When Should You Worry About Abdominal Pain?
Published | 6 min read
Abdominal pain can be caused by any number of things and is hard to diagnose sometimes. Read on to learn about the different types.
The abdomen is essentially the portion of our torso from below the chest to the groin, where many of our vital organs reside. This means abdominal pain could be due to an issue with these organs. Moreover, abdominal pain can sometimes originate from issues beyond the abdomen. Different types of pain can feel different in specific ways.
The Four General Types of Abdominal Pain
Some illnesses like food poisoning cause generalised pain, meaning you feel the pain in over half of your abdomen, while others are localised to a particular site, like appendicitis. The pain could also be constant and crampy, as is the case with menstrual cramps, or colicky (coming in waves), such as that caused by gallstones or kidney stones. With the abdomen covering such a large area with various organs, physicians would
Upper left quadrant
While we usually say “stomach” to refer to the general central front area of the abdomen, the actual organ is, in fact, in the upper left quadrant, right below the heart and your left lung.
Common ailments that cause abdominal pain in this area include gastritis and other digestive issues
More serious illnesses include pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer. Note that pain you feel in this area could also be referred pain from above. It also involves serious illnesses such as a developing heart attack, angina, pericarditis, pneumonia, or pulmonary embolism.
Upper right quadrant
On the other side, in the upper right quadrant, are the liver, right kidney, gallbladder, and bile duct. Pain specific to this area could be due to some issues with the liver, such as hepatitis, or the gallbladder like gallstones and cholecystitis (gallbladder inflammation). Issues in the right kidney could also present as pain in this area.
More serious illnesses could be due to cancer. What makes it even more difficult is that cancer pain is sometimes less prevalent than pain due to the more common and less harmful ailments like menstrual cramps or gas.
We now descend to the lower abdomen, where our lower digestive tract, lower urinary tract, and reproductive organs reside. Gastrointestinal issues that we’re more familiar with and that commonly inflict us are typically confined to this area, such as
Cancers, such as small intestinal cancer, are also possible in the lower abdomen.
Lower Left and Right Quadrants
Pain specific to the left or right side and further below can be traced back to the section at the end of the large intestine, most often involving the colon or the appendix. Pain on the left side could be due to
Meanwhile, pain on the right side is most often caused by an infected or ruptured appendix or appendicitis. While treatable, appendix pain usually sends patients writhing in pain to the emergency room.
TCM Treatments for Abdominal Pain
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), abdominal pain refers to pain that results from conditions involving some imbalance in the spleen or stomach organ systems as understood in the TCM framework.
“From the TCM perspective, there are many ways to strengthen the
- Zu san li (ST36, 足三里)
- Nei guan (PC6, 内关)
- Gong sun (SP4, 公孙)
If the pain persists, it’s best to check with your medical doctor.
TCM herbal medicine for abdominal pain can also work well. “Common traditional Chinese medicines used to regulate the Spleen and
Many studies have already shown the efficacy of TCM formulations for different types of abdominal pain. For example, ingredients like Atractylodis (common in China, Japan, Korea, and Thailand) have mechanisms that make them effective in helping with conditions like indigestion, gastritis, bacterial infection, and other abdominal related ailments that stem from a Spleen or
Prevent Abdominal Pain
In addition to these physiological modalities, TCM promotes health conditioning to ensure a healthy body that can stave off diseases that lead to abdominal pain.
Heed the following
- Avoid excessive emotional stimulation such as joy, anger, worrying, overthinking, sadness, fear, and shock
- Maintain a peaceful state of mind and a cheerful spirit
- Change unhealthy living habits, develop regular work and rest time, avoid overworking or staying up late
- Eat light meals, be mindful of the acid-alkali balance of food, and have regular meals in moderate portions
- Avoid overly cold, hot, raw, or hard food. Don’t eat too much deep-fried, smoked, marinated or pickled, and spicy food. Chew carefully
- Stimulating drinks such as strong tea, carbonated beverages, and liquor can also lead to abdominal pain.
- Ensure a moderate amount of exercise and be mindful of work-life balance
Abdominal pain could be due to any number of
- Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Abdominal Pain. [Accessed 18 July 2022].
- Mount Sinai Health Library. Abdominal Pain. [Accessed 18 July 2022].
- Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2021. Atractylodis Rhizoma: A review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and quality control. [Accessed 18 July 2022].
- Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2021. Chinese Herbal Medicine for Functional Abdominal Pain Syndrome: From Clinical Findings to Basic Understandings. [Accessed 18 July 2022].
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