Gas Pain In the Stomach: Causes, Symptoms and Relief

Published: July 26, 2016
Last reviewed: February 28, 2017

Where do you feel gas pain?

Gas pain is usually felt in the upper abdomen and lower chest. It is caused by gas trapped in the part of the large intestine that runs below the rib cage.

What is trapped gas?

Trapped gas or trapped wind refers to a pocket of gas in the part of the colon near the liver or spleen. Trapped gas can cause spasms in the colonic wall and the distension of the ligaments that hold the colon in the position, which can both cause severe upper abdominal pain.


  • Splenic flexure syndrome (the pain on the left side – near the spleen)
  • Hepatic flexure syndrome (the pain on the right side – near the liver)

Causes and Triggers

The two main causes of gas pain are probably eating foods that irritate you and psychological stress.

Trapped gas often occurs in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and an increased intestinal (visceral) sensitivity [1]. The pain can be triggered by:

  • Constipation
  • Emotional stress
  • Air swallowing during drinking through a straw, fast eating or chewing gum
  • Eating foods high in soluble fiber, such as legumes, oatmeal, barley, apples, pears or cabbage
  • Big meal
  • Drinking carbonated drinks or alcohol
  • Pregnancy
  • Drugs: antacids, antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, opiates (morphine, codeine)
  • Supplements: psyllium husk
  • Colonoscopy

Serious health disorders that can be associated with gas pains:

  • Abdominal adhesions after abdominal surgery or infection or in endometriosis
  • Diverticulosis or diverticulitis
  • Ileus–temporary absence of the bowel motility, usually after surgery or in severe abdominal infection
  • Bowel obstruction by a polyp, for example in Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, or by colon cancer


Trapped wind can occur as a single event or as a recurrent or chronic problem. Symptoms may range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain and include:

  • Constant pain (except at night) in the upper left or right abdomen or lower chest, on the side of the body or in the middle back; the pain is constant and can last for several hours, it can be aggravated by sitting and deep breathing and may be eased by lying down, burping, passing gas or having a bowel movement [6]
  • Distension (bloating) and tenderness in the upper left or right abdomen

Other symptoms, which may or may not appear along with abdominal pain include referred pain in the tip of the left or right shoulder blade or down the inside of an arm, excessive belching, constipation, diarrhea, excessive gas (flatulence), nausea or dry heaving [6].

Trapped gas by itself does not cause fever.


A doctor can often make a diagnosis of trapped gas by a physical examination. An X-ray image may or may not show an abnormal pocket of gas in the colon.

To exclude other abdominal conditions, abdominal ultrasound, colonoscopy or MRI may be needed.

Differential Diagnosis

If your main symptom is constipation:

  • You may have a sedentary life style
  • You may drink too little water or consume too little insoluble dietary fiber (from whole grains and vegetables)
  • You are under stress

If your main symptoms are abdominal bloating and diarrhea, you may have:

  • Fructose malabsorption
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Food poisoning
  • Allergic reaction to food
  • Infection of the stomach by the bacterium H. pylori
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Diverticulitis

If your main symptoms are abdominal, chest or back pain and nausea, you may have:


NOTE: The information about the treatments presented below comes mainly from anecdotal reports and has not been evaluated by clinical studies.

Home Remedies

The following may relieve pain:

  • Right after an onset of pain lie down, relax and massage the painful area with a hand.
  • Pass gas or have a bowel movement.
  • Deliberately change the speed of breathing.
  • Drink warm water or hot peppermint or chamomile tea.
  • Apply a heat pad.

Medications and Procedures

  • Dicyclomine [3], hyoscyamine, propantheline and chlordiazepoxide/clidinium bromide [9] (antispasmodics) can relieve the spasms [3].
  • Mild laxatives, such as magnesium citrate, or enemas, can resolve constipation.
  • Digestive enzymes (lactase, lipase, amylase) can help in individuals with lack of digestive enzymes but not likely in others.
  • Visceral manipulation (massage) performed by a physical therapist may result in prolonged pain relief.
  • Colonoscopy can help release trapped gas.

Insufficient Evidence

There is no or insufficient evidence about the effectiveness of the following in relieving gas pain:

  • Simethicone [2,5]
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen, naproxen
  • Paracetamol
  • Bismuth salicylate
  • Ginger [8]
  • Activated charcoal [5,7]
  • Stool softeners
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Turmeric
  • Gripe water (for infant colic pain)

Antacids (calcium carbonate), prokinetic drugs (domperidone, metoclopramide), prebiotics and raw food diet can aggravate symptoms.


