Causes of Stomach Pains

The stomach is an organ found within the abdomen, which is the area between the ribs and the pelvic bone. Most people have had an experience with pain in the abdomen, which is often called stomach pain, but may actually arise from any number of organs or structures within the abdomen. Dysfunction in organs outside the abdomen, but nearby, can cause pain in the abdomen, such as a heart attack or pneumonia in the lungs. Pain can be mild or severe and does not necessarily correlate with the severity of what is causing it.


At the beginning of the large intestine there is a small pouch called the appendix, which can become blocked. When this happens, the appendix becomes inflamed, and if not properly treated, it can eventually rupture leading to serious infection. According to the National Institutes of Health, the first symptom of appendicitis is usually pain around the navel that eventually centers over the appendix, which is on the right lower side of the abdomen. Patients with appendicitis also have reported low-grade fevers, reduced appetite, nausea and vomiting.


The gallbladder is a small organ just beneath the liver on the upper right side of your abdomen. The gallbladder secretes a digestive fluid called bile, which can occasionally harden to form gallstones. According to the Mayo Clinic, gallstones may cause sudden and rapidly intensifying pain in the upper right or center portion of the abdomen, the right shoulder blade or the area between the shoulder blades. Unless the pain becomes unbearable or other complications arise such as a fever, gallstones usually don’t require treatment.


Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition where stomach contents are allowed to pass backward into the esophagus, which is the tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach. These contents, which are made up of food and digestive fluids, can irritate the lining of the esophagus and cause severe pain. Usually a sphincter, a circular muscle, does not allow regurgitation, but when this sphincter is not functioning properly, it can lead to what is commonly referred to as heartburn. This pain can be felt higher up, but is often felt in the abdomen.


One of the most common causes of abdominal pain is constipation or gas buildup in the stomach and intestines. According to, constipation refers to difficulty having a bowel movement because of a lack of fluids or fiber in the digestive tract. This condition is rarely serious, but can cause severe pain in the abdomen.


There are wide variety of other causes of abdominal pain, some serious and some minor. Aortic aneurysms, ulcers, pancreatitis, intestinal obstruction and cancers can all cause abdominal pain. Any pain that does not resolve in a relatively short time or is accompanied by other worrisome signs should be checked by a doctor, according to Mayo Clinic.

About this Author

Dr. Blake Biddulph received his chiropractic degree from Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas in 2007 and has been practicing as a chiropractic physician in Provo, Utah, ever since. He has a special interest in spinal rehabilitation and treats patients with a variety of neck and back conditions. He has been writing health-related articles and newsletters for several years.