You’ve always been told that you look most attractive when you smile. A pleasant facial expression is vital for inviting conversation. And here you are, trying to have fun, trying to be social and you look….totally miserable. Why? Your stomach hurts. Nothing puts a damper on a good time quite like a sharp pain in your lower abdomen. If you find abdominal pain becoming a little too familiar, you shouldn’t have to suffer. The first step to doing away with your problem is by finding out what’s behind it. Here are a few possibilities.
The most common cause of lower abdominal pain is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) However, it is the tendency to characterize all abdominal pain as IBS which increases the likelihood of misdiagnosis. Dr John O’ Malley explains that “what’s increasingly diagnosed nowadays is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which can result in symptoms such as bloody diarrhea. There is also irritable bowel syndrome with constipation which can see symptoms of both diarrhea and constipation.” To help determine the cause of your pain, locate your bowel by placing your hands above your hips. O’ Malley explains,”Pain on the left might indicate large bowel problems while pain on the right could suggest issues in or around the intestine.”
Bloating can occur when spasms cause the air in the bowel to expand. O’ Malley says this, “normally causes mild pain, while intense pain could be a result of colonic spasm and even appendicitis when acute.” Although many people try to manage bloating by cutting certain foods from their diets, O’ Malley advises against this. “You should never cut out major food groups without seeking a dietician’s advice. For example. if you have celiac disease, you might have difficulty absorbing calcium, which could result in osteoporosis, so it’s important to cut out food as and when necessary, with medical assistance.”
Period pain occurs when the muscular wall of the womb tightens. It can be triggered by underlying medical conditions, such as fibroids, endometriosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Professor Claudia Estcourt advises monitoring any changes in period pain, which might be an indication of something more serious taking place. She says, “The key thing when assessing pain related to the reproductive system…is to keep tabs on any changes. For example, if you’ve never had period pain and suddenly find your periods are uncomfortable and result in an uncharacteristic pain over several months or cycles, it’s a good idea to take action. Symptoms to look out for include feeling sick, experiencing constipation and diarrhea, weight loss, unusual pain during menstruation, and bleeding during or after sex. Vaginal discharge may be an indicator of something more serious, as can severe pain in the ovaries, or pain which makes penetrative sex inordinately uncomfortable.
Sharp, dull, or constant pain may be an indication of a possible infection in the fallopian tubes or uterus. Estcort says, “Pain during sexual intercourse can occur when the uterus or ovaries are inflamed and can cause pain when the penis hits the cervix.” She advises women having pain or experiencing bleeding during and after sex to visit their GP for an STI screen to “rule out any infections that might give rise, if left untreated, to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancies, and longer term lower abdominal pain.”
UTIs, such as cystitis, are characterized by a burning sensation when urinating or the feeling of urgency when needing to urinate. According to Mary Garthwaite, Consultant Urological Surgeon at James Cook University Hospital, most common factors for cystitis include hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, sexual activity, bowel issues, and fatigue. Pain from cystitis occurs low in the middle of the stomach, below the pubic bone. The bladder can be located by pressing on the middle of the bikini line. Garthwaite says, “If it’s a severe infection, you might get loin pain which can go of to one side and around to your lower back and you may feel as if your kidneys are aching. If you feel as if you may be in the early stages of bladder infection, increase your water intake to dilute the urine and flush out the bacteria clinging to the bladder wall. If symptoms worsen, speak to a pharmacist. Another symptom worthy of a doctor’s attention is the appearance of bright red blood in your urine which may be caused by inflammation from bacteria clinging to the bladder lining.
If you are suffering from chronic pain below the belly button, we hope this has been helpful. Let us know about your experiences and the preventative actions you took.