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Abdominal Pain

Pain Due to Inflammation, Scar Tissue, Cancer, or Obstruction of Organs in the Abdomen

Abdominal pain is a common reason for visits to the doctor. A wide range of problems starts in the abdomen, many of which require urgent care. Among the most common are gallstones, appendicitis, and acute (sudden-onset) pancreatitis. Acute conditions usually improve with treatment from a gastroenterologist or a surgeon.

Abdominal issues that outlast three months may become a source of chronic (long-lasting) pain and require treatment from a pain specialist. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBD), cancer, and chronic pancreatitis are some examples. Do not hesitate to visit a pain specialist if chronic abdominal pain interferes with your life. Prompt treatment reduces the risk of chronic pain syndromes that can cause great distress.

Abdominal pain facts and information

The abdomen is a large area that extends from the lower part of the chest to the pelvic area. Some people mistakenly think that the abdomen is the same as the stomach. The abdomen contains many vital organs besides the stomach, and pain may arise from any one of them.

Abdominal pain can start in any of the following organs:

  • Stomach
  • Gallbladder
  • Pancreas
  • Spleen
  • Liver
  • Intestines
  • Large blood vessels

Abdominal pain pathophysiology

Abdominal pain pathophysiology describes the connection between the structure of abdominal organs and the illnesses that affect them. It explains why pain felt in the abdomen may start elsewhere- in the chest, pelvis, or back. For example, a person suffering from a from a lung infection may feel that the pain is coming from their abdomen.This happens when nerves that are responsible for pain sensations in the abdomen cross-talkwith nerves in the chest, pelvis, or back.

The following issues start outside of the abdomen yet may cause abdominal pain:

  • Pneumonia
  • Irritation of the lung lining
  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • Irritated nerves
  • Chest muscle injuries
  • Rib inflammation
  • Bladder illnesses
  • Reproductive organ disorders

What types of abdominal pain are treated by pain specialists?

Pain specialists do not treat abdominal emergencies such as infections, ruptured ulcers, blocked intestines, gallbladder inflammation.

Emergencies that cause abdominal pain in adults are diagnosed and treated in the emergency room and the hospital. Surgeons, ER doctors, and doctors who specialize in the digestive system (gastroenterologists) may work to treat these emergent issues.

However, if the pain is uncontrolled and lasts over three months, a visit to a pain specialist is recommended.

Painful abdominal conditions that are treated by pain specialists:

  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Scar tissue (adhesions) after a surgery
  • Cancer (liver/stomach/pancreas/colon)
  • Low blood flow to the intestines (mesenteric ischemia)
  • Chronic functional abdominal pain (severe pain of unknown origin)
  • Abdominal wall issues (pulled muscles, irritated nerves, hernias)
  • Shingles


There are different types of abdominal pain, according to the underlying illness.

Some examples:

  • General tenderness - caused by inflammation in the pancreas, gallbladder, etc.
  • Sharp pangs - felt when a gall bladder or kidney stone blocks the organ in question.
  • Sudden-onset and severe pain - due to poor blood flow to the abdomen.
  • Burning sensations - caused by heartburn or an ulcer.
  • Cramps - linked to uterus tissues that invade the abdomen.
  • Stretching/pulling - from blockage (obstruction) of the bowels.
  • Pressure - from cancer growth in the abdomen.

A diagnosis for abdominal pain

If you have ongoing abdominal pain and an emergency was ruled out, a visit to a pain specialist for further evaluation and treatment is appropriate.

A pain specialist may be able to help when you have undiagnosable abdominal pain or when the pain has not improved with conventional treatments.

A pain specialist will:

Pain specialists offer pain medications and procedures that stand alone or are used alongside other treatments from your GI specialist.

TREATMENTS For Abdominal Pain

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