Stomach Pressure and Causes of Pressing on Stomach Feeling

What is stomach pressure?

The term ‘stomach pressure’ is not a specific symptom. Instead it is a common term to describe a symptom where a person feels a pushing out sensation, fullness or bloating in the stomach. Since the term ‘stomach’ and ‘abdomen’ are often used interchangeably in lay terms, stomach pressure may therefore also refer to abdominal pressure. Strictly speaking though, stomach pressure would refer to these sensations in the left upper abdominal quadrant. It is often difficult to isolate the sensation as being localized to the stomach itself since there are so many other organs and structures surrounding it in this quadrant. Usually the symptoms are believed to originate from the stomach when it occurs shortly after eating or drinking.

Meaning of Stomach Pressure

It is not uncommon for most people to use several common and descriptive terms to describe a range of sensations. ‘Stomach pressure’ is one such example. Pressure could refer to a sensation of pushing in from the outside onto the stomach – a constricting type of sensation. Alternatively, and more commonly, it refers to a sensation of pushing out from the inside of the stomach which is similar to a sensation of fullness or bloating – a distended sensation. Often these symptoms of different sensations either precede the onset of pain or occur in low-grade conditions where it is not severe enough to elicit pain.

The stomach is a hollow sac that is capable of expanding significantly when filled with food or gas usually from air swallowing or carbonated beverages. It is usually these situations that cause distension and a sensation of stomach pressure where the stomach feels like it is pushing outwards. When empty the stomach collapses as it contains little more than a small quantity of mucus, acid and enzymes. Even pressure from surrounding organs are not perceived. However, a partially or completely filled stomach will experience a sensation of pushing inwards (constricting sensation) when there is pressure from outside of it, usually from surrounding abdominal organs.

Most visceral sensations are usually not perceived unless it is intense or associated with damage of tissue as a result of disease.

Causes of Stomach Pressure

The term stomach pressure may not specifically refer to the stomach itself. Therefore it is important to take the surrounding organs and structures into consideration which may give rise to a sensation of stomach pressure.

Pressure sensation from inside the stomach

Some of the common causes of stomach problems that give rise to a sensation of pressure within the stomach includes :

  • Bile reflux is the backward flow of bile secreted from the gallbladder into the duodenum. It enters the stomach or as high up as the esophagus. Bile irritates the stomach and can cause a host of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn and severe abdominal pain.
  • Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach usually due to injury to the inner lining caused mainly be Helicobater pylori (H.pylori) stomach bacteria and use of medication like NSAIDs. It tends to present with a gnawing dull ache in the left upper quadrant, along with nausea, excessive belching and sometimes vomiting. In severe cases there may be bleeding with blood in the vomitus or stool.
  • Gastroparesis is a condition where the stomach muscles are paralyzed. It slows down the churning of the food in the stomach and the pushing out of chyme into the duodenum. Hence the term delayed gastric emptying. The usual symptoms include nausea and vomiting, feeling of fullness after just a few bites of food, loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Hiatal hernia is where a portion of the stomach slips through through the opening in the diaphragm to protrude into the chest (thoracic) cavity. A stomach pressure sensation is common and pain is rare. It is worse with eating as the stomach expands and pushes upwards.
  • Peptic ulcers are open sores that form in the wall of the stomach, duodenum (first part of the small intestine) or esophagus (food pipe). It is mainly associated with overproduction of stomach acid and failure of mechanisms to protect the wall of the gut from the acid. Stomach ulcers are usually a complication of gastritis. The symptoms are therefore similar and there is intense pain and loss of appetite.
  • Tumors in the stomach may benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Stomach polyps are one of the mainly benign growths. Benign tumors are largely asymptomatic until it grows to a point where it causes an obstruction of the stomach outlet or compresses surrounding organs. Malignant tumors cause more serious symptoms like blood in the vomit or stool. weight loss and lack of appetite.

Pressure sensation from around the stomach

There is various different conditions that can either apply pressure on the stomach or cause the sensation of pressure around the stomach. Some of the more likely causes includes :

  • Abdominal obesity can apply pressure to the stomach and other abdominal organs. It is usually worsened when lying flat on the back.
  • Abdominal tumors, especially those arising from the outer surface of the abdominal organs in close proximity to the stomach, can also press against the stomach.
  • Ascites is the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity around the organs. It is largely asymptomatic until there is a significant accumulation of fluid within the cavity.
  • Constipation where the accumulation of wastes in the colon causes distension of the transverse colon and splenic flexure. This can apply pressure on the stomach.
  • Hepatomegaly is an enlargement of the liver which may place pressure on the distended stomach. As with splenomegaly, it is only a significant enlarged liver that will compress the distended stomach.
  • Intestinal obstruction or bowel obstruction is where there is a partial or complete blockage in the small intestine or large intestine respectively. Apart from the backing up the intestinal contents, sometimes as high up as the stomach, the distended intestines may also compress on the stomach.
  • Peritonitis is the inflammation of the peritoneal lining of the abdomen.  Although it may not compress the stomach, the irritation of the peritoneum does sometimes cause a pressure sensation. Peritonitis is usually painful.
  • Pregnancy is a common cause of increased abdominal pressure and the expanding uterus pushes against the bowels which in turn presses against the upper abdominal organs like the stomach.
  • Splenomegaly is an abnormal enlargement of the spleen which sits right next to the stomach. Moderate and even massive splenomegaly does not place significant pressure on the stomach except during eating when the stomach distends.

