What’s Causing My Lower Abdominal Pain? - Nancy Branberg
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What’s Causing My Lower Abdominal Pain?

lower abdominal pain

When women report lower abdominal pain, they sometimes describe it as an ache or cramps in the lower belly.

In practice, lower abdominal pain is pain that occurs explicitly anywhere between the belly button and the pelvis.

Generally, the pain subsides over time, with most of the reasons for lower abdominal pain turning out to be nothing serious – although most definitely uncomfortable. 

In women, the most common causes of lower abdominal pain are urinary tract infections (UTIs), trapped gas, period, ovulation, or menopause-related pain.

But if you have pain that lingers for more than a couple of days and the symptoms don't appear to be subsiding, you must consult a physical therapist to find and treat the root cause. 

However, suppose you experience sudden and intense lower abdominal pain. In that case, it is crucial to visit the Emergency Room or consult a doctor immediately.

In rare cases, lower abdominal pain could pose a severe health risk and require immediate medical care.

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When To Seek Urgent Help

phone dialing the doctor with his face

Severe lower abdominal pain could be caused by:

Appendicitis: In this condition, the pain starts around the belly button and travels across to the lower part of the stomach, where the appendix is.

The onset of pain can be sudden, which is more noticeable while moving or taking deep breaths. It could also disturb sleep. Mostly the pain is intense and can worsen within a couple of hours.

While this is the primary symptom, there may also be additional symptoms like: 

  • A nauseous feeling and vomiting 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Fever 

Kidney stones: Another cause of pain in the lower abdomen may be kidney stones which cause sharp pain at the side or back that shifts to the lower abdomen. The pain increases and decreases in intensity. Additional symptoms are: 

  • Frequent need to urinate 
  • A burning sensation while passing urine 
  • A feeling of nausea and vomiting
  • Passing blood in the urine 

Other Potential Causes Of Lower Abdominal Pain

woman with irritated bowel

Diverticulitis: This condition results in the formation of small pouches in the weaker sections of the colon wall. It can lead to sudden intense pain in the lower abdomen that rises and ebbs over time. Mainly the pain occurs in the left side of the lower abdomen. Other symptoms are: 

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea or constipation 
  • Nausea accompanied by vomiting
  •  Feeling chills 

Gastroenteritis: A stomach and bowel infection known as gastroenteritis can sometimes cause severe pain in the lower abdomen. In most cases, it is not serious, although you must remain well-hydrated to avoid dehydration. Gastroenteritis symptoms include:

  • Fever with nausea and vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Pain in the lower abdomen with cramps

Ulcerative colitis: Like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes pain in the lower abdomen. In this condition, the immune system attacks the colon. While the symptoms vary between individuals, the severity may also differ and come and go from time to time. Apart from pain in the abdomen, other symptoms include: 

  • Anemia
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Severe fatigue
  • Bloating sensation with pain in the abdomen
  • Frequent sensation to move bowels
  • Bloody stools or diarrhea 

Flatulence: Flatulence might seem like an unlikely cause of lower abdominal pain, but a bloated feeling accompanied by abdominal pain could be due to trapped gas.

Flatulence is quite common and not a serious condition. If you experience bloating pain, ask a healthcare service provider or pharmacist for OTC medication to relieve the symptoms.

If the pain is persistent and does not improve with medication, you should consult with a physical therapist. 

Medication: In some cases, medicines can cause side effects such as increased pain in the lower abdomen. These include the following:  

  • Drugs that are given for Alzheimer's or dementia 
  • Certain antibiotics 
  • Aspirin
  • Anti-inflammatory medications 

What Causes Chronic Lower Abdominal Pain?

woman lying on sofa with abdominal pain

If lower abdominal pain becomes chronic and does not respond to treatment, it's essential to seek help to prevent more severe problems from developing. 

Some of the common reasons for long-term pain in the lower abdomen are: 

  • UTIs: If your pain is due to a chronic urinary tract infection, you will experience a burning sensation when urinating. 
  • IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome can cause chronic lower abdominal pain, bloating, cramps, constipation, or diarrhea. 
  • Constipation: When the bowels are not properly evacuated regularly, and stool backs up in the colon, it leads to chronic pain in the lower abdomen.
  • IBD: Chronic infections and inflammation can lead to Inflammatory Bowel Diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease that can cause chronic lower abdominal pain.
  • Period pain: During menstruation and ovulation, women can experience cramps that lead to persistent pain in the lower abdomen.
  • Abdominal migraine: Although rare, an abdominal migraine can cause lower abdominal pain due to unknown causes. 

