What is abdominal pain and stomach cramps?
The abdomen, perhaps more than any other region of the body.can be the site of a wide variety of symptoms that may indicate a corresponding variety of conditions within. Everyone is familiar, even if only by hearsay, with the acute pain of appendicitis, the cramps of an upset stomach, the generalized “distress” that may signify almost anything or nothing. The abdomen can be heir to so many different feelings of discomfort that when one speaks of abdominal pain and stomach cramps. it must be recognized that included under this heading are many aches, queasy feelings, and other uncomfortable sensations that many people might not usually call pain
Symptoms of abdominal pain
When abdominal symptoms begin building up to a point at which a visit to the doctor’s office seems probable, it is wise to begin making notes—mentally or in writing—of their main features. When did the symptoms first show up? How long have they lasted? How long does each attack go on? How much time elapses between attacks? How intense is the pain? Where does it seem to be located? Does it radiate or penetrate from the primary location to another site?
A gentle but firm touching o’ the surface narrows down the area for more detailed examination
The physician will also need information as to what seems to bring on the pain or help relieve it. Knowing whether food, for example, seems to precipitate an attack or diminish it could help the physician to differentiate between a disorder in the stomach or one elsewhere in the digestive tract. The physician also must know what medications are being taken for this or any other condition, and what the effects of the medication seem to be. In addition, he should be told what activities bring on pain or what relieves it.
What must tell the doctor?
Is standing more comfortable than sitting? Is it less painful to walk around, Or to lie still in a certain position? Does clutching the painful area help, or does touching increase the discomfort? The doctor also will want to know just when the pain occurs. But when he asks “When do you have this pain?” he is not referring so much to the specific time of day as to the relationship of the pain to a personal daily schedule. Thus. telling the doctor, “The pain begins right after I have my orange juice in the morning,” is much more meaningful than saying, “l usually start getting the pain around 8 A.M.” By the same token, the doctor should be informed of any physical activities or bodily functions that seem to bring the pain (or relieve it).
If he knows that the pain begins or increases with exercise. for example, or after the bowel movement, he is able to begin focusing his attention on particular areas of the abdomen and thus narrow down the possibilities. One more way in which the patient can help the physician is to be sure to describe the pain or other aspects of his condition in his own words, rather than those he may have heard from others and believes may be appropriate. A patient may sometimes enter the doctor’s office with a preconceived notion of the nature of his illness, and then proceed to describe his condition in a way that fits with what he has heard about the illness he thinks he has.
This sort of “information” is at best useless to the doctor, and can be dangerously misleading. It is far better
merely to describe the pain as faithfully as possible and allow the physician to make the inferences. A useful characterization of the pain should include descriptive words that actually have meaning to the patient and the physician, rather than the more dramatic but less helpful words that one may often be tempted to use. An observant physician has pointed out that while few people have ever had the experience of being bitten, and fewer still have ever been gnawed, many patients will nevertheless complain of “biting” or “gnawing pains in the abdomen.
Abdominal pain diagnosis
In most cases, the patient would better Serve his own interests by describing the pain in terms of experiences that he has had. Does his stomach feel the way it did when he ate green apples as a child? Does it feel as though a pin is being stuck on his side? He should tell that to the doctor!
Finally, it is important to give the physician any other miscellaneous information that may have some relevance to the condition. Is there a history of cancer of the colon in the family? Does anyone have diabetes? colitis or regional enteritis? Since many diseases tend to occur more often in families, knowing this will indicate to the physician areas that he must not overlook. Have other members of the family or some dinner guests been having similar symptoms? Perhaps all of them ate some spoiled food. Has there been a change in eating habits lately, to a special diet to lose or gain weight? The digestive system may simply be reacting to a disruption of regular routine.
The patient may not always be able to know just what information is pertinent and what is not, but most physicians would probably prefer being over-informed to being underinformed. Pain in the abdomen may be due to any number of complex factors but, if the patient complains of pain reminiscent of the colic that often occurs after eating green apples. it will help to know whether he has, in fact, eaten any, before the doctor begins looking for more obscure causes.
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