Discomfort, cramps and pain are commonly felt sensation in the abdomen which many people refer to as the stomach. However, sometimes other sensations may arise which can be confusing. A beating sensation is one such unusual symptom that may be felt in the stomach region. It is not always a cause for concern but can sometimes be an early symptom of a developing condition that may be serious.
Most of us are accustomed to feeling a beating sensation in certain parts of our body. It is not uncommon to sometimes be able to feel our heart beat, like after strenuous physical activity or with stress. In these cases the heart may be pounding which is known as a palpitation. Sometimes there may be a beating in certain muscles or affecting a flap like the eyelid or lip. We refer to this beating as a twitching lip or eyelid. It is due to muscle twitching.
What is a beating stomach?
Similar to muscle twitching, a beating stomach feeling is due to rapid contraction and relaxation of the stomach muscles. This can also be referred to as stomach twitching. It should not be confused with cramping. A stomach cramp is a sudden and forceful contraction of a stomach muscles, that causes discomfort or pain. These cramps are stomach spasms and may occur anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract (gut).
With a beating stomach, the beating or twitching of the stomach should be isolated to the stomach only. However, many people refer to the abdomen as the stomach. This is incorrect. The stomach is a specific organ while the abdomen is a portion of the torso that contains many organs. It is often difficult to isolate a sensation in the abdomen to a specific organ, like the stomach.
Therefore it is important to also look at various causes of an abdominal beating sensation beyond the stomach.
Symptoms with a Beating Stomach
A beating sensation in the stomach region is a symptom. It is usually not visible to the naked eye unless the abdominal wall muscles are twitching. A beating stomach feeling may occur on its own or be accompanied by a host of other symptoms. This may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
Most of these symptoms are related to the digestive system. However, there may be other symptoms like bruising or a rash on the skin for superficial abdominal conditions.
Causes of Beating Stomach Feeling
Since the terms ‘stomach’ and ‘abdomen’ are often used interchangeably and it can be difficult to isolate a sensation to the stomach specifically, we will look at the abdominal causes of a beating stomach feeling. This includes a beating sensation within the stomach and other abdominal organs as well as the abdominal wall.
Psychogenic causes like stress also need to be considered as “butterflies in the stomach” is a commonly reported symptom in certain instances. Similarly this sensation may be perceived as a beating feeling in the stomach by some people who are anxious or undergoing stress.
The abdominal wall is made up of skin, fat and sheets or muscles with fascia to protect the abdominal organs. It also helps stabilize the torso when walking or running. These muscles may become strained especially with overuse. As a result there may be twitching or even cramping. This is one possible cause of a beating sensation on the surface. Twitching may be visible on the surface while cramps (spasms) can be felt as hard spots on the abdominal wall.
Injury to the abdomen may cause a beating sensation if it is not severe. This may be in part due to inflammation but the abdominal muscles may also start twitching after a blow. The abdominal muscles protect the abdominal organs and may contract forcefully to absorb the impact from any external force. Any impact to the abdomen can cause this and the subsequent twitching is from the abdominal muscles on the surface.
Any irritation to the gastrointestinal tract can cause twitching and cramping. This may occur with consuming irritants, like very spicy food or excessive alcohol. Stimulants like caffeine can also increase the movement within the gut and these faster muscle contractions may feel like a beating sensation. Irritants can cause inflammation but this is usually short-lived and will resolves a period after the irritant is removed from the gut.
Read more on stomach irritation.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition where there appears to be irritation of the gastrointestinal tract without inflammation. Instead the nerves and muscles may be abnormally active in certain types of IBS. Abdominal cramping, pain and alterations in bowel habit are common symptoms. Even without overt cramping and pain, IBS sufferers may experience unusual abdominal sensations.
Inflammation either on the abdominal wall or within the abdomen can occur for various reasons. Injury and strain to the abdominal wall are common and have been discussed above. However, inflammation of the abdominal organs can occur for many other reasons. The inflammation may be due to an infection, autoimmune disorder, obstruction, physical or chemical damage and may even be related to abnormal growths like cancer.
Pain is a characteristic feature of inflammation but other sensations, including beating, may occur. This may not be isolated to the gastrointestinal tract but also involve other abdominal organs. Some of the conditions which should be considered includes:
- Gastritis and peptic ulcers
- Gallstones and gallbladder diseases
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Intestinal obstruction
Appendicitis is generally a painful condition but sometimes there may be discomfort and other sensations which precede the pain. The discomfort or pain is in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen. It is a medical emergency as an inflamed appendix can rupture. Immediate medical attention is necessary.
Various blood vessel problems may also cause a beating sensation in the stomach or abdominal region. Two large blood vessels run through the abdomen – the abdominal aorta (artery) and the inferior vena cava (vein). A beating sensation is more likely to be felt with an aortic problem since the aorta is a thick artery that carries blood under high pressure. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is one possible cause of a beating sensation in the abdominal region.