What Causes Upper Stomach Pain?

You may experience upper stomach pain that doesn’t feel like nausea, an upset stomach, or a stomach ache. It’s pain in your upper abdominal area. What causes upper stomach pain, and when should you see a doctor about it?

Several different things can cause upper abdominal pain. Talk to your physician if your pain is severe, if it doesn't go away, or if you have additional symptoms. Click To Tweet

Causes of upper stomach pain

Stomach pain in the upper abdomen can be chronic or acute; it can be mild or severe. It can go away on its own, or it may require treatment from a medical professional. This all depends on what is causing the pain.

Here are a few of the things that might cause upper abdominal pain.

  • Gas
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Heartburn
  • Hernia
  • Indigestion
  • Infection
  • Inflammation in the stomach or other abdominal organs such as the gallbladder, pancreas, kidneys, liver, or spleen.
  • Muscle injury from exercise, lifting heavy objects, physical activity without warming up, twisting movements, or even violent coughing or sneezing
  • Pancreatitis
  • Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia
  • Ulcers

Other serious disorders may cause pain in the upper abdomen.

Abdominal pain doesn’t always require medical treatment. For example, pain from gas or indigestion is typically mild and goes away on its own within one to two days. However, infections may require antibiotics or treatment from a physician.

Know when to talk to a doctor

Keep track of your symptoms. A good understanding of your symptoms lets you know when to see a doctor, and it can help your doctor provide proper treatment.

  • When did the pain start?
  • Does it persist, or does it go away and return?
  • Did the pain occur suddenly or slowly?
  • Is it mild or severe? 
  • Does the pain move around?
  • Does it occur after you eat?
  • Do you experience additional symptoms such as fever, vomiting, increase heart rate, diarrhea, weight loss, shortness of breath, or swelling?

Communicating this information to your physician can improve the level of care that your receive.

Talk to your doctor if:

  • you experience severe abdominal pain
  • the pain moves to different areas
  • the pain that does not go away after one or two days
  • you experience pain with additional symptoms

Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist — a doctor that specializes in diagnosing and treating digestive tract disorders.