Authored by Revere Health

Should You Go to the Emergency Room for Abdominal Pain?

February 28, 2018 | GastroenterologyValue-Based Care

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Abdominal or stomach pain is uncomfortable and can be difficult to diagnose. It can be mild, due to harmless conditions such as bloating or constipation, or it can be severe and due to medical conditions that require urgent interventions such as appendicitis.

In most cases, you can visit an urgent care for your stomach pain. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  only 17.1 percent of ER visits for abdominal pain result in a serious diagnosis. So, when does abdominal pain warrant a trip to the emergency room?

Urgent Care or ER: What to Consider

When seeking care for your abdominal pain, it’s important to consider the following:


If your abdominal pain is extreme or debilitating—severe enough that you can’t stand up straight—you may want to visit an ER. However, mild to moderate pain, which is usually from non-serious conditions such as menstrual cramps, food poisoning, a urinary tract infection, IBS, gastroenteritis, acid reflux, indigestion, etc., can all safely be treated at an urgent care.

The location of your pain may signal what’s causing it and what level of treatment you need. Pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, for example, may be appendicitis, which requires immediate medical treatment. If you aren’t sure about your pain and its location and where the best place for you to seek care is, call your doctor or the nearest urgent care facility. They can often direct you where to go for the appropriate level of care.


Abdominal pain may be due to a more serious condition if you’ve recently undergone a medical procedure or if you already have certain medical conditions.  Abdominal pain after a recent surgery may be due to constipation; however, infections or other issues are also more likely. If any of the following are concerns, an ER is likely a more appropriate place to be further evaluated:

  • Chest tightness and upper abdominal pain especially in individuals over age 45
  • Recent abdomen surgery
  • Recent endoscopy (colonoscopy or upper endoscopy)
  • Individuals with a history of gastric bypass surgery
  • Individuals with a history of heart attacks, stroke or heart disease


If you experience these symptoms in addition to abdominal pain, go to an ER:

  • Bleeding while pregnant
  • Vomiting blood
  • Blood with bowel movements (this can appear as black, tarry bowel movements or red blood)
  • High fever
  • Difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • Severe, sudden-onset abdominal pain

Additional symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can often be evaluated at an urgent care, which usually costs less than a visit to the emergency room.

Tips to Ease Your Stomach Pain

Tip 1: Use heat

Heating pads or warm water bottles can be an effective treatment for some forms of abdominal pain. If you don’t have an electric blanket or a heating pad, make one using an old sock and some rice.

Tip #2: Take over-the-counter medications

Antacids can be useful for stomach pain caused by heartburn, and gas pain can be treated with medicines, such as Gas-X, that contain simethicone. If your pain is caused by constipation, try a stool softener or mild laxative. Avoid anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil and Aleve, however, as they can further irritate your stomach.

Tip #3: Stretch it out

Sometimes, stretching can improve abdominal pain. Frequent stretching and exercise can also relieve stress, which can exacerbate abdominal pain.

Tip #4: Try some mint

Peppermint can be a safe and simple remedy for abdominal pain. You can take advantage of peppermint’s natural pain-relieving properties by:

  • Drinking peppermint tea
  • Chewing on peppermint leaves
  • Sucking on a peppermint mint (avoid sugar-based candy mints)
  • Taking peppermint oil capsules

Tip #5: Change your diet

Avoiding greasy, sugary, fatty foods can improve or minimize abdominal pain. Take other dietary needs into account as well (e.g., if you are lactose intolerant, avoid dairy when possible). Overeating can also cause stomach pains; remedy this by eating smaller portions throughout the day.

Although most gastrointestinal symptoms, such as cramping, bloating or nausea are not serious, call your doctor if you are unsure about your symptoms. Depending on your unique symptoms and medical conditions, your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist who can help treat your condition.


Revere Health’s experienced gastroenterology professionals offer comprehensive prevention, diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders. We will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on your individual needs and goals.




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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.