Everyone will experience abdominal pain sometime in their life. Whether you ate too many rich foods or you forgot to take Lactaid before you ate that macaroni and cheese, a little stomach ache is nothing to be worried about. But when does abdominal pain become cause for an emergency room visit? Knowing the difference between common stomach pain and a medical emergency could make all the difference in your health.
When is it time for an emergency room visit?
If you’re experiencing severe, unrelenting pain anywhere in your abdomen, you could be facing a number of conditions. In addition, if your abdomen is sensitive to the touch or if your pain is radiating out (particularly to your back), it could be a sign of a medical emergency. You should also be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Blood in stool
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat

If you experience any of these symptoms in addition to your abdominal pain, it’s important to contact your doctor or request emergency services immediately.
Does severity matter?
Severity and location are two of the most important factors to consider when determining if your abdominal pain constitutes a medical emergency. For example, lower abdominal pain that’s mild to moderate in severity could be a result of menstrual cramps, a urinary tract infection, or even indigestion. All of these issues can be treated with ease at an urgent care facility or by your primary care physician.
On the other hand, pain that is so severe you can’t sit or stand up straight is much more concerning. If you’re experiencing severe pain in your lower right abdomen, for example, you may be dealing with appendicitis. This is a serious and deadly medical issue that requires an emergency room visit as soon as possible.
In most cases, abdominal pain isn’t severe enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room. In fact, only 3% of patients who go to urgent care for issues like this are redirected to the emergency department. The most important thing you can do if you’re experiencing abdominal pain is pay close attention to your symptoms and be honest about them with your medical provider.