1. Be Active and Avoid Unnecessary Stress

One of the best things that can bring peace in your life is concentrating on work you feel is right for you. You will then automatically feel the need to avoid things that distract you from your work goals: certain foods, relationships, habits, passions, memories, etc.

Physical activity often helps with bowel regularity. Walking can be fine; no need to go to the gym.

Maintain a regular eating, working and sleeping pattern.

2. Diet

Try to avoid:

  • Large amounts of foods high in soluble fiber, such as beans and peas, oats, barley, passion fruit, figs, bananas, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, artichokes and sweet potatoes
  • Artificial sweeteners sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol and xylitol found in sugar-free chewing gum and some soft drinks
  • Foods high in lactose, such as milk, yogurt and ice cream (if you have lactose intolerance) or foods high in fructose, such as honey, apples, pears and mangoes (if you have fructose malabsorption)
  • Anything you personally believe may trigger pain: alcohol, caffeine, fried foods or other foods

If you are constipated:

  • Eat more foods high in insoluble fiber, such as whole-grain bread and green vegetables (NOTE: in some individuals with IBS, insoluble fiber may aggravate symptoms).
  • Avoid foods that may constipate you: soda, chocolate, deserts, cheese, ice cream, caffeine (coffee, tea, cola), white bread and other foods low in fiber [4].
  • Drink enough water.

If you suffer from abdominal bloating and excessive gas, you may want to try a low-FODMAP diet.

Gluten-free diet helps to individuals with celiac disease but not likely to others.

3. Probiotics

During or after treatment with antibiotics, probiotics help maintain beneficial bacteria in your bowel (intestinal flora) and thus prevent bloating or constipation. Probiotics might not be helpful in other circumstances.

Key Points

  1. Gas pain probably occurs as a reaction to emotional stress and certain foods.
  2. Avoid unnecessary stress and foods, be physically active and adopt regular eating, working and sleeping pattern.
  3. It is easy to confuse gas pain, which comes from the intestine, with pain that comes from the gallbladder, so before considering gallbladder removal, ask for an abdominal ultrasound or other investigations in order to get the exact diagnosis.

  • References

      1. Lehrer JK, Irritable bowel syndrome, clinical presentation  Emedicine
      2. Simethicone
      3. Dicyclomine
      4. IBS triggers and how to avoid them  WebMD
      5. Gas and gas pains, treatment and drugs  Mayo Clinic
      6. Shafar J, 1965, The splenic flexure syndrome  PubMed Central
      7. Suarez FL et al, 1999, Failure of activated charcoal to reduce the release of gases produced by the colonic flora  PubMed
      8. Ginger  WebMD
      9. Librax (with clidinium)  WebMD


3 thoughts on “Gas Pain In the Stomach: Causes, Symptoms and Relief”

  1. Laura says:

    This information was so incredibly helpful!!!! I have had severe stomach problems for the past 2 months. I had a C-Scan and an endoscopy at the hospital – neither of them showed too much out of the ordinary. I literally look like I swallowed a basketball and the stomach pain is constant 24/7. My ortho. that I have been seeing for the past 20 years has set me up for an MRI. I hope to God it shows something..anything to explain the incredible stomach distention, enlarged liver, gastritis, severe pancreatitis, etc. Whatever is going on inside my abdominal area is NOT normal, for me or anybody. I just want the constant stomach pain to stop and to look and feel like my old self again.

    1. Jan Modric says:

      Laura, you may want to try a low-FODMAP diet, which can help remove several causes of gas and bloating.

  2. Joe Minella says:

    I’ve had digestive problems for many years. Long story short- IBS-C. But nobody could offer any help like this page has. I wish I had seen this page years ago! Anyway, the low-FODMAP diet saved my sanity and my life. It’s not a cure, of course. But I can largely live my life as I want without the worst of the symptoms.
    I don’t have any connection, financial or otherwise, with Monash University (creators of this diet) or anybody else. This diet worked for me like a miracle. Be careful, there is SOME misinformation about the diet online from unofficial sources. Plus their research and refinement of the diet is ongoing. They have a e-mail newsletter, an app for your phone, and a twitter: #fodmapchat. Also very educational. Really.

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