What is stomach pain?

Stomach pain, or abdominal pain, is a common symptom involving discomfort or pain between the chest and the pelvis. This type of pain can manifest in various forms, such as sharp, dull, cramping, or aching sensations, and can range from mild and temporary to severe and persistent. The causes of stomach pain are diverse and can include issues related to digestion, infection, inflammation, or chronic medical conditions. Understanding stomach pain's nature, location, and accompanying symptoms is crucial for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Printable Stomach Pain Chart

Download this Stomach Pain Chart for diagnosis and treatment of Stomach pain, abdominal pain, discomfort or pain between the chest and the pelvis.

What are the ways to describe abdominal pain?

Describing abdominal pain accurately is crucial for diagnosis and treatment. Here are key ways to characterize abdominal pain:


The location of abdominal pain can give important clues about its cause. The abdomen is divided into four quadrants: upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left. Pain in the upper part could indicate problems with organs such as the stomach, liver, or pancreas, while pain in the lower part could indicate issues with the intestines or reproductive organs.

Type of pain

The type of pain can also provide valuable information. Abdominal pain can be classified as either visceral or somatic. A problem with an internal organ causes visceral pain and is often described as dull, achy, or cramp-like. On the other hand, somatic pain involves irritation to the body's outer lining and is usually described as sharp, stabbing, or burning.


The severity of abdominal pain can range from mild discomfort to intense and debilitating pain. This can help doctors determine the urgency of treatment needed.


How long the pain has been present is another important factor in describing abdominal pain. Acute pain starts suddenly and lasts for a short period, while chronic pain persists for weeks or even months.

Aggravating and alleviating factors

Certain activities or positions can worsen abdominal pain, while others may provide relief. Noting these aggravating and alleviating factors can help identify the cause of the pain.

Associated symptoms

Abdominal pain is often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, fever, or weight loss. These associated symptoms can provide further clues as to the underlying cause.

What are the most common causes of abdominal pain by location?

The abdomen can be divided into different regions, and the location of pain can often provide clues about its underlying cause. Here are the most common causes of abdominal pain by location:

  • Upper right quadrant (URQ): The URQ contains the liver, gallbladder, and part of the small intestine. Common causes of abdominal pain in this area include gallstones, liver disease, and appendicitis.
  • Upper left quadrant (ULQ): The ULQ is home to the stomach, spleen, and part of the large intestine. Pain in this area can be caused by gastritis, pancreatitis, or kidney stones.
  • Lower right quadrant (LRQ): The LRQ contains the appendix and part of the large intestine. Appendicitis is a common cause of abdominal pain in this area, but other possible causes include Crohn's disease and ovarian cysts.
  • Lower left quadrant (LLQ): The LLQ houses the descending colon and part of the small intestine. Common causes of abdominal pain in this area include diverticulitis, constipation, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Midline: Pain in the center of the abdomen can be caused by various conditions, including indigestion, intestinal obstruction, and kidney stones.
  • Generalized: Generalized abdominal pain can be a symptom of a wide range of conditions, such as food poisoning, gastroenteritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

While the location of abdominal pain can provide important information about its cause, it is not always straightforward. Some conditions may present pain in multiple areas or refer to different locations.

Stomach Pain Chart example (sample)

We've created a detailed sample template to guide you using the abdominal pain chart. Complete with fictional data, this sample illustrates how to fill out the chart effectively. You can download this free, easy-to-follow abdominal pain chart example for a practical demonstration.

Download this free Stomach Pain Chart example here 

Stomach Pain Chart example (sample)

How do you diagnose and treat abdominal pain?

Diagnosing and treating abdominal pain, especially when considering specific areas like the upper and lower quadrants, requires a thorough approach due to the variety of potential underlying causes:

Diagnosing abdominal pain

  • Medical history and pain assessment: Initially, the healthcare provider will gather detailed medical history and assess the characteristics of the abdominal pain. This includes understanding the specific location (upper quadrant abdominal pain, left upper quadrant pain, right upper quadrant pain, left lower quadrant pain, right lower quadrant pain) and the nature of the pain (sharp, dull, cramping).
  • Physical examination: A comprehensive abdominal exam is conducted to identify any tenderness, swelling, or other abnormalities. This may involve palpating different areas of the abdomen to pinpoint the location of the discomfort and to understand its relation to different organs.
  • Diagnostic testing: Depending on the initial assessment, various diagnostic tests such as blood tests, urinalysis, ultrasound, CT scans, or MRIs might be ordered. These tests help identify issues like kidney stones in the lower quadrants or gastrointestinal and liver disease in the upper quadrants.
  • Consideration of specific conditions: The differential diagnosis is crucial, especially when symptoms are ambiguous. Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal disorders, liver disease, or kidney stones can present with similar symptoms but require different treatments. A systematic approach to differential diagnosis is key

Treating abdominal pain

  • Symptomatic relief: To alleviate general abdominal discomfort, treatments may involve pain relievers, antacids, or heat therapy.
  • Follow-up and monitoring: Consistent follow-up is crucial, particularly for chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or recurrent kidney stones.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Guidance on diet, exercise, and stress management may form an integral part of the treatment plan, particularly for conditions affecting the upper abdomen.
  • Prescription medication: In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary to manage underlying conditions or symptoms. These may include antibiotics for infections, antispasmodics for irritable bowel syndrome, or corticosteroids for inflammatory conditions.
  • Surgery: Depending on the underlying cause of abdominal pain, surgery may be necessary to correct structural abnormalities or remove diseased tissue.
What are the common causes of stomach pain in the right upper quadrant?
What are the common causes of stomach pain in the right upper quadrant?

Commonly asked questions

What are the common causes of stomach pain in the right upper quadrant?

Pain in the right upper quadrant can be caused by conditions affecting the liver, gallbladder, or right kidney. Common issues include gallstones, liver disease, and kidney infections. Understanding the specific nature and duration of pain is crucial in differential diagnosis.

How can I differentiate mild abdominal pain from life-threatening conditions?

Mild abdominal pain is often due to benign issues like indigestion or minor muscle strain. However, if the pain persists, is accompanied by symptoms like persistent nausea, fever, or changes in bowel movements, or if it intensifies rapidly, it could indicate more serious conditions like peptic ulcer disease, appendicitis, or kidney stones. A physical exam and possibly further diagnostic tests are recommended in such cases.

What does generalized pain in the abdominal area indicate?

Generalized abdominal pain, which is felt over more than half of the abdomen, can be a sign of indigestion, a viral infection, gas, or even a life-threatening condition like acute abdomen, mesenteric ischemia, or small bowel obstruction. The presence of additional symptoms and a thorough clinical evaluation are necessary to narrow down the cause.

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