is my husband an idiot or am I a worrywart?
February 27, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Please talk to me about dealing with the symptoms of trapped wind (gas). My husband is really suffering and I'm bewildered.

My husband has an ongoing issue with white flour, and last night foolishly ate a piece of toast. Three hours later he was home, doubled over in pain from trapped wind.

He suffers from this periodically, but this has now been going on for more than 24 hours and is more severe than usual. We have tried floor stretches, stair climbing, bicarbonate of soda in water, and OTC tablets with simethicone. Nothing seems to really be helping.

I never suffer from this so I have no yardstick for normal presentation of symptoms but he's really in serious pain at moments. There are groans, shouts, shreiks and have been some tears. I know that "serious abdominal pain = ER" and I have just given that advice myself, but he's 100% confident this is nothing more serious than trapped wind. He has been through appendicitis with me and he's aware we're mortal, so I still trust his judgement but it is just going on forever and I'm starting to get concerned.

1) Let us assume this is indeed trapped wind. Is this amount and duration of pain within normal parameters? Is there anything else we can do to ease it?

2) Should I force him to see go to our GP tomorrow / an urgent care clinic tonight / A&E right now? I mean, what are the heroic intervention measures for this? Can anyone really do anything for this at any of those places?

3) If I am an idiot and there is a real danger this is something else, what else could it be? There is no fever and no other symptoms so I'm at a loss here.
posted by DarlingBri to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just to be clear when you say no other symptoms: no nausea, no vomiting? Has he been able to have a bowel movement over the past 24 hours? Is he able to eat? Is his stomach soft, or is it hard/distended?
posted by scody at 7:14 PM on February 27, 2011

I'd say urgent care or GP tomorrow, and over the counter remedies, squatting exercises and massage for now. I'm not a doctor, though, and if this is significantly different from previous occurrences, you might want to err on the safe side and go to the urgent care now rather than waiting until morning.
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:16 PM on February 27, 2011

There's the passing wind pose (yoga)...might help move things along. I can't comment on whether there's actual medical risk.
posted by sninctown at 7:17 PM on February 27, 2011

Response by poster: scody: "Just to be clear when you say no other symptoms: no nausea, no vomiting? Has he been able to have a bowel movement over the past 24 hours? Is he able to eat? Is his stomach soft, or is it hard/distended?"

No nausea, no vomiting, he's had bowel movement, and was able to eat a bowel of oatmeal. His stomach was soft the last time I checked but I can check again and update if that has changed.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:18 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

sorry, link I meant is this: wind relieving pose
posted by sninctown at 7:20 PM on February 27, 2011

IANAD and this is NOT medical advice, but as a data point I had an attack of severe gastritis once in college. I still don't know what caused it. I was in miserable pain and could not find a comfortable position to stand or sit, was nearly in tears, and finally made a friend drive me to the emergency room.

They took some X-rays and told me I had acute gastritis and just gave me a couple ($3.50/ea) Tylenol. But I could barely stand it for an hour. Maybe less. At 24-hours I'd say it deserves the ER or at least Urgent Care. Good luck. : /
posted by Glinn at 7:22 PM on February 27, 2011

No chest or arm or jaw pain?
posted by gingerest at 7:23 PM on February 27, 2011

The fact that this is more severe than his usual bouts and that it's lasting for more than 24 hours would concern me. If it were me, I'd do something about it now. Yeah it could be nothing but gas but then again, you don't know. If it is something serious, it's always better to catch things early. The last time I had severe abdominal pain it ended up being a kidney stone. The last time my brother had severe abdominal pain, it ended up being diverticulitis. He was only 30 and didn't experience any other symptoms other than what he thought was severe gas pains.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:27 PM on February 27, 2011

When pregnant and having a similar problem, I spent a lot of time on all fours with my butt up high in the air and my shoulders as close to the ground as I could get them. Doctor suggested that position. Typically at least made me marginally comfortable. Moved my legs some and wiggled around a bit, on the theory it might help move things along ... no idea if that helped or not.

