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What is abdominal pain?

1-minute read

Abdominal pain, often known as stomach ache, usually refers to cramps or a dull ache in the belly (abdomen). It is normally shortlived and caused by a minor upset or stomach bug.

Severe abdominal pain is a greater cause for concern. If it starts suddenly and unexpectedly, it should be regarded as a medical emergency, especially if the pain is concentrated in a particular area, such as the lower right side of your abdomen (this could be your appendix). Call your doctor as soon as possible or go to your nearest hospital.

This topic covers the most common reasons for:

  • sudden stomach cramps
  • sudden, severe abdominal pain in a particular area of your belly
  • abdominal pain that has lasted a long time or that keeps returning

If you feel pain higher up, in the area above your ribs, read more in the Chest pain section.

Source: NHS Choices, UK (Stomach ache and abdominal pain)

Last reviewed: January 2013

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