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Abdominal Pain: ER or UC?

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Abdominal Pain: ER or UC?

We have all experienced stomach pain at some point in our lives. For some, it is a passing discomfort that quickly goes away. But for others, the pain can be sharp, intense and downright debilitating.

So, when you're experiencing abdominal pain, how do you know if you should go to an emergency room or urgent care center? Let's differentiate between the two.

Emergency Room v. Urgent Care

Emergency rooms are for medical emergencies that could lead to death or long-term disability if not treated immediately. These include chest pain, uncontrolled bleeding, stroke symptoms and severe abdominal pain.

Urgent care centers typically cater to non-emergency medical needs requiring prompt attention. These cases are not life-threatening. They include cold and flu symptoms, sinus infections, minor cuts or burns, and sprains or fractures.

Factors to Consider When You Have Abdominal Pain

When experiencing abdominal pain, you should consider a few factors before going to the ER or urgent care center.

Severity of the Pain

The intensity of your stomach pain is probably the most critical factor to consider. If the pain is debilitating and accompanied by other symptoms, such as vomiting, fever or fainting, you should go to the emergency room.

An urgent care center may be a better option if the pain is milder and more manageable.


Where you feel the abdominal pain can also help you decide whether to go to the emergency room or an urgent care center. Different areas of the abdomen can indicate various problems for different organs.

For example, shooting pains in the right upper quadrant of your stomach are more likely to indicate a problem with your gallbladder or liver. Your lower abdomen is home to most of your large and small intestines. So, pain in this area is more likely related to constipation, gas or stomach viruses.

Your Medical History

When deciding between an urgent care center or the emergency room, any recent surgeries, diagnosed conditions or allergies should be considered.

For example, if you have a history of stroke or heart attack, you should go to the emergency room for acute abdominal pain.

Questions to Ask Yourself

To help you make the best decision for your health, here's a list of questions to ask yourself when evaluating your abdominal pain:

  • Is the pain bad enough to prevent you from performing normal activities?
  • Are you experiencing other symptoms, such as persistent nausea, vomiting or fever?
  • Do you have any known illnesses that could be causing the pain?
  • Is breathing difficult, or does the pain radiate to your chest, shoulders or neck?
  • Are you pregnant?

If "no" is your answer to most of these questions, an urgent care center may be a better option for you. If you can manage the pain and don't have any other concerning symptoms, urgent care providers can help diagnose and treat the problem.

Get the Care You Need at UF Health Emergency & Urgent Care Center

UF Health Emergency & Urgent Care Center

In the past, the decision on where to go for your illnesses and injuries was up to you. Now, let us be the expert to diagnose and treat you anytime you need us, all at one location.

At UF Health Emergency & Urgent Care Centers, our primary goal is to provide the residents of Northeast Florida with exceptional service and the proper billing for the care they need. Our combined emergency room and urgent care is fully equipped to handle everything from allergies to chest pain with on-site labs, X-ray, ultrasound and CT, all under one roof.

The ER and urgent care centers are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No appointment is necessary — just walk in!

Find the UF Health Emergency & Urgent Care Center in Jacksonville near you at