Abdominal pain can be an uncomfortable and worrisome symptom of a wide variety of diseases and conditions. While severe pain is indicative of a serious condition that must be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional, abdominal pain is common and usually inconsequential, according to Merck. Whether a person is just trying to figure out if he has the flu or a doctor is making a definitive diagnosis, both use observation and testing to discover what the underlying cause is.
Consult a physician. If the abdominal pain is not severe and has been going on for a few days, make an appointment with your family physician. If the pain is severe, has sudden onset, or has gotten worse in the past few days, go to an urgent care facility or hospital emergency room.
Assess the level of the pain. It may be helpful to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most severe. This may assist the physician in determining whether a problem is a severe condition like appendicitis or a minor problem like gas.
Note how long the pain has been present and if it has changed at all since the problem started. Try to recall what you ate shortly before the pain started.
Palpate, or feel around, the painful area. Note if it gets worse if pressure is applied to any particular spot.
Listen to the stomach by using a stethoscope. You should hear some bowel sounds in each of the four quadrants. Note any excessive bowel sounds and be aware of any quadrants in which no bowel sounds can be heard at all.
Make a note of any additional symptoms like fever, vomiting or diarrhea. These can be important clues in diagnosing the source of the problem and relieving the abdominal pain. MayoClinic.com suggests seeking medical help if abdominal pain is accompanied by serious symptoms such as vomiting blood or chest pains.
Observe anything that makes the abdominal pain get better or worse. Pain that passes after you walk around may be due to gas. Pain that gets worse after you eat may be due to gall bladder disease. Pain that comes and goes in waves may be due to kidney stones or gallstones, according to MedlinePlus.
Locate the pain. Physicians describe the abdomen as being divided into four quadrants: the upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right. Each quadrant contains different organs, so your doctor may be able to narrow down the cause of the problem by knowing exactly where it hurts.
Describe the pain as best you can. Words like burning, pressure, ache or stabbing can be extremely helpful in determining the cause of the abdominal pain.
Consent to a blood test. Blood work can reveal the cause of abdominal pain by measuring levels of chemicals produced by organs in the abdomen, such as liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, stomach and the reproductive organs in women.
Consent to an abdominal X-ray and other forms of radiological testing. Radiology is an effective tool for seeing exactly what is causing the problem, whether it is from inflammation, a blockage, a tumor or some other visible source.
Report any medications you have taken and whether they have had any affect on the pain.
Seek immediate medical help if you have chest, neck, or shoulder pain; have sudden, sharp pain; have pain in or between your shoulder blades; are vomiting blood; or have blood in your stool.