Lower Abdominal Pain: In Pregnancy

abdominal pain in a pregnant woman

In pregnant women having pain in the lower abdomen could be due to ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the embryo develops and implants outside the uterus.

Women with an ectopic pregnancy might experience intense pain in the lower abdomen or on a particular side. Similarly, another reason for lower abdomen pain can be preterm labor.

In this condition, a woman enters labor in the 37th week or earlier, which could lead to cramps and contractions.

Pregnant women are more prone to experiencing common causes of pain in the lower abdomen, like constipation and trapped gas. If the symptoms appear severe, it is best to seek medical help without delay. 

Treating Lower Abdominal Pain 

abdomen pain helped with hot water bottle

There is no set treatment for lower abdominal pain. The treatment depends on the root cause, so it's essential to consult with a physical therapist to find out what is causing your pain. But in the meantime, there are certain things you can do to reduce your pain, such as:

Over-the-counter Pain Relief: Though it’s unlikely that the pain will subside completely with pain relief, painkillers should ease the discomfort until you can see a physical therapist. Antacids can also be effective in reducing pain in the lower abdomen.

Fluids: Drinking plenty of fluids should help to ease lower abdominal pain. These should be clear fluids, such as water. Again, this is unlikely to resolve your pain entirely, but staying hydration can reduce pain levels.

Fasting: In some cases, with the support of your doctor, it can be helpful to fast for short periods until they get to the bottom of what is causing your lower abdominal pain, which means limiting food and drink intake. This gives the lower abdomen time to rest.

Warmth: Placing a hot water bottle on your lower abdomen can sometimes help to ease pain, as can soaking in a warm bath.

Eliminating Foods: If you believe certain foods are causing lower abdominal pain, these should be eliminated. It could be that these foods are causing painful gas and indigestion. For example, the BRAT diet is often recommended for lower abdominal pain, which includes eating a very simple and bland diet. It consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. 

Rest: One of the best things you can do for lower abdominal pain is to get a lot of rest. When resting, the body has time to heal and correct physical problems. But don’t stay inactive for too long. It’s also important for chronic pain to keep the body moving. 

Alcohol and Caffeine: Reducing coffee, tea, and alcohol consumption can help ease lower abdominal pain, as these can worsen the pain.

Home Remedies: A handful of home remedies may reduce lower abdominal pain. For example, ginger helps with indigestion, and licorice helps to relieve gas. In addition, Peppermint can help to relax intestinal muscles.

Lifestyle: Eating enough fiber and regular exercise can make a big difference, as this helps prevent constipation and keep your bowels working as they should. Drinking enough water while avoiding too many carbonated drinks can also help reduce bloating. 

If your lower abdominal pain does not subside after trying some of these techniques, you should consult with a physical therapist for help.

We can identify the cause of your pain and rectify the problem quickly. We can also help you to prevent the pain from returning in the future.

You can book a free consultation here if you would like our help to fix lower abdominal pain. 

Lower Abdominal Pain: When To Call A Doctor

doctor looking at woman with abdominal pain

There are certain medical situations when lower abdomen pain poses a severe health risk and needs immediate medical attention without delay. Some of the severe symptoms that warrant immediate medical care are: 

  • Vomiting with an inability to clear the bowels
  • Severe tightness of the abdomen
  • Any trauma to the abdomen
  • Sudden bleeding during pregnancy
  • Intense pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Getting a high fever accompanied by abdominal pain
  • Losing consciousness or becoming unresponsive
  • Rapid heart palpitations
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Vomiting blood
  • Stools with blood

If you're worried about your abdominal pain or just want some to talk to that will actually listen, give us a call.

Nancy Branberg

Nancy Branberg

Nancy has long had a passion for helping people - especially those who felt they were powerless over their pain. After becoming a mom and having her own “child-birth” traumas to deal with, Nancy became interested in learning about the pelvis - not just the musculo-skeletal system, but the reproductive and digestive system as well. Every day she is amazed by the complexity and the inter-relatedness of all the systems. Nancy is Fall Church’s leading physical therapist who is able to help you overcome these problems without medication or surgery. Nancy Branberg Physical Therapy, LLC empowers women to take control of their pelvic issues so that their energy and attention can shift towards doing all of the things they love to do.
Nancy Branberg

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