Pain in the lower abdomen generally means pain below your belly button.
It’s often associated with a digestive problem like an upset tummy, but not always -- so you shouldn’t ignore new or unexpected pain.
Your lower abdomen is home to many important organs, including the bladder, uterus and ovaries, so any severe or long-lasting pain should be checked by a doctor.
But if you know the cause of the pain, you can take appropriate action.
Here are the common causes of lower abdominal pain.
Causes in both men and women
Your small intestine, large intestine and rectum are in the lower abdomen. Any condition that affects these organs can cause pain in the area. This includes:
- a food intolerance
- diverticulitis (a condition that affects the large intestine)
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- peritonitis (when the inner lining of the tummy becomes infected)
- bowel obstruction (a blockage in the small or large intestine)
- kidney stones
- a kidney infection
- bowel cancer
Constipation is a common condition that can cause uncomfortable, cramping pain in the lower abdomen.
It can result from eating a low-fibre diet with too much processed food, an inactive lifestyle (not enough exercise) or not drinking enough water.
Occasionally, constipation can be a sign of a serious medical condition like bowel cancer.
If you have constipation, you can usually treat it at home by going for a daily walk, drinking plenty of fluids and eating high-fibre foods like brown rice, lentils, beans or wholemeal bread.
Fibre isn’t digested, but it helps move food through your bowels. It can also help to lower or control your cholesterol.
If your symptoms persist, a pharmacist or doctor will be able to help you.
Gastroenteritis (sometimes called stomach flu) is another common cause of pain in the lower abdomen.
It’s usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection (tummy bug) that irritates and inflames the lining of your stomach and intestines, causing pain.
As well as abdominal pain, it can also cause diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, a mild fever and aching limbs.
There’s no specific treatment for gastroenteritis, but you can ease your symptoms by getting some rest and drinking plenty of water (or fruit juice) to avoid dehydration.
For abdominal pain you can take an everyday painkiller like paracetamol.
Symptoms usually clear up within a week.
Pain in the lower abdomen may also be due to an abdominal hernia.
This is a bulge or swelling in or around your tummy. They develop when part of your bowel pushes through the layer of muscle covering your abdomen, sometimes causing a dull, aching pain in your abdomen or groin.
Hernias don’t always need to be treated, but they can cause serious complications.
If you think you may have a hernia, see a doctor.
Causes of lower abdominal pain in women
It’s normal to feel a small amount of abdominal pain during your period, but sudden, unexpected pain in your lower belly may be due to a more serious condition.
Possible causes include:
- a urinary tract infection (UTI)
- an ovarian cyst
- pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) - a common condition that develops when infectious bacteria affect your reproductive organs
In rare cases, lower abdominal pain can be a symptom of endometriosis or a pelvic abscess, where pus builds up in the space between your womb and vagina.
Note: In women of childbearing age, lower abdominal pain can be a symptom of an ectopic pregnancy - a life-threatening condition with serious complications.
If you’re experiencing severe or unexpected abdominal pain, see a doctor.
Causes of lower abdominal pain in men
In men, lower abdominal pain can be a symptom of a UTI or a twisted testicle (testicular torsion).
Testicular torsion is when the testicle twists inside the scrotum. It normally causes sudden and severe pain in the testicles and abdomen, and your testicles may become swollen.
If you experience this type of pain, seek emergency medical treatment.