What Causes Upper Abdominal Pain? Diagnosis and Treatment

There are various abdomen pain regions. Upper, lower, left, right and all have different causes. The upper region of the abdomen is supposedly the storehouse of various organs. These include the spleen, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, a small part of your colon and kidneys. In most of the cases, upper abdominal pain is not serious and does not aggravate any major health issue. Predominantly, the cause is either a pulled muscle and can vanquish within few days. However, few of the conditions might induce discomfort in the area and necessitate the need to seek medical aid.

What Causes Upper Abdominal Pain?

Having said that the pain in the upper abdomen is not life-threatening and can be easily cured. It is imperative to rule out the causes that lead to such a pain. Few of the major causes of the occurrence of upper abdominal pain include:

1. Gallstones

Predominantly, the deposits of solid of bile as well as the digestive fluids in the gallbladder lead to intense pain in the upper abdomen. The gallbladder is a four-inch sized pear-shaped organ, and you can locate it just below the liver. Though the formation of gallstones do not induce discomfort, if the same is seen blocking the duct, then it leads to uneasiness in the right side of your upper abdomen. Few cases witness the pain caused due to the gallstones last for long hours. You should seek medical advice when the symptoms last for more than 3-4 hours. Your doctor will prescribe you several medicines to ease the pain and further resolve the gallstones.

2. Hepatitis

Another major cause of the upper abdominal pain is the induction of hepatitis virus in the body. Inflammation in the liver might cause pain in the right side of the upper abdomen. Hepatitis is of three kinds, the first being hepatitis A, which is the outcome of contaminated food or water or even being in close vicinity with the infected person. Hepatitis B is a severe inflammation of the liver that could be largely life-threatening. Last being the hepatitis C, this is another kind of infection caused due to infected blood and is capable of causing liver damage.

3. Liver Abscess

A sac filled with pus predominantly in the liver region leads to pain in the upper abdomen and is referred to as a liver abscess. There are various reasons for the occurrence of the Liver abscess with the common one being the inflammation caused by bacteria. Also, liver damage or appendicitis causes the pus to be full in the liver area.


Acid reflux or irritation caused in the upper lining of the oesophagus is term as GERD. This leads to a sense of discomfort in the chest, and you might have a feeling of the acid tracing back to the digestive tract. This alternatively induces a sense of pain in the upper abdomen.

5. A Hiatal Hernia

Protrusion of the muscle that segregates the abdomen and diaphragm is termed as a hiatal hernia. This leads to intense pain in the upper part of the abdomen.

6. Gastritis

Infection in the lining of the stomach mainly due to the infection caused by bacteria is termed as gastritis. Intake of pain relievers or excessive consumption of alcohol leads to gastritis. A bloating followed by the pain worsens when you eat food.

Few other causes of pain in the upper abdomen includes Peptic ulcers, indigestion, ruptured spleen, and pancreatitis. Depending upon the cause of the pain, the doctor would suggest corresponding treatment and medication.

Risk Factors of Upper Abdominal Pain

Though the upper abdomen pain does not pose a serious threat to life, this largely depends upon the cause of the same. Whereas acid reflux, GERD or pregnancy appears to induce significant pain that is not serious, but the onset of diseases as hepatitis or CLD might aggravate life threatening issues and seek medical aid. Pain caused due to inflammation of an organ in the upper abdomen leads to greater risk when curing the same. Several other factors that promote the onset of pain in the upper abdomen include:

  • Bacterial Infection: Though the infection caused by bacteria is common, yet few who are susceptible to smoking or dietary changes are prone to intense pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Aged People: Older people have a weaker immune system and are more likely to be the target of bacterial infection thereby leading to upper abdominal pain.
  • Excessive Drinking: People who are chain drinker have the probability of developing a liver disease thereby causing intense pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Additionally, the regular intake of pain relievers also aggravates pain in the upper abdomen.

