What causes upper stomach pain?

Upper abdominal pain has many potential causes, some more serious than others.

That dull ache or sharp pain right below your ribs, in the upper part of your tummy can be a scary feeling, leaving you wondering what’s going on inside.

The upper part of your stomach also called the upper abdomen, houses important organs like your stomach, oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach), liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. When any of these organs experience irritation, inflammation, or blockage, it can lead to upper stomach pain.

Common causes of upper stomach pain

Here are some of the most frequent reasons for upper stomach pain:

1. Indigestion

This is a catch-all term for discomfort after eating. It can be caused by overeating, eating too quickly, or consuming spicy or greasy foods. Symptoms like heartburn, bloating, and gas often accompany indigestion.

2. Muscle strain

Lifting heavy objects or strenuous exercise can strain the muscles in your upper abdomen, leading to pain. This type of pain is usually sharp and improves with rest and pain relievers.

3. Gastritis

Causes of upper stomach pain [Livestrongcom]

This is the inflammation of the lining of your stomach. It can be caused by infection with H. pylori bacteria, overuse of pain relievers, or excessive alcohol consumption. Gastritis can cause a gnawing or burning pain in the upper stomach, especially on an empty stomach.

4. Peptic ulcers

These are open sores that develop on the lining of your stomach or the first part of your small intestine. They can be caused by H. pylori infection or prolonged use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or aspirin. Peptic ulcers often cause burning pain in the upper stomach that may improve with eating or taking antacids.

5. Gallstones

These are small, hardened deposits that form in your gallbladder, a small organ located near your liver. Gallstones can cause severe pain in the upper right abdomen, especially after eating a fatty meal. The pain may come in waves and might radiate to your back or right shoulder blade.

6. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

This occurs when stomach acid backs up into your oesophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn) and upper stomach pain. Spicy or fatty foods, caffeine, and alcohol can all trigger GERD symptoms.

Less common causes of upper stomach pain

While less frequent, other factors can contribute to upper stomach pain, including:

1. Appendicitis

This is the inflammation of the appendix, a small pouch located in your lower right abdomen. Appendicitis typically causes sharp pain in the lower right abdomen that may migrate to the upper right abdomen as the inflammation worsens. Appendicitis requires immediate medical attention.

2. Pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach, can cause severe upper abdominal pain that radiates to your back.

3. Kidney stones

Causes of upper stomach pain [HealthyMatters]

These are hard deposits that form in your kidneys. While kidney stones typically cause pain in your lower back, radiating pain to the upper abdomen can sometimes occur.

Relief for upper stomach pain

If you’re experiencing upper stomach pain, here are some steps you can take to find relief:

Over-the-counter medications: Antacids can neutralise stomach acid and provide relief from heartburn and indigestion. Pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with muscle strain or pain caused by inflammation.Dietary changes: Avoid foods that trigger your symptoms, such as spicy or greasy foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Eat smaller, more frequent meals, and chew your food thoroughly.Stress management: Stress can worsen digestive issues. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can help manage stress and potentially alleviate upper stomach pain.

ALSO READ: Should you see a Doctor for that sharp stomach pain?

When to see a doctor

See a doctor for physical examination [DocCharge]

Although most upper stomach pain resolves on its own with home care, there are situations where seeking medical attention is crucial. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

Severe pain: If your pain is severe and unrelenting, don’t hesitate to seek medical help.Vomiting blood: This can be a sign of a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention.Bloody stools: Similarly, bloody stools can point to a serious issue and warrant a doctor’s visit.Unexplained weight loss: If you’re losing weight without trying, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition.Difficulty swallowing: This can indicate problems with your oesophagus and requires evaluation by a doctor.

The takeaway

Upper stomach pain can be a cause for concern, but it doesn’t always signal a serious issue. By understanding the common causes and following home remedies, you can find relief.

If you experience any of the red flags mentioned above, don’t hesitate to seek professional medical advice.

This content was created with the help of an AI model and verified by the writer.

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