Whether it’s the dull ache from a heavy period or the uncomfortable sensation of bloating that has us wanting to undo the fly on our jeans, stuff a hot water bottle down the front of our pants and crawl into the foetal position on the carpet, unfortunately for many women, lower abdominal pain is a feeling never too far away.
Of course, in the majority of cases, it’s commonly brought on by the menstruation, a diet of too many pulses and beans resulting in constipation, or annoying urinary tract infections (UTIs), and can be cured with a couple of paracetemol tablets, a long sit on the loo or prescriptive antibiotics from a medical professional.
However, sometimes it’s difficult to diagnose the exact location, cause and cure for lower abdominal pain, when there’s so many reasons why it could be happening. I mean, just think how many organs are packed in down there; uterus, intestines, bladder, appendix.
As a result, we’ve spoken to the UK’s top medical professionals specialising in gastroenterology, urology and sexual health to find out how to distinguish the causes of lower abdominal pain, indications you might require further medical assistance and how to treat the problem.
Abdominal pain: Digestive system
According to statistics from the NHS, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is thought to affect up to ‘one in five people’ at some point in their life and commonly shows signs for people between the ages 20-30.
Surprisingly, around twice as many women are affected as men, which might explain why women are more likely to be heard complaining of stomach cramps and bloating.
However, pain in the abdomen isn’t always related to IBS, as Dr John O’Malley, ex-secretary of the Primary Care Society for Gastroenterology explains.
Causes of lower abdominal pain
‘The main cause for abdominal pain is commonly IBS, resulting in stomach cramps, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea,’ says Dr O’Malley.
‘However, not everything that sounds like IBS is IBS. What’s increasingly being diagnosed nowadays is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), due to improved awareness and methods to detect it, which can result in symptoms such as bloody diarrhoea.
‘There’s also irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-M) which can see symptoms of both diarrhoea and constipation.
Where you’d feel digestive pain
‘Of course, there isn’t a prescriptive route to the cause of lower abdominal pain but you can locate your bowel by placing your hands above your right and left hip. the bowel can be found in line anywhere from the navel down to the genitals.
‘Pain on the left might indicate large bowel problems while pain on the right could suggest issues in or around the intestine.’
What the pain commonly feels like
‘Pain often ranges from a mild ache to excruciating, depending on the problem.
‘Bloating – when spasm causes air in the bowel to expand – normally causes mild pain, while intense pain could be a result of colonic spasm (spontaneous spasms of the colon) and even appendicitis when acute (inflamed).
Would cutting our certain food types help?
‘There’s an increasing number of people who come into a surgery admitting they’ve cut out certain foods from their diet to test whether they’re allergic. Let’s be clear, you should never cut out major food groups without seeking a dietitian’s advice.