Upper Gastric Pain: 11 Causes of Pain on Top of the Stomach

Upper gastric pain, also known as epigastric pain, is any kind of soreness experienced on top of the stomach region, beneath the rib cage. Upper gastric pain is a commonly experienced condition and it may occur while eating or directly after eating. Upper gastric pain may range from mild discomfort to severe burning sensation with extreme pain. The symptoms are often accompanied by other digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhoea and bloating.

Upper Gastric Pain

Upper Gastric Pain: 11 Causes of Pain on Top of the Stomach

The upper portion of the abdomen consists of vital organs and body parts which include oesophagus, gall bladder, liver, pancreas and duodenum. Pain in this region can be secondary to stomach infection, inflammation or any other disorder in this area. In certain cases, the pain in the upper portion of the abdomen could be due to disorders in the neighbouring organs located within close vicinity, such as kidney, heart, lungs or even disorders within the rib cage. The most common causes of upper gastric pain or pain on top of the stomach are discussed below:

  1. Acid Reflux:

    Acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease/GERD) is a gastrointestinal disorder characterised by upward flow of gastric juices or stomach acid into the oesophagus and this can cause upper gastric pain or pain on top of the stomach. The oesophagus is the tube that connects the throat with the stomach. The symptoms of acid reflux worsen after lying down post eating. It is a chronic disease and requires medical attention.

  2. Pain on Top of the Stomach Caused Due to Gastritis:

    Gastritis is a condition characterised by inflammation of the inner lining of the abdomen. Based on the extent and severity of the condition, it can be classified as temporary or chronic condition. Temporary or acute cases are usually due to certain infection in the stomach. It is associated with burning type of pain in the upper portion of the stomach and the condition worsens with alcohol consumption, caffeine intake, side effects of certain medications, skipping meals, oily food etc.

  3. Heartburn and Indigestion Causing Upper Gastric Pain:

    Heartburn or indigestion is characterised by a burning sensation in the chest with pain on top of the stomach. The cause of this condition is closely related with acid reflux, wherein there is upward flow of stomach acid into the oesophagus. This condition can be a temporary issue or it may occur repeatedly over a period of time.

  4. Pregnancy as a Cause of Upper Gastric Pain:

    Pregnancy is accompanied by wide range of health issues. Some women experience pain in the upper portion on the stomach with pregnancy. This is possibly due to exertion of pressure over the abdominal wall by the growing foetus. Hormonal changes brought in by pregnancy can also lead to digestive issues and acid reflux causing pain on top of stomach.

  5. Alcohol Consumption:

    Excessive intake of alcohol over a period of time can lead to digestive issues along with upper gastric pain or pain on top of the stomach. This is because repeated exposure to alcohol can cause erosion of the stomach lining and it can also lead to inflammation of the stomach lining. This leads to upper gastric pain as well.

  6. Over-eating Can Cause Upper Gastric Pain:

    This is a temporary condition caused due to excessive eating on a sudden occasion. As with pregnancy, sudden consumption of excessive food or over eating can lead to pressure build up or distension of the abdominal wall. In some cases, over eating is also associated with indigestion. This kind of pain may be experienced after eating too much.

  7. Lactose Intolerance:

    Lactose intolerance is a condition which affects small portions of the population. It is a condition where the affected person is unable to digest lactose or dairy products. Individuals known to have lactose intolerance, experience upper gastric pain or pain on top of the stomach on consumption of dairy products. This kind of pain may also be experienced with food allergies.

  8. Stomach Cancer:

    Upper gastric pain in absence of the common issues can indicate serious condition such as stomach cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer. Cancer in the abdominal region is often associated with sudden abdominal pain without any explanation.

  9. Gall Bladder Infection and Gallstones:

    Any medical issue that affects the gall bladder such as gall bladder infection or gall stones may cause pain in the upper gastric region or pain on top of the stomach. Gall bladder disorders causes pain in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, radiating to the epigastric region.

  10. Peptic Ulcer Disease:

    This is a common cause of upper gastric pain. It is caused due to ulcers in the stomach or the small intestine associated with irritation and soreness over the stomach lining.

  11. Constipation:

    Constipation is a medical condition associated with difficulty in passing stools. Constipation can be caused by multiple reasons such as intake of certain food, inadequate fluid consumptions, presence of other medical conditions, side effects of certain medications etc. Upper gastric pain caused by constipation often subsides post defecation.

    Other possible causes of upper gastric pain include presence of underlying medical conditions such as hernia, abdominal aortic aneurysm, pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, kidney stones, splenic abscess, bacterial infections, heart diseases, etc. Whatever the reason for the upper gastric pain or pain on top of the stomach region, one must not delay in seeking medical help. Earlier the cause of the upper gastric pain is diagnosed, earlier would be the relief from it.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 15, 2017

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