Find something entertaining on TV, it's hella boring, impossible to read in that pose, and you need distraction.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:27 PM on February 27, 2011

Not a physician, this is not medical advice, but this jibes with my own mental decision tree: chart for short-term abdominal pain.
posted by gingerest at 7:28 PM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'd call the GP in the morning and explain the symptoms. IANAD but I have to follow one around occasionally, and one time a patient came in with similar symptoms. and was told she had severe constipation and needed to go to the ER immediately to get it, er, sorted out. The doctor was irritated that she came in at all- he said that if she had explained her symptoms to his nurse when she called, they would have told her to go straight to the ER and not to come in to the office at all.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 7:30 PM on February 27, 2011

I had similar symptoms happen to me last week. It feels tempting to lie down or hunch over because your stomach hurts so badly, but it's really better to stand up straight and take a long walk. Change into a very loose fitting pair of pants (or no pants at all, if he's at home). Drink ginger and/or peppermint tea, and also drink a lot of water. Lastly, whenever I get a stomachache like this, I find that plain yogurt helps soothe the symptoms.
posted by hooray at 7:34 PM on February 27, 2011

This has been happening to me since I was a kid. My solution has always been to get in bed, get on my knees, lay my face on a pillow, stick my butt in the air, keep my arms at my sides and rock side to side/gently wiggle. The pain subsides shortly after. It has never failed me.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:36 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh geez..or what Eyebrows McGee said, sans pregnancy!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:37 PM on February 27, 2011

One more data point: my dad has issues with gluten, and he has diverticulitis, where gas or foodstuffs get trapped in little pockets of colon, like a wrong turn in a maze. He found out he has diverticulitis in one episode that sent him to the ER with pain that sounds simliar to your husband's. His pain was on the right side, and he came pretty close to having his appendix out. It might be something to check with the doctor about, though treatment is mostly diet modifications. I am definitely NAD.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:42 PM on February 27, 2011

You are describing what I experienced as a gallbladder attack.

He needs to go get checked.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:43 PM on February 27, 2011

This happens to me sometimes. Usually my solution is to lay on my stomach and massage my back, slowly pushing down the gas bubbles. Sometimes I can persuade my husband to GENTLY put pressure on my back with a stockinged foot, which he always finds ridiculous and laughs at but is usually a huge help. Sometimes I just gently massage my own stomach with my hands too.

Also helpful: drinking a carbonated beverage quickly, antacids, going for long walks, not eating spaghetti and white clam sauce which always does this to me but I love it so much that it's worth it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:43 PM on February 27, 2011

Response by poster: Abdomen is soft, no chest, jaw or arm pain.

I think he's pretty much tried all of the various poses/positions without success, which is why we're at more than 24 hours here, but I will happily encourage him to try all of them again.

It's 3:30 am here so we're about 5.5 hours from normal business hours. I think my plan at this point is to call our GP at 9 and if they can't see him, take him to Urgent Care so he can be assessed. If there is any change I will bundled him over to the ER and make noise about divertilulitis.

Thanks a lot, I really appreciate everyone's experiences and input here!
posted by DarlingBri at 7:46 PM on February 27, 2011

Walk him through the symptom checker for abdominal pain courtesy of the NHS.

You really should not rely on yourself to assess him accurately by yourself. 24 hours is really bad. I'm assuming the A&E is free, right? Urgent Care, also free?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:48 PM on February 27, 2011

I ended up in the ER with incredible gas pains the other month - so bad I didn't think it COULD be gas. Over the 4-hr wait in the ER waiting room, funnily enough it was trying to get comfortable in the plastic chairs that did the trick - got me moving in somehow the right ways to let the gas start easing out. Eventually it eased off enough that I just left.

So, yeah, gas pain can be incredible. I'm kind of a tough old bird and I was crying and incoherent. The time I can't speak to, but if it's not moving out on it's own, yes absolutely go to the ER or at least your GP and get professional help, even if it's just gas it could be causing problems by pressing on blood vessels, for example, which could have long-term repercussions.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:55 PM on February 27, 2011

I know this will sound silly, but... patting my lower abdomen quickly but softly has always helped break larger gas bubbles into smaller ones, and moves things along pretty quickly. I hope he's okay soon!
posted by thatbrunette at 8:09 PM on February 27, 2011

Response by poster: the young rope-rider: "Walk him through the symptom checker for abdominal pain courtesy of the NHS."

The results of that suggest that further assessment from an NHS careline nurse would be in order, that the wait for such a callback will be in excess of 4 hours due to call volume, and that they would not expect his symptoms to deteriorate in that period.

I am not in the UK so I'm not going to get a call from them anyway, but in 5 hours I can be at my GP's or Urgent Care so I'm OK with that timeline.

You really should not rely on yourself to assess him accurately by yourself.

I'm aware of that. I am not trying to play House, just figure out what to do next.

