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How to relieve upper stomach pain immediately?

How to relieve upper stomach pain immediately?

Navin Khosla NowPatientGreen tick
Updated on 20 May 2024

Experiencing upper abdominal pain or stomach ache can be a concerning and uncomfortable situation. Whether it’s a sharp, dull, or burning sensation, this type of discomfort often indicates an underlying issue with the digestive system or other vital organs in the upper abdomen.

Let’s explore the common causes of upper abdominal pain, discuss the various types of discomfort, and provide you with a step-by-step approach to managing and alleviating this condition effectively.

Understanding upper abdominal pain

The upper abdomen, the region between the ribcage and the navel, houses a variety of vital organs, including the stomach, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and duodenum. Pain in this area can stem from a wide range of conditions, each with its own set of symptoms and underlying causes.

Identifying the location of the pain

One of the first steps in understanding and addressing upper abdominal pain is to pinpoint the exact location of the discomfort. Healthcare providers often divide the abdomen into four areas to help narrow down the potential causes:

  • Upper left area: This area is predominantly occupied by the stomach, pancreas, and spleen. Pain in this region may point to issues with these organs
  • Upper right area: The upper right quadrant contains the gallbladder, liver, and part of the pancreas. Discomfort in this area could signify problems with the biliary system or liver
  • Upper middle (epigastric) region: The epigastric region encompasses the stomach, liver, and pancreas. Pain in this central area may be related to digestive system disorders or inflammation
  • Radiating pain: In some cases, the pain may not be localized to a specific quadrant but instead radiate to other areas, such as the back, chest, or shoulders. This can occur when the underlying issue affects nerves or structures beyond the upper abdomen

Types of upper abdominal pain

Upper abdominal pain can manifest in various forms, each with its distinctive characteristics:

  • Dull, aching pain: This type of discomfort is often associated with conditions like gastritis, peptic ulcers, or pancreatitis
  • Sharp, stabbing pain: Sudden, intense pain that comes in waves may indicate a more serious issue, such as gallstones or appendicitis
  • Burning or gnawing pain: A burning or gnawing sensation in the upper abdomen is commonly linked to conditions like acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Cramping or colicky pain: Intermittent, cramping pain that comes and goes in waves is often characteristic of intestinal or biliary tract disorders
  • Radiating pain: As mentioned earlier, pain that radiates to the back, chest, or shoulders may be a sign of a more complex underlying condition, such as a heart attack or lung problem

Understanding the specific type and location of your upper abdominal pain can provide valuable clues to your healthcare provider, helping them determine the potential cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Possible causes of abdominal pain

Upper abdominal pain can have a wide range of underlying causes, from minor digestive issues to more serious medical conditions. Let’s explore some of the most common culprits:

Gastrointestinal disorders

  • Indigestion (Dyspepsia): Characterized by a burning sensation, bloating, and discomfort after eating, indigestion is one of the most prevalent causes of upper abdominal pain
  • Constipation: Stomach pain with bloating is often caused by trapped wind or constipation
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, leading to a burning sensation in the upper abdomen and chest
  • Peptic ulcers: Stomach ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or duodenum, often causing a dull, gnawing pain in the upper abdomen
  • Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach lining, known as gastritis, can result in upper abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis, can cause severe upper abdominal pain that may radiate to the back

Biliary tract disorders

  • Gallstones: Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can block the bile ducts, leading to intense, cramping pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen
  • Cholecystitis: Inflammation of the gallbladder, known as cholecystitis, can cause sharp, persistent pain in the upper right abdomen

Musculoskeletal conditions

  • Abdominal muscle strain: A pulled or strained abdominal muscle can result in upper abdominal pain, particularly with movement or physical activity
  • Referred pain: In some cases, pain from other areas, such as the chest or back, can be felt in the upper abdomen due to shared nerve pathways

Other potential causes

  • Kidney stones: While primarily felt in the lower back, kidney stones can sometimes cause referred pain in the upper abdomen
  • Pregnancy complications: Upper abdominal pain during pregnancy may be a sign of preeclampsia, placental abruption, or other pregnancy-related issues
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): A chronic condition characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, gas pain and altered bowel habits
  • Crohn’s disease: Crohn’s disease is associated with gastrointestinal inflammation, which can cause an upset stomach
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, and some dementia treatments, can cause upper abdominal discomfort as a side effect