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  • Dawana Buchanan

    Can light pressure in the stomach ne a early sign of pregnancy?

    • Yes Dawana. It is a possible symptom. However, it can also be due to many medical conditions. Difficult to say for sure without doing a pregnancy test. Don’t rely on possible pregnancy symptoms. Some women can be asymptomatic for most of the first semester. Rather rely on a pregnancy test. The blood tests is more accurate but if you do a home test then make sure to repeat it within a week.

  • Kassie

    My stomach feels like something is inside pushing it out. Huge amount of pressure. I can’t really suck in at all. And it’s starting to affect my back? Any suggestions? No symptoms though. Though its kinda worry some

  • Carrie Baggett

    I wake up every morning nauseous. it gets worse if I put any kind of pressure including sitting or even putting my clothes on. This usually leads to me vomiting. I have had this for over a year now and it is just getting worse. No matter what I change in my diet or what time I eat the same thing every morning.

  • Heather Shepard

    I have been having a pressure in my upper right stomach almost like there is a ball in there trying to push its way out. It started a week ago with a butterfly felling now it’s just pressure.
    What could be causing this felling?

    • Hi Heather. There are many possible causes of this type of sensation and you do not mention any other related symptoms. It is less likely to be the stomach as this is more towards the left of the upper abdominal region. Instead this may be related to the liver, gallbladder, pancreas or duodenum (part of the small intestine). It is difficult to say with any certainty as to what could be causing this sensation. Some conditions, like gallstones for example, are more common than others. You should speak to your doctor. Further diagnostic investigation like an abdominal ultrasound may be necessary to find the exact cause.

  • Susan

    I have a throbbing sensation under my right breast occasionally and lately am nauseous every day and feeling pressure like my insides are just not right. i also have pain the right side of my side/back about waist high. could these all be related? I also have been only slightly constipated and some mucus in my stool.

    • Hi Susan. Yes, these symptoms could be related. For example, in gallstones a person feels pain in the upper abdomen, which can radiate to the right shoulder and nausea is also often present after eating a meal. This is just one possibility and many other conditions could be causing these symptoms. However, it is also possible that the symptoms are unrelated. Speak to your doctor about your symptoms. You may have to go for further diagnostic tests to confirm the cause of these symptoms.

  • Kenji Fuentes

    Yesterday i couldn’t sleep cause of this stomach pressure like you’re so full but you havent eat anything heavy im 14y.o and today i woke up its still there i went to take a poo but still its there what are the solution to this.. i feel sick im weak pls help me as soon as possible what are the causes and how i can prevent it.. i have been suffering from depression due to i lost someone very special and i have a very minor rapid heart rate

  • Tammy

    I had this problem and it turns out all I needed was to reprogram my stomach to process my food. My natural path told me to take enzymes before I eat a meal. It took about a month and then everything seemed back to normal and I was able to stop taking enzymes. If you have dieted, sometime the body thinks it doesn’t need to produce as many enzymes to break food down. So like a computer sometimes you have to reprogram. Hope this helps and is not to late.

  • Joy Borja

    Is it normal that im feeling full or i feel blunt to my upper abdomen im pregnant for 10weeks now i just dont feel comportable what ive been feeling help me im just little afraid my last pregnancy was 2005 im already 40yrs old so im little confused..

    • Hi Joy. It is important not to define what is normal in a pregnancy by what most other women may experience. If you are feeling uncomfortable then you should have it checked by your gynecologist. It is better to be safe than sorry. What you are feeling may be absolutely nothing to worry about but only your family doctor or gynecologist should advise you accordingly. Please speak to one of them as soon as possible.

  • Mary

    A year ago I felt 100% fine then I started taking birth control and from there everything just started going bad, I haven’t been feeling myself since then, I’ve been having constant stomach/abdomen pain specifically in my upper middle of my stomach and it switches between my lower right side and my Lower left side. When I lay down on my back, stomach and also my side it all feels uncomfortable and it always hurts, I feel really bloated and haven’t been going to the bathroom to do #2 frequently either so I don’t know

    • Hi Mary. These symptoms may not be cause by the birth control and there could be other possible conditions that could account for these symptoms. There are host of non-gynecological conditions that could be causing these symptoms, such as gallstones, gastritis, peptic ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, IBS and so on. It is difficult to say with any degree of certainty and you should consult with your doctor. You may also need to consult with a gynecologist.