Symptoms of Upper Abdominal Pain

Depending upon the reason of upper abdominal pain, there is an array of indicating factors that suggest the presence of upper abdominal pain. Few of the most common symptom that affirms the presence of pain in the upper abdomen includes:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Uneasiness in the stomach area.
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Pain in shoulders or chest
  • Black coloured stools.

All the above mentioned are the frequent symptoms you might experience while suffering pain in the upper abdomen. However, different diseases have different symptoms and need to be cured in the desired way. In most of the cases, the pain is not intense and can be treated with an ice pack. Refrain from the intake of pain relievers such as ibuprofen or aspirin, as they would not soothe pain but alternatively worsen your condition. However, if the upper abdominal pain lasts longer and you experience uneasiness, it is advisable to seek the help of a doctor for a proper cure and corresponding care.

Diagnosis for Upper Abdominal Pain

After you are convinced of having a pain in the upper abdomen and the same does not soothe with proper home care, it is always advised to seek medical aid. Additionally, if you feel weak or nauseated, experience vomiting or have a fever, you should call a doctor as early as possible. The doctor would first opt for a physical examination. This is done by pressing parts of your abdomen and see where is the pain, the intensity and also if the pain, ie sensitive to touch. This helps the doctor to suggest further tests for affirming the reason for the upper abdominal pain.

Additionally, the doctor would ask you questions about the history of any disease that might also cause pain in the upper abdomen.

Few of the tests, the doctor prescribes for ruling out the causes of pain in the upper abdomen include:

  • CT scans
  • Ultrasound of the upper abdomen.
  • CBC or another blood test to see the presence of inflammation.

Only after the doctor is convinced about the cause of the upper abdominal pain, will he go for further treatment and significant medications. As evident, there are multiple reasons for the pain in the upper abdomen, and it is important to know the cause of the pain before opting for any medication or treatment. Different diseases have a different cure, and so tests are important to complete the process of diagnosis.

Treatments for Upper Abdominal Pain

Once the doctor sees all the reports of test and other significant diagnoses, the doctor would opt for significant treatment. It is advisable to induce several dietary and lifestyle changes to be on the safer side. Few of the recommended lifestyle alterations you need to induce include:

  • Consumption of a healthy diet.
  • Try exercising every day for 30 minutes.
  • Avoid the intake of alcohol and quit smoking.
  • Indulge in hygienic practices as washing hands, avoiding the intake of contaminated foods.
  • Sip fluids until the pain dissolve.
  • Avoid the intake of pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen.
  • If you experience frequent pain, try taking antacids.


Though you can try incorporating dietary as well as lifestyle changes, in case the pain persists for longer hours and you do not notice significant difference post application of home treatment, you should immediately seek medical aid and follow up with the medication as prescribed. The medications provided by the medical expert is dependent on the cause of the upper abdominal pain. As for that matter, in case the pain in your upper abdomen is due to acid reflux or gastritis, you might not need any significant medications and can soothe them with the application of ice pack. However, if the pain is due to a serious condition as cancer in the upper abdomen, your doctor would advise you to go for chemotherapy.

Some cases necessitate the need for surgery for optimal treatment of the upper abdominal pain. Few of the common causes of the upper Abdominal pain can be cured by the intake of H2 blockers, antimicrobials, antispasmodic and in rare cases morphine or nitrates. A hiatal hernia is one such case of acute abdominal pain that can be cured only by surgery along with several changes in the day to day life activities. Few cases might need both surgery and lifestyle changes whereas few needs lifetime medications for a better life.


No matter what is the reason for upper abdominal pain, if the same does not dissolve in a few hours, then you should not take a risk and directly call a doctor for a follow-up.

Sagar Papneja

For me, health is about sustainable living and consuming environmentally conscious food; I am a vegan.

Related Featured Articles

Next Post

Chapped Lips Remedy- 20 Easy Options For Better Lips

Previous Post

All About Headache: Types of Headaches and Causes of Headaches