Medicine for Stomach Pain: OTC, Prescription, and More

By Robynn Lowe
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 5, 2022

Stomach pain can be caused by many different conditions. 

Treatment options depend on the source of the discomfort.

In this article, we’ll explore the available medicines and treatments for stomach pain, including over-the-counter and prescription options. 

We’ll also cover other treatments, explain common causes, and identify when to seek medical care for stomach pain.

Types of Medication for Stomach Pain

Stomach pain can include bloating, indigestion, nausea, and reflux, and it may feel sharp, stabbing, aching, or dull. 

Treatments for stomach pain need to target the cause. 

If you are not sure why you have developed stomach pain, or if the pain is severe or lasts for a long time, see a medical provider.

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Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

OTC stomach pain medications can help to relieve some symptoms.

  • Simethicone (Gas-X, Mylanta) can help reduce bloating and gas pain.
  • Antacids and acid reducers like famotidine (Pepcid, Zantac 360) can address symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux, and other signs of indigestion like belching, stomach fullness, or burning in the throat.
  • Stool softeners and laxatives like ducosate (Colace) and bisacodyl (Dulcolax) can help relieve feelings of fullness, bloating, and discomfort caused by constipation.
  • Loperamide (Imodium) can help address intestinal cramping and pain from diarrhea.

Most OTC medicines to relieve stomach discomfort should not be taken long-term. 

If your symptoms come on suddenly or last for a long time, see a medical provider. 

Ulcers, GERD, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, and Celiac disease require treatment approaches that short-term OTC medications will not fix.

Prescription Medications

If your stomach problem is due to a chronic condition or an autoimmune disorder, you may need prescription treatment.

  • Steroids like prednisone can reduce inflammation and pain in the stomach and intestines caused by chronic disorders like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While steroids don’t cure the condition, they can reduce inflammation while other treatments allow the GI tract to heal, or they may be used to provide a break from intensive pain.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec), and esomeprazole (Nexium) may be prescribed for ulcers, GERD, or other conditions that are exacerbated by too much stomach acid.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed if H. pylori is causing an ulcer or if other bacteria are found to be causing stomach pain. Common antibiotics prescribed for this reason include clarithromycin and metronidazole.

Other Treatments for Stomach Pain

Stomach pain, indigestion, and gastrointestinal pain can also respond to home management or self-care. 

Depending on the type and cause of stomach pain, these other treatments may help.

  • Sit upright after meals: If you are prone to acid reflux or burping, sitting upright for an hour after meals can help to make sure that food digests and leaves the stomach. Lying down shortly after eating may worsen acid that comes up the throat.
  • Proper hydration: Without enough fluids, digestion and food transit in the GI tract may slow, leading to feelings of fullness, bloating, intestinal cramping, or reflux. Fluid recommendations vary depending on age and body weight, but generally, adults need 4-8 cups of fluid per day.
  • Digestive enzymes: Digestion starts in the mouth, where enzymes start to break down food as soon as saliva touches it. If you eat too quickly or do not chew food thoroughly, the stomach can have a harder time breaking it down. Inadequate enzymes in the stomach can also result in acid reflux, bloating, cramping, and other digestive problems. Digestive enzymes contain the same enzymes that your body should have to break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Some of them also come with hydrochloric acid (hCL). Do not take hCL if you have an ulcer or ever had one.
  • Avoid foods that you are allergic or sensitive to: Eating dairy foods if you are lactose intolerant can produce unpleasant digestive symptoms. Similarly, eating gluten if you have Celiac disease can damage the gastrointestinal lining and produce painful symptoms. If you have known food allergies, avoid eating those foods. Also consider avoiding foods that seem to cause discomfort every time you eat them.

What Is Stomach Pain?

Stomach pain is a term used to describe discomfort that is felt anywhere between the ribs and the pelvis. 

Abdominal pain felt in this region may include the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, pancreas, or liver.

Stomach pain can be dull or sharp, consistent or intermittent, and over the whole abdomen or isolated in just one place. 

Where and how you feel stomach pain can help a medical provider identify the source of discomfort.

What Causes Stomach Pain?

Potential causes of stomach pain include:

  • Acid reflux and GERD
  • Gastritis
  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Bacterial infection from food poisoning
  • Influenza or other viral infections
  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Celiac disease
  • Diverticulitis
  • Diverticulosis
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Hepatitis
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Strained muscle
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Ruptured ovarian cyst
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Spleen problems

If stomach pain comes on suddenly or feels severe, it may be caused by one of the following, which require immediate medical attention:

  • Appendicitis
  • Bowel blockage or obstruction
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Stomach cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
  • Gallstones
  • Kidney stones
  • Ectopic pregnancy
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When to See a Medical Provider

If you or someone you are with develops any of the following signs along with stomach pain, seek emergency medical care. 

They may be signs of a more serious condition or infection:

  • Severe pain that comes on suddenly
  • Pain that lasts for an entire hour or comes and goes for 24 hours
  • Blood in bowel movements
  • Black, tarry bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to eat or drink, or keep food and water down
  • Fever of 102ºF or higher
  • Rapid weight loss without trying
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feeling a lump in the abdomen
  • Inability to pass urine or a bowel movement
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

If you have stomach pain that does not have signs of a serious condition but that lasts for a long period of time or does not resolve, speak with a healthcare provider.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best medicine for stomach pain?
The best medicine for stomach pain depends on the cause. For cramping from diarrhea, OTC medicine like loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) can help to relieve symptoms. For pain from acid reflux, antacids like Pepcid or Zantac can help provide relief.
What is the fastest way to relieve stomach pain?
The fastest way to relieve stomach pain depends on the cause. For acid reflux, antacids can provide fast relief. For constipation, a laxative can help produce a bowel movement within a few hours. And antidiarrheal medicines can stop intestinal cramping and diarrhea.
Can I take a painkiller for stomach pain?
If your stomach pain is from an ulcer, avoid NSAIDs like ibuprofen. But if you have stomach pain from something else, OTC pain relievers are typically effective. Ask your healthcare provider for advice on dosage and how often to take for stomach pain.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Robynn Lowe

Robynn Lowe is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years in the medical field. Robynn received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Florida Atlantic University and has been practicing in rural family medicine since. Robynn is married to her college sweetheart, Raymond and they have three awesome children. When Robynn isn't with patients you can find her shopping, coaching her kids sports teams, or spending time on the water.

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