24 hours is really bad. I'm assuming the A&E is free, right? Urgent Care, also free?"

Both A&E and Urgent Care are low or no cost and money is not why I am hesitating. A&E is a poor option; our local A&E is also the regional peds emergency unit, so with standard triage any adult not in danger of dying is a low priority; all pediatric cases get priority. It was great when I actually was in danger of dying; otherwise, on a weekend we're looking at 9 hours. (I am fine with that, fwiw.)

Urgent Care is privately run and frankly overnight staffing is not great for anything you can't diagnose yourself. UTI at 3 am or a migraine, great; mysterious abdominal pain, not so much. (My appendix ruptured while I was there.)

Our GP is my first choice for the above reasons and probably the fastest way to get him seen by someone who actually can competently assess him.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:26 PM on February 27, 2011

I've had seriously damn bad gas myself, in reaction to eating broccoli or turnips. But -- while the worst case was about as difficult to shift and as painful as your husband's case sounded, it still only lasted 8 hours at most. It sounds like it's worth a look to check whether there's something else going on.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 PM on February 27, 2011

Have you tried Pepto Bismol? If he's constipated (and sometimes you don't even know it because things have come to such a stand-still), the gas can feel even more trapped, but when I have an IBS attack, a little Pepto goes a long way.
posted by petiteviolette at 9:10 PM on February 27, 2011

I was on staff at a weekend respite program where we had a child with cerebral palsy who often got severely constipated. Two things that we tried that I don't think you mentioned: firmly massaging the stomach in the direction of the large intestine and heat therapy. I remember aiming a handheld shower of hot water to his lower abdomen and massaging the "way the poop goes 'round" at the same time. It helped relieve the pain and got things moving.

24 hours is a long time to suffer. I hope he finds some relief soon.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:15 PM on February 27, 2011

I don't know if you're still checking, but a hot bath can really help -- it both relaxes muscles, and encourages the movement of gas. After three calls to the health insurance advice nurse, one suggested that to me. Immerse as much of your [his} torso as you can.
posted by mercredi at 11:08 PM on February 27, 2011

He is very likely Gluten intolerant. Likely he should get off gluten completely.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 4:27 AM on February 28, 2011

A few drops of peppermint essence (must be real peppermint essence not flavouring) in a cup of hot water should help. As hot as he can stand to sip. Although with any severe ongoing pain I would say seek professional guidance asap.

I wish you both good luck, chronic pain of any kind is a terrible thing to have to deal with.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:58 AM on February 28, 2011

Response by poster: Well, for the benefit of history, I'm not sure what finally sorted this out but he is vastly better today. More than anything, I think I was thrown by how much pain he was in - if you've never experienced it, seeing someone you love in that much pain really kicks off the instinct that something is seriously awry. I was battling this inclination even though he was saying he knew what it was and was OK.

I really, really appreciate the time every person put into helping. We will follow up with our GP this week just to rule out underlying conditions as well - there were a lot of plausible candidates in this thread, and a lot of good information. Thank you.

In retrospect, my only regret is that I did not title this thread "This too shall pass?"
posted by DarlingBri at 9:25 AM on February 28, 2011

I have had terrible, terrible gas pains, and was astonished at how much Gas-X helps. For some reason, I had always assumed it was useless. The chewable works much faster, and I had to take at least three times the recommended dose to get results. But in five to ten minutes, the crisis (which had me wondering if I should go to the ER) passed.
posted by Lizzle at 11:19 AM on February 28, 2011

FWIW, this massage method works really well for me. I've had quite a few incidences of trapped gas and gas buildup both from GERD and from being on a CPAP machine; this helps for both of those situations.

(Also good for when I've overdone it at the holiday dinner table.)
posted by Hardcore Poser at 3:01 PM on February 28, 2011

No one ever mentions antispasmodics in posts about gas, for some reason. Although you need to get a prescription for them and they should not be the first thing you turn to because of potential side effects, if very painful gas cramps happen to anyone on a regular or predictable basis, they work wonders. They relax the intestinal muscle, which presumably releases the gas bubbles or at least stops them from contorting your intestines. They don't give you burps and heartburn like peppermint oil can.

You do have to take them at least twenty minutes in advance, but if you think you're likely to have a attack, just pop one and it won't even start. At least, the cramps won't start. I don't think it does much for the bloating/pressure. So it depends what your worst symptoms are I guess.
posted by serena15221 at 5:42 PM on February 28, 2011

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