Chronic Abdominal Pain: Care Instructions

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Chronic abdominal pain means you have belly pain that occurs a few times over a couple of months. Sometimes the pain is linked to eating certain foods or having a bowel movement. But most of the time the pain cannot be explained.

Your doctor may use the words "functional abdominal pain" to describe the problem. It can be hard to deal with pain when your doctor cannot find a cause, even after tests are done.

When the pain is very bad, it can keep you from doing your normal activities. Sometimes stress can make your pain worse. Even if you cannot make the pain go away, there are things you can do to make it a little easier to manage.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Keep a symptom diary. This can help you see if there are events or emotions that make your pain worse. Think about what you ate, drank, or felt before the pain began. Maybe pain comes after a stressful meeting or when you have spicy foods, dairy products, or alcohol.
  • Reduce stress. Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques can help. Try taking a walk or doing other exercise when you feel stressed.
  • Try cognitive behavioral therapy. You can work with a counselor to learn how to do this therapy. It can help you cope with pain by changing how you think. It can help you notice discouraging thoughts that make you feel bad.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever and belly pain.
  • You have severe pain that is different from your usual belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your pattern of pain changes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your belly pain.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.