Abdominal pain has many potential causes. The most common causes — such as gas pains, indigestion or a pulled muscle — usually aren't serious. Other conditions may require urgent medical attention.
While the location and pattern of abdominal pain can provide important clues, its time course is particularly useful when determining its cause.
Acute abdominal pain develops and often resolves over a few hours to a few days. Chronic abdominal pain may be intermittent (episodic), meaning it may come and go. This type of pain may be present for weeks to months, or even years. Some chronic conditions cause progressive pain, which steadily gets worse over time.
The various conditions that cause acute abdominal pain are usually accompanied by other symptoms that develop over hours to days. Causes can range from minor conditions that resolve without any treatment to serious medical emergencies, including:
The specific cause of chronic abdominal pain is often difficult to determine. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, coming and going but not necessarily worsening over time. Conditions that may cause chronic abdominal pain include:
Abdominal pain that steadily worsens over time, often accompanied by the development of other symptoms, is usually serious. Causes of progressive abdominal pain include:
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.