By Rahil Malik M.D. Facog
Abdominal pain in women is a common malady. Statistics from the Centre for Disease Control show a national trend with as much as 12-15% of all visits to the emergency room (E.R.) attributed to abdominal pain. However, only a small percentage of these visits are due to emergent conditions and most patients require outpatient visits with specialists to further manage their pain.
It is not uncommon for women to struggle with abdominal pain for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, before discovering the cause of their pain and identifying strategies to help fix the source of their pain. The difficulties in identifying the cause behind a patient’s abdominal pain stems from the various organ systems that can potentially give rise to the pain.
It can be challenging to identify the cause of the pain and often blood tests, imaging studies (CT, MRI, Ultrasound) and sometimes surgery are required before a final diagnosis can be made. Visits to numerous doctors and undergoing multiple medical tests can be time-consuming, demoralizing and costly for an individual.
However, this process can be improved with simple steps that a patient can take towards owning their health and being prepared for their visits. A thorough history and physical exam can allow a physician to identify the most likely culprit behind your pain and reduce the number of diagnostic tests.
A visit with your Ob-Gyn can be helpful in your evaluation but an unprepared soul can sometimes find it overwhelming to answer questions on the spot. Nonetheless, you can make your visit beneficial and efficient if you take a few minutes to address these questions and bring to your next appointment.
Location – Where is the pain localized? Can you point with your finger to identify a location or is it non-specific and diffuse?
Modifying factors – what makes the pain better? What makes it worse? Does eating food minimize your pain? Is your pain worsened with movement? Is your pain linked to your menstrual cycle? Does urinating affect pain? Does your pain worsen or improve with passing stools? These factors can help determine if your pain is arising from your intestines, bladder or uterus/ovary, etc.
Novelty – Is the pain acute or is this pain occurring for a longer period of time? Has there been a period of time where you were pain-free?
Onset – When did the pain start?
Precipitating factors – What caused the pain? Any trauma or strenuous activity?
Quality – Is it sharp, dull, throbbing, dull? Is the pain persistent or intermittent? Is your pain daily or only at certain times of the day or week?
Radiation – Does the pain travel to any other part of your body?
Severity Score – On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your pain? Does the pain fluctuate during the day?
Therapies / Tests completed – What imaging tests have you completed in the past? It would be useful to bring copies of imaging reports to your appointment for your physician to review and to compare against newer tests. If there were medications prescribed previously, did it help reduce your abdominal pain?
- Dr. Malik is a Board-Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist in Plantation, Florida. His areas of interest include diagnosis and treatment of pelvic pain with surgical and non-surgical options. Schedule an appointment by calling 954-791-3090 or requesting an appointment online at www.DavieObgyn.com/appointment.