What Causes Upper Stomach Pain?

Upper stomach pain, often referred to as epigastric pain, can have various causes, ranging from mild and temporary issues to more serious medical conditions. The location, type, and duration of the pain, along with any associated symptoms, can help determine the underlying cause. Some common causes of upper stomach pain include:

  • Indigestion or Heartburn: Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause a burning sensation or discomfort in the upper abdomen, often occurring after eating or when lying down.
  • Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach lining can result in upper abdominal pain, often accompanied by nausea, bloating, and a feeling of fullness.
  • Peptic Ulcers: Sores in the stomach or the upper part of the small intestine can cause gnawing or burning pain in the upper abdomen. This pain may worsen with meals.
  • Gallbladder Issues: Gallbladder problems, such as gallstones or cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), can lead to upper right abdominal pain, often radiating to the back or shoulder.
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas can cause severe, constant upper abdominal pain, which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and pain that radiates to the back.
  • Gastroenteritis: Viral or bacterial infections of the stomach and intestines can cause upper abdominal pain, along with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, and fever.
  • Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, leading to upper abdominal discomfort and reflux symptoms.
  • Muscle Strain: Overexertion or injury to the abdominal muscles can result in localized pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Liver Conditions: Conditions like hepatitis or liver inflammation can cause upper abdominal pain, typically in the right upper quadrant.
  • Kidney Stones: Kidney stones can sometimes cause referred pain to the upper abdomen or back, along with symptoms like hematuria (blood in the urine) and pain radiating to the groin.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Emotional stress and anxiety can affect the digestive system, leading to changes in gut motility and increased abdominal discomfort.
  • Medications: Some medications, including certain antibiotics, pain relievers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can irritate the stomach lining and cause upper abdominal pain.
  • Cardiac Issues: In rare cases, heart problems, such as angina or a heart attack, can present with upper abdominal pain or discomfort, especially in women.

If you are experiencing severe or persistent upper abdominal pain, especially if it’s associated with other concerning symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting, seek immediate medical attention, as it could indicate a serious condition. For less severe cases of upper abdominal pain, consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and diagnosis to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment or management.