November 7, 2023
5 ways to give the ER the cold shoulder this winter
- Family Medicine
- Urgent Care
February 28, 2018 | Gastroenterology • Value-Based Care
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?
When seeking care for your abdominal pain, it’s important to consider the following:
SEVERITY AND LOCATION
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.
CURRENT DIAGNOSES AND RECENT PROCEDURES
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:
If you experience these symptoms in addition to abdominal pain, go to an ER:
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.
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:
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.