to have bowel movements, bloody stool, vomiting blood, abdominal rigidity, breathing difficulties, or pain in the neck, chest, shoulders, or between the shoulders. You should also seek immediate care if you have a severe stomach ache and have cancer or might be pregnant.

If your stomach ache is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.


What other symptoms might occur with a stomach ache?

A stomach ache may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Stomach aches are often related to the digestive system, but may also be related to other body systems.

Digestive tract symptoms that may occur along with a stomach ache

Stomach aches may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive system including: Read more about stomach achesymptoms


What causes a stomach ache?

Stomach aches often originate in the digestive tract, although they can also be due to disorders of the circulatory system, urinary tract, reproductive system, respiratory system, or body wall.

Digestive tract causes of a stomach ache

A stomach ache may be caused by conditions of the digestive tract including:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: May 7, 2014 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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