Pain in the middle of the stomach, or mid-abdominal pain, can have many possible causes, which range from the easily treated to more serious medical conditions.
Since the region is home to a number of organs, constipation, ulcers, gallstones, appendicitis, and diverticulitis are just some of the ailments that can cause abdominal pain.
In this article, we’ll not only explain the causes of mid-abdominal pain, but we’ll also look at the anatomy of the abdomen, how the location of the pain can be described, and what that means for the cause of the pain. We’ll also discuss various home remedies that may be able to soothe your pain and when you should go to see a doctor.
Anatomy of Abdomen
When trying to diagnose pain in the middle of the stomach, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the abdomen. The location of the pain and your ability to describe where it is can help doctors determine a possible source of pain.
In this case, we are concerned with the mid-abdominal area. Picture your entire abdomen divvied up onto a “tic tac toe” board. The second row of three squares makes up the mid-abdomen region, and is separated into three parts: the right lumbar region, the umbilical region, and the left lumbar region.
Within each mid-abdominal region, lie a number of organs.
Right Lumbar Region
- Right colon
Left Lumbar Region
- Left kidney
- Descending colon
Familiarize yourself with the regions of the abdomen and the organs that are located within. For example, if you have a sharp pain in the middle of the stomach, there’s a good chance it involves duodenum, ileum, jejunum, or umbilicus as opposed to any of the organs located in the left lumbar region.
What Are the Different Ways to Describe Pain in Your Abdomen?
While there are countless words in the English language for pain and discomfort, when describing the pain in your abdomen, it is best to stick to four main descriptions: generalized pain, localized pain, cramp-like pain, and colicky pain.
Generalized pain refers to a wide-ranging pain in your mid-abdomen area. You may feel as though half of your belly is sore. It’s a general pain rather than pain in a specific spot that you can point to. This type of pain is often a sign of a viral infection or indigestion.
Localized pain refers to pain in one particular spot—a spot that you can specifically point to when asked where it hurts. Localized pain is often a symptom of an issue with an organ like the gallbladder, liver, or kidneys.
Cramp-like pain is cramping in its feeling and is usually located in the umbilical region. Often, this is the result of excess gas or an upset stomach. But if the pain becomes more severe, it may be due to another cause.
Colicky pain is best described as pain that comes and it goes in waves. It will often start with little to no warning and suddenly end the same way. Colicky pain tends to be sharp and severe.
Causes of Pain in Mid-Abdomen
As mentioned, numerous factors can contribute to pain in the middle of the stomach. These causes can range from indigestion, which is relatively easy to deal with, to gallstones and pancreatic disorders, which can require much more treatment and possibly even hospital stays. The following are the more common causes of pain in the mid-abdomen.
Indigestion alone can be caused by a few different conditions. It can be caused by the overproduction of stomach acid by the body. It may also result from the improper digestion of food in the stomach, which can create issues like excessive gas. Not only can these cause stomach pain, but they can also cause pain in the upper abdomen.
Constipation is the inability to release waste from the bowels and can be caused by issues with your diet, medications, and medical conditions like celiac disease, kidney disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and hyperparathyroidism. This lack of bowel movement can often cause cramping pain in the mid-abdomen and lower abdomen.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the stomach and bowels that does not have a known cause. IBS has multiple symptoms that can cause mid-abdominal pain, including constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and excessive gas. These symptoms can also overwork the stomach and its systems, causing pain.
Appendicitis is the infection and or inflammation of the appendix. This inflammation causes sharp pain in and around the area of the appendix, which is located in the abdominal area—specifically the right iliac region, the right lumbar region, and the umbilical region.
Gallstones are stones that form in the gallbladder that are made up of bile components. Many people will have gallstones without any symptoms, but some stones can migrate and block the biliary tract. When this blockage occurs, pain is often a result. While gallbladder pain is often relegated to the right hypochondriac region (upper-right abdomen), the pain can extend into the right lumbar area.
Unfortunately, many women suffer from cramping at some point during their menstrual cycle. This pain can last for a number of hours or even a few days depending on the person. The pain itself tends to be a pain in the center of the stomach but may shift depending on the person. Luckily, this pain can be managed with some medications.
Gastroenteritis, simply put, is the stomach flu. It is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that is often caused by viral or bacterial infections. The results are usually mid-abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Vomiting can exacerbate pain in the middle of the stomach if it’s frequent and violent, as vomiting engages the muscles in the mid-abdomen area.
