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Understanding
Abdominal Pain

In order to help with understanding the causes of abdominal cramps, pain and discomfort we will first learn about the location and function of the organs in the abdomen.

Upper abdomen
1Oesophagus

After food has been chewed and swallowed, it moves down a tube called the oesophagus (food pipe). At the lower end of this tube, where it makes a junction with the stomach, we find a sphincter. This sphincter relaxes briefly to allow food into the stomach, but it is usually tightly shut to prevent stomach acid reflux from going into the oesophagus. 1

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Digestion and
abdominal cramps


Now that you have learned how each of the main organs in your abdomen works, how about understanding how abdominal cramps, pain and discomfort occur?


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Smooth muscle

Contractions of the smooth muscles in the intestinal wall move food along the digestive tract in a gentle wavelike motion. This process is stimulated by chyme from the stomach. 1



Peristalsis

The series of wavelike contractions by the smooth muscles is called peristalsis. It starts when the food is swallowed and continues through the digestive tract without us having to think about it. 6

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