12 Possible Causes of Belly Button Pain

Causes of belly pain range from mild to serious

Belly button pain is also called periumbilical pain. It can occur in or around the belly button, but can also go beyond the belly. The pain might feel sharp or dull. It may also be constant, or it may come and go.

Some of the potential causes of pain in and around the belly button include:

This article discusses each of these and what they may feel like. It also highlights other characteristics of these conditions that, along with belly button pain, may point you in the right direction of causing your discomfort.

Man having pain around belly button

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Indigestion

Key characteristics: Pain and a burning sensation between your breastbone and belly button

Indigestion, also called dyspepsia, is a common cause of belly button pain. It is often due to something you ate.

Eating too quickly or eating spicy or fatty foods can cause indigestion. Alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks may also trigger dyspepsia symptoms.

Sometimes, indigestion can be caused by medication or by a medical condition, so if you have this kind of belly button pain often, see your healthcare provider. 

Indigestion is often treatable at home with over-the-counter antacids like Mylanta (aluminum hydroxide) or Pepcid AC (famotidine).

Constipation

Key characteristics: Pain or cramping and three or fewer bowel movements a week

Constipation can cause pain in the belly button area, as well as the lower abdomen.

Most people get constipation from time to time, usually as a result of dietary or lifestyle habits. Sometimes, constipation can be a symptom of a medical condition, especially when it is chronic or long-lasting.

If you have constipation that lasts longer than two months, see your healthcare provider.

Constipation can often be treated with simple dietary changes like eating more fiber and staying hydrated. Stool softeners can also help, though these are best used in the short term.  

Hernia

Key characteristics: Lower abdominal pain; visible bulge

A hernia is when there is a weakened area in the abdominal wall.

A hernia may cause a bump or bulge in the abdomen. You may feel pain, pressure, or a pulling feeling the radiates from the belly button down into the lower abdomen. Pain may be particularly sharp when coughing, sneezing, exercising, or stretching.

Hernias can be repaired surgically. Surgery may be open (with a large incision) or laparoscopic (with several small incisions). Most hernias are a simple repair, but some can become complicated or recur.

Umbilical hernias are common and as many as 175,000 are repaired with surgery each year in the United States. 

Pregnancy

Key characteristics: Sharp, comes and goes quickly, and isn’t usually associated with other signs and symptoms

Pregnancy can cause abdominal pain, which can be both normal or abnormal. A common cause of pain in the abdomen during the second trimester of pregnancy is round ligament pain. The round ligament is between the uterus (womb) and the groin. It stretches during pregnancy to accommodate the expanding uterus.

This pain could be sharp and might be in the middle of the abdomen or on either side of it. It tends to last only a few seconds. It may occur while laughing, coughing, standing up, or other sudden movements.

Pain in pregnancy that is severe or lasts or is accompanied by vaginal bleeding is a reason to call the healthcare provider and/or seek care immediately.

Crohn's Disease

Key characteristics: Mild or severe pain in any part of the abdomen; may be crampy; can be constant or come and go

Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness that causes inflammation in the body, especially in the organs of the digestive system (such as the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines). Crohn’s disease may cause pain in the abdomen, such as around the belly button.

It is also associated with several other chronic conditions, such as arthritis and psoriasis (a chronic inflammatory skin condition). 

Additional symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, blood in the stool, weight loss, and fatigue are common.

Crohn’s disease is treated with a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, such as diet and stress reduction, and in some cases, surgery.

Appendicitis

Key characteristics: Pain is on the right side and is constant

The appendix is a small organ that is attached to the large intestine. When the appendix is inflamed, it may cause dull pain around the belly button. This pain may become sharper and be felt in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen and/or the back.

Beyond pain, appendicitis may also cause symptoms, such as fever, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling, constipation or diarrhea, lack of appetite, and gas.

Appendicitis requires emergency medical care. If you're experiencing this kind of pain and other symptoms associated with appendicitis, go to the nearest hospital at once.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

Key characteristic: Belly button/abdominal pain paired with urinary pain and/or urgency

Infections in the urinary bladder are common. They can occur in people of any sex or age. Uncomplicated infections can cause burning pain during urination, a need to urinate more often, urine that smells bad, and bloody or cloudy urine.

Lower urinary tract infections can cause abdominal pain in the lower pelvis. If the infection moves up into the kidneys, it can cause pain in the upper abdomen or on either side and in the back (where the kidneys are located). Other symptoms may include fever, nausea, or vomiting.

If you have UTI symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider. Although some UTIs can resolve on their own, most will not go away without treatment. An untreated UTI can worsen, become more painful, and potentially cause complications in your urinary tract. 

Gastroenteritis

Key characteristics: Crampy, come-and-go abdominal pain accompanied by other symptoms such as indigestion, vomiting, or diarrhea

Gastroenteritis, or "the stomach flu," may be caused by a virus such as norovirus or bacteria found in contaminated or undercooked food or infected water.