Treatment for upper abdominal pain

When experiencing upper abdominal pain home remedies such as peppermint oil/tea or chamomile tea are often useful but here are some effective strategies to consider if symptoms are persistent:

Over-the-counter medications

  • Antacids: Antacids can provide quick relief for mild to moderate upper abdominal pain caused by indigestion, acid reflux or heartburn
  • H2 blockers: Medications like ranitidine or famotidine can help reduce stomach acid production and alleviate pain associated with peptic ulcers or GERD
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs): Omeprazole and esomeprazole are examples of PPIs that can provide more long-term relief for chronic acid reflux and related upper abdominal discomfort
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen can help alleviate upper abdominal pain, particularly if it’s related to muscle strain or inflammation

Dietary and lifestyle changes

  • Adjust your diet: Avoid foods and beverages that may trigger or exacerbate your upper abdominal pain, such as fried or spicy food, or acidic food and drinks. Opt for bland, easily digestible foods like crackers, rice, or bananas
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of clear fluids, such as water or broth, to help keep your digestive system functioning properly
  • Apply heat: Placing a warm heating pad or hot water bottle on the upper abdomen can help relax the muscles and provide soothing relief
  • Rest and relax: Take it easy and avoid strenuous physical activity until the pain subsides. Resting in a comfortable position can also help alleviate discomfort
  • Seek medical attention

If the upper abdominal pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by concerning symptoms, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Your healthcare provider may recommend the following:

  • Physical examination: Your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination, palpating the abdomen to assess the location and severity of the pain
  • Diagnostic tests: Depending on the suspected cause, your doctor may order various tests, such as blood work, imaging scans (e.g., ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI), endoscopy, or other specialized procedures
  • Prescription medications: For more severe or chronic upper abdominal pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, antispasmodics, or analgesics
  • Referral to a specialist: In some cases, your primary care provider may refer you to a gastroenterologist or other specialist for further evaluation and targeted treatment

Remember, it’s essential to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and communicate any changes or concerns to ensure the most effective management of your upper abdominal pain.

Preventing recurrent upper abdominal pain

While addressing the immediate discomfort is crucial, it’s also important to take steps to prevent the recurrence of upper abdominal pain. Here are some strategies to consider:

Lifestyle modifications

  • Maintain a balanced diet: Eat a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, while limiting your intake of spicy, fried, and acidic foods
  • Stay physically active: Regular exercise can help support digestive health and reduce the risk of conditions that may lead to upper abdominal pain
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can contribute to various gastrointestinal issues, so practice stress-reducing techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and tobacco: Both alcohol and tobacco can irritate the digestive system and increase the risk of upper abdominal pain

Seek immediate medical attention

While many cases of upper abdominal pain can be managed with self-care and over-the-counter remedies, there are certain situations where seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. Look out for the following red flags and act promptly:

  • Worsening or severe pain: If the upper abdominal pain is sudden, severe, or steadily worsening, it’s essential to seek emergency medical advice
  • Persistent vomiting: Repeated or persistent vomiting, especially if accompanied by blood or a coffee-ground-like substance requires immediate attention
  • Difficulty breathing: If the upper abdominal pain is accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain, it could be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as a heart attack, and requires immediate medical intervention
  • Fever and chills: Upper abdominal pain coupled with a high fever (above 101°F or 38.3°C) and chills may indicate an infection or other serious condition that requires prompt medical evaluation
  • Jaundice: Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes (jaundice) can be a sign of a problem with the liver or bile ducts and should be addressed immediately
  • Unable to pass gas or have a bowel movement: If you are unable to pass gas or have a bowel movement, it could be a sign of a bowel obstruction, which requires urgent medical attention
  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge: For women, unexplained vaginal bleeding or discharge, accompanied by upper abdominal pain, may indicate a gynecological issue that requires prompt medical evaluation

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health. If you are unsure whether your upper abdominal pain warrants immediate medical attention, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional without delay.


Upper abdominal pain can be a complex and concerning symptom, but it can be effectively managed and addressed. Remember, if the pain persists, worsens, or is accompanied by concerning symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical attention. Your healthcare provider can diagnose and identify the underlying cause, and help prevent future episodes of upper abdominal discomfort.


Medical Disclaimer

NowPatient has taken all reasonable steps to ensure that all material is factually accurate, complete, and current. However, the knowledge and experience of a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought after instead of using the information on this page. Before taking any drug, you should always speak to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider.

The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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