What Is Gastralgia?

Melanie Smeltzer

Gastralgia, better known as a stomach ache, is the medical term for an ache or pain in the stomach or abdominal region. The most common symptom of this issue is a sudden, often intense pain in the upper portion of the abdomen, which may spread to other areas like the sternum or lower back, and can last from a few minutes to a few hours. There are many reasons why a stomach ache may occur, such as an overindulgence in rich food, drinks, or tobacco, digestive issues, certain illnesses, or emotional stress.

An illustration of a human stomach.
An illustration of a human stomach.

Several physiological processes can result in gastralgia symptoms. In most cases, however, the root of the pain usually begins by either direct or indirect irritation of the pneumogastric nerve — a nerve that carries signals to the brain from the stomach and other abdominal organs. Some stomach pains are a secondary reflex that occur when pain arises in another portion of the body, such as in the urethra or reproductive organs.

Gastralgia is the medical name for a stomach ache.
Gastralgia is the medical name for a stomach ache.

Many of the most common reasons that gastralgia may develop can include an overindulgence in certain substances, such as rich food, alcohol, coffee, or tea, as well as excessive use of tobacco products. Lactose intolerance, food poisoning, and allergies are other common reasons for an upset stomach. In addition, digestive issues like constipation, indigestion, and gas may cause the stomach to become irritated.

GERD may cause excessive gastralgia.
GERD may cause excessive gastralgia.

Despite the fact that many of the most common reasons for a gastralgia attack are considered harmless and easy to treat at home, some can be more severe and may require a visit to the doctor or emergency room. Ulcers, hernias, and kidney or gallstones are fairly common reasons for severe stomach pain. Certain conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Crohn's disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), may also result in excessive stomach aches.

Lactose intolerance is a common cause for stomach ache.
Lactose intolerance is a common cause for stomach ache.

Although there are numerous reasons for gastralgia, the symptoms of an attack are all fairly similar. The most common symptom is, of course, a sudden, intense pain often described as boring, burning, or stabbing in the stomach. This pain is usually located in the upper portion of the abdomen, but may radiate to the lower abdomen and pelvic region, and around to the ribcage and lower back. In some cases, the skin may become cold, pale, and clammy, and some may also experience involuntary muscular contractions. After the attack, some may experience feelings of extreme fatigue, a release of excess gas, or vomiting.

Pelvic inflammatory disease may result in excessive stomach aches.
Pelvic inflammatory disease may result in excessive stomach aches.
Gastralgia can cause pain to radiate to the lower back.
Gastralgia can cause pain to radiate to the lower back.

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