Vomiting and diarrhea can also produce mid-abdominal pain as a side effect. Vomiting and diarrhea may empty out the stomach and cause a loss of appetite, leaving the stomach empty and the stomach acids churning. This can cause cramping pain in the umbilical area.
Stomach and Duodenal Ulcers
Stomach and duodenal ulcers can often be found as a cause of mid-abdominal pain. Essentially, an ulcer is an open sore inside your digestive tract. In the case of stomach or gastric ulcers, the ulcer forms in the stomach. Duodenal ulcers form inside the upper portion of the small intestine, which is also known as the duodenum.
These open sores tend to bring on colicky pain, which comes and goes depending on various circumstances. Ulcers can be aggravated by a rise in stomach acid and certain types of foods (spicy food, for example, can have a negative effect on ulcers).
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of conditions that cause long-term inflammation of the colon and small intestine. The two most common forms of IBDs are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both conditions bring with them a host of complications involving diet, intestinal bleeding, bowel sores, and persistent mid-abdominal pain.
Gastritis is the inflammation of your stomach lining. This inflammation is the result of an imbalance between the mucous lining that protects your stomach and the acid in your stomach. While gastritis tends to cause pain in the upper abdominal areas only, gastritis can also cause stomach ulcers, which can result in pain in middle of abdomen.
Small, bulging pouches can form in your digestive tract—mainly in the area of the colon. These pouches can become infected and even perforate, spilling their contents in the abdominal cavity. These types of infections are called diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis carries with it symptoms like nausea, fever, and severe abdominal pain. It is often treated with antibiotics, but more serious cases may need surgery.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, involves stomach acid making its way out of the stomach and up the esophagus. While most of the pain caused by GERD is upper-middle stomach pain, it’s not uncommon for GERD to cause generalized pain in the mid-abdominal area as well as the upper area.
Pancreatic disorders, as the name suggests, involve the pancreas. This can be an inflamed pancreas or a more serious issue like pancreatic cancer.
An inflamed pancreas causes pain due to the pressure on the organ, and it will usually cause upper-abdominal pain as well as mid-abdomen pain, both of which are focused on the left side of the body. Pancreatic cancer’s biggest symptom is pain in the upper-middle abdomen area.
Home Remedies to Ease Mild Pain in Middle of the Stomach
There are home remedies that you can try to help ease middle stomach pain. However, if you are in severe pain in the mid-abdominal area, it is best to see a doctor, as severe abdominal pain is a sign of a condition that needs medical attention as soon as possible.
For mild upper-middle abdominal pain and connecting areas, the following tips may be able to help you out.
Avoid Solid Foods
Food can often exacerbate or trigger causes of abdominal pain. Avoiding solid foods for a few hours once the pain has started may help decrease the pain or allow the body to heal and eliminate it altogether.
Keeping hydrated can help keep your muscles loose as well as calm issues of the stomach, thus calming what may be causing mid-abdomen pain.
If the pain in the middle of the stomach has been caused by stomach flu, try eating plain foods like toast, applesauce, and rice. These will aggravate your stomach less and hopefully quell the mild pain that might be caused by roaring stomach acid.
Avoid Certain Medications
Avoid ibuprofen, aspirin, and other anti-inflammatory medications. These types of medications can actually upset the stomach more and make mid-abdomen pain worse than it currently is. If you need strong pain medications for the mid-abdomen pain, it’s a good sign that you should see a doctor.
When to See a Doctor
At what point should you see a doctor? The basic answer would be the minute that the mid-abdomen pain becomes greater than mild or when you have become concerned about the pain. Beyond that, you should contact a medical professional about your mid-abdomen pain if:
- The pain lasts longer than a week
- The pain is fairly severe and last longer than 24 hours
- You’ve had a recent injury to the area that is in pain
- Your belly is tender to the touch, or if it’s rigid
- The pain brings vomiting and diarrhea (especially if the vomit and or stool is bloody)
- The pain is accompanied by fever
- The pain spreads from the abdomen to other parts of the body
You should also see a doctor if you are experiencing abdominal pain and already have the following conditions:
- You are pregnant or are potentially pregnant
- Suffer from colon, stomach, or pancreatic cancers
Pain in the Middle of the Stomach Should Be a Concern
While mild pain in the middle of the stomach may be treated easily, it should be observed. From inflammatory bowel disease to pancreatic disorders, there are plenty of possibilities for the mid-abdominal pain to be a warning sign of a serious issue. Knowing the anatomy of the abdomen and related organs may help you identify the cause. If the pain goes away and does not return, it may have been nothing serious. But if it’s a pain that reoccurs or worsens, it’s best to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
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