Why Your Upper Stomach and Back Hurt at the Same Time

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Some patients tend to undermine their abdominal pain only as indigestion, cramps, or gas that will resolve shortly. Stomach pain can be a pretty common symptom despite being highly inconvenient. But this pain can also be a sign of an underlying symptom that you should immediately address, especially when it's coupled with back pain.

So why do you experience upper stomach and back pain together? Upper abdominal pain with back pain may be caused by underlying conditions, like thoracic radiculopathy, appendicitis, kidney stones, pancreatitis, and peptic ulcer disease. Some cases of abdominal pain can be trivial, but you might want to seek emergency care if you feel severe pain that reaches your back. 

Why You Experience Stomach Pain

Stomach pain is often trivial, which could be immediately patched up by medications, hydration, and a day's rest. But if your upper abdominal pain radiates to your back, or if you already suffer from severe stomach pain, you might need urgent care from a medical professional. It might be a symptom of a serious stomach problem needing surgery before it develops into complications.

Your acute abdominal pain might have different reasons according to the types of abnormalities in your stomach:

  • Visceral pain - this refers to pain from activated pain receptors in your abdomen due to a damaged internal organ or tissue, often not localized and vague. This type of pain is similar to when you're having irritable bowel syndrome, bladder pain, and others.
  • Somatic pain - this refers to pain from activated pain receptors in your tissues, like muscles, skin, joints, connective tissues, and skeleton, triggered by stimuli, such as temperature, vibration, force, and swelling. This localized pain feels like stomach cramps. Somatic abdominal pain is usually a response to inflammation at the parietal peritoneum.
  • Referred pain - this type of pain isn't localized and is thought of as distant from the source because your spinal nerves are converging.

You may experience upper stomach and back pain together due to some conditions that trigger the types of pain mentioned above. The common causes of the severe pain you experience might be life-threatening, needing immediate medical attention.

Possible Reasons for Upper Stomach and Back Pain

Upper stomach pain that reaches your back is a common cause of various serious stomach diseases of the digestive tract, kidneys, and other internal organs. You might want to seek urgent care to avoid serious complications. Some of the diseases that may possibly cause your acute abdominal pain are kidney stone, pancreatitis, gallstones, peptic ulcer disease, and thoracic radiculopathy.

1) Kidney Stones

Having kidney stones might cause lower abdominal pain that travels upwards to your upper stomach and back. This pain is caused by the crystallization in your kidneys that obstruct urine flow. There's a possible chance that your condition is due to having a kidney stone if you also have these symptoms:

  • frequent peeing
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • urinating in small amounts
  • blood in urine
  • cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • sand in urine
  • fever and chills

If your kidney stone isn't too serious yet, it might just pass in your urine eventually. But stones that stay in your kidneys might cause a kidney infection. Your doctor might recommend several non-surgical and surgical solutions to remove these stones.

2) Pancreatitis

Severe stomach pain may also be a common symptom of disorders in nearby internal organs, like the pancreas – this is a large gland in your abdomen that produces enzymes that help digest the food and convert it into energy. A patient will develop pancreatitis once this organ has become inflamed. They can experience 2 types of this condition: acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis.

Your upper stomach pain with back pain might have a high chance of being a case of pancreatitis if you also experience these symptoms:

  • nausea
  • fever
  • abdominal bloating
  • swollen belly
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea

Your doctor will run laboratory and imaging tests to confirm acute or chronic pancreatitis. Treatment might involve antibiotics, IV fluids, pain relief medications, maintenance supplements, or surgery.

3) Gallstones

Your gallbladder is a small organ under your liver that releases enzymes that aid digestion. Gallstones form from the byproducts of the red blood cells, bilirubin, and cholesterol. These stones tend to block the bile duct, which results in abdominal and back pain. Other symptoms of this condition include:

  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • heartburn
  • indigestion
  • In severe cases, a patient might also experience
  • chronic abdominal pain
  • biliary colic
  • light-colored feces
  • dark-colored urine
  • jaundice
  • fever
  • chills

Like kidney stones, less serious gallstones are usually excreted by the body or can be dissolved with medications. Bigger gallstones often require surgery to be removed.

4) Peptic Ulcer Disease

Peptic ulcer disease is also a common cause of chronic abdominal pain -- this condition involves having open sores on your stomach lining and upper part of your small intestines. These wounds are caused by your stomach acid stripping off the protective mucus layer of your digestive tract. That's why if you experience acid reflux or GERD, you might want to address those right away.

This condition is often accompanied by symptoms, like:

  • lower abdominal pain
  • abdominal bloating
  • weight loss
  • mild to moderate chest pain
  • lack of appetite
  • dark or blood in feces
  • burping

Your peptic ulcers can resolve on their own, but they would need several medications to avoid progressing into serious complications. Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics, pain relief medications, and antacids to regulate your stomach acid and acid reflux.

5) Thoracic Radiculopathy

Your upper abdominal pain with back pain may sometimes not be a problem for your stomach or digestive tract. It may also be caused by a nerve root in your thoracic spine that becomes compressed. This results in sharp pain and numbness in different parts of the body, including the upper back.

For this condition, you might want to look out for other symptoms:

  • sharp pain in the limbs and back
  • weakness
  • loss of reflexes
  • numbness of the skin

When to Call a Doctor

a doctor having consultation with a man who suffer stomach pain

Upper stomach pain may become trivial for some because patients react to pain differently -- they may think it's just their acid reflux acting up or another upset stomach. But if you already experience debilitating severe stomach pain, you might want to seek urgent care. Seek immediate medical attention to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment if you experience these symptoms:

  • nausea worsening over time
  • pain in the upper right area of the abdomen
  • severe and unbearable stomach pain
  • severe pain after meals or following a routine
  • back pain that reaches the groin

Consult your doctor once you experience these symptoms. Some tests that will be run in order to assess what your body is telling you and arrive at a sound diagnosis and ultimately, a personalized treatment plan.

Consult Our Specialists for Your Upper Stomach and Back Pain at Gramercy Pain Center

a specialist conducting pain treatment to a patient

Experiencing acute abdominal pain that reaches your back is a common symptom of many back and stomach problems. Because of this, you need to seek medical attention from a trusted provider that will thoroughly assess your condition and arrive at an accurate diagnosis and customized treatment plan.

Gramercy Pain Center has been a trusted pain clinic by many patients who have witnessed their dedication to bringing pain relief under the care of board-certified physicians and highly-trained staff. You can get started with your road to recovery from experiencing upper stomach and back pain together by booking a consultation with us. You may also get a quote on our website by filling out a form.

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