Understanding Upper Stomach Pain

What we often refer to as upper stomach pain isn't necessarily due to a stomach disorder, although in many cases it could be. What we call upper stomach pain can be a pain that is felt anywhere from the belly button to the breastbone, as opposed to lower stomach pain, which is felt between the belly button and the pelvis. Just where the pain is may seem immaterial at first, as the immediate objective is to get relief. If that isn't possible, and the pain persists, it's usually advisable to seek medical attention. Pain can often be unpleasant, but it's our body's way of telling us that something is not as it should be, whether that something is serious or not.

The Most Common Cause? - Eating

We're most apt to experience stomach pain just after eating. Either we've eaten too much, eaten too fast, eaten under stress, or ate something that didn't agree with us. This type of stomach pain is caused by indigestion or gas. There are some lessons to be learned here, such as eat less, eat more slowly, relax before dinner, and be more careful with what you put in your mouth. Swallowing air can cause stomach pain at times, and many people swallow air without realizing they're doing so. We all do it to some extent when we drink a carbonated beverage, or gulp down a beverage. These are lessons we all tend to forget on occasion, and we sometimes pay the price. If we're experiencing stomach pain quite often when we eat, no matter what we eat, it can be a different story altogether. The pain may indicate that something of a more serious nature is going on.

If the upper stomach pain we're experiencing doesn't appear to have anything to do with eating, which is to say we haven't eaten in awhile, indigestion and gas can likely be ruled out as possible causes. A good rule of thumb might be this. The longer the pain lingers, or the more severe it is, the greater the chances of there being an emergency situation. Certainly, a pain that steadily grows worse is an indication that something is quite wrong, and seeking proper medical attention may be the only sensible option to pursue.

More Than Just The Stomach

As noted earlier, an upper stomach pain may be due to something other than the stomach itself. What that something is can depend on which side of your abdomen the pain is being felt. Is it is being felt in the left side, in the right side, in the middle, or all over? Diverticulitis, which tends to affect older adults more so than younger people, is a disorder in the intestines, but pain it causes is most often felt in the upper stomach area. Intestinal obstructions for that matter often cause pain that is felt in the upper stomach as opposed to the lower abdomen. Lung problems can cause pain that can at times be mistaken for a stomach disorder.

While the pain accompanying a heart attack more often than not is felt in the chest, the left shoulder, or left arm, there are times when the attack seems more likely to be an attack of indigestion. The symptoms usually go well beyond those of a simple case of indigestion however. Even angina, the pain that is sometimes experienced when there is an insufficient blood flow to the heart, at times may seem to be centered in the upper stomach rather than coming from the heart and the upper chest, were it is usually felt. The many causes of stomach pain, in this case upper stomach pain, can often be difficult to pinpoint, as almost all of the organs in the vicinity of the stomach can cause discomfort we might associate with the stomach. That includes not only the heart and the lungs, but the kidneys, the pancreas, and the spleen. Hiatal hernia, a condition which can cause stomach acid to back up in the esophagus, will sometimes cause pain or discomfort in the upper chest, just below the throat, but most of the time the pain that is experienced appears to come from the area of the upper stomach.

When To See The Doctor

Because there are so many possible causes of pain that can be felt in the area of the upper stomach, there is no one-size-fits-all method of treatment. Taking an antacid will work in some cases, taking a pain reliever may help in others. Eating smaller meals may help prevent a recurrence of the pain. Of greater importance is knowing when one should call a doctor, or seek emergency assistance. If pain is felt in the chest, as well as the upper stomach area, it is very likely an emergency situation, as it will also be if the pain is becoming unbearable. If the pain is tolerable, or is not permanent, but tends to return again and again, it's still a good idea to see a doctor, as the pain could be a sign of a serious underlying disease or disorder that needs attention.


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