For contagious bacterial infections, which spread easily from person to person, it’s often clear when there’s an outbreak.

Gastroenteritis usually does not require treatment and should go away by itself in a few days to a week. If your symptoms persist, however, or if you're vomiting blood or can't keep liquids down, see a healthcare provider.

You should also see a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of dehydration such as a reduction in urine output, sunken eyes, or light-headedness.

Helicobacter pylori

Key characteristics: Dull or burning pain, nausea, vomiting, bloating, and indigestion 

Another type of stomach infection is caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This can damage the lining of your stomach and is a common cause of stomach (peptic) ulcers.

The condition is usually treated with antibiotics.

Gallstones

Key characteristics: Severe pain that can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours

The gallbladder is a small organ that is next to the liver. Gallstones are a common problem that can cause abdominal pain in the middle or upper-right of the abdomen, as well as the back or right shoulder.

Gallstones can also cause nausea and vomiting. However, gallstones can also occur without any symptoms. 

Pancreatitis

Key characteristics: Pain comes on suddenly; starts out dull and gets more intense over time

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, the first section of the small intestine. This condition is most often caused by gallstones but can also be associated with an infection or an immune-mediated condition.

The pain of pancreatitis can be in the abdomen, but also radiate toward the back. There can also be symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and bloating.

Pancreatitis may resolve in a few weeks with treatment.

Bowel Obstruction

Key characteristics: Severe abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, constipation and/or diarrhea, bloating

A bowel obstruction can cause severe pain around the belly button and lower abdomen. This condition occurs when something blocks the intestine, preventing the passage of stool.

Bowel obstruction can be caused by:

  • Impacted stool
  • Scar tissue
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • A foreign object
  • Certain cancers

A bowel obstruction requires immediate medical care. If you have any of the above symptoms, go to the emergency room at once.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Any persistent pain should be evaluated by a healthcare provider. In terms of seeking immediate medical attention, always get emergency care when abdominal pain is severe and comes on suddenly, or if it is accompanied by:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea that won’t stop
  • Blood in the vomit or stool
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Fever

For chronic or ongoing conditions like Crohn’s disease, pain may come and go, so it’s important to understand when your healthcare provider wants you to call them about symptoms. If you're not sure, ask.

Summary

Abdominal pain can be from many causes, some of which are chronic and some of which might need care immediately. It’s important to see a healthcare provider about the troublesome or worrying pain. Severe pain that comes on suddenly is a reason to seek emergency care.

A Word From Verywell

Abdominal pain is a common reason for people being seen in the emergency room. Some causes can be treated easily, but others may be more serious. Keep track of pain and other symptoms to help your healthcare provider determine the cause.

A digestive specialist (gastroenterologist) may be the healthcare provider that is best suited to diagnosing and treating abdominal pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the most common reasons for belly button pain?

    Some of the most common causes are infection (stomach, appendix, or urinary tract), food poisoning, hernia, or gallstones. 

  • What organ is behind your belly button?

    The organs located behind the belly button include sections of the stomach, the small and large intestines, and the pancreas. This part of your body is called the umbilical region. 

  • When should I worry about belly button pain in a toddler?

    In toddlers, belly button pain is usually not serious. But if your child's pain moves to the lower right side and becomes severe and/or is accompanied by fever, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea, seek emergency care. This could be a sign of appendicitis, a medical emergency.

  • What could cause belly button pain in males?

    Belly button pain in males can be caused by many of the same conditions that cause this type of pain in females. As for male-specific causes of abdominal pain, twisting of the testicle and inflammation or infection of the testicle or the epididymis are possibilities. This pain is usually below the belly button, however.

  • Why does my belly button hurt when pressed?

    Certain conditions can make the abdomen around the belly button sensitive to touch. These include hernia, gallstones, and Crohn's disease. Appendicitis can also cause pain that worsens when the abdomen is pressed.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Di Saverio S, Podda M, De Simone B, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of acute appendicitis: 2020 update of the WSES Jerusalem guidelinesWorld J Emerg Surg. 2020;15:27. doi:10.1186/s13017-020-00306-3

  3. Fleckenstein JM, Matthew Kuhlmann F, Sheikh A. Acute bacterial gastroenteritis. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2021;50:283-304. doi:10.1016/j.gtc.2021.02.002

  4. Baiu I, Hawn MT. Gallstones and biliary colic. JAMA. 2018;320:1612. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.11868

  5. Cervellin G, Mora R, Ticinesi A, et al. Epidemiology and outcomes of acute abdominal pain in a large urban emergency department: retrospective analysis of 5,340 cases. Ann Transl Med. 2016;4:362. doi:10.21037/atm.2016.09.10

By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.