Healthy Living

What Does Belly Button Pain Mean?

Knowing the causes of your belly button pain can help you determine the right kind of treatment you need.

What Does Belly Button Pain Mean?

Pain in your belly button can range from mild to severe and can be occasional or constant. In some cases, belly button pain can also radiate to other areas of the body aside from the area near your belly button. It is also important to note that pain in your belly button is not a medical condition on its own, but a symptom of a possible underlying condition. A simple and mild belly button pain can be quickly treated, but in certain cases, medications, surgery, or both are required for treatment. 

Your healthcare provider can help identify what causes your belly button pain by simply telling your doctor the type of pain you feel and describing some its accompanying symptoms whether it's a sharp pain, pulling, or with bloating. However, if you have belly button pain along with any of the following symptoms, seek medical help right away:

Causes

Knowing the causes of your belly button pain can help you determine the right kind of treatment you need. Below are some of the causes of belly button pain:

1. Hernia

Hernia may cause a sharp and pulling pain in your belly button and nearby areas, particularly when you cough or stretch. Other common symptoms of hernia are a bulge near the belly button and pain near the groin. 

Hernias are usually due to an increased pressure near the navel. It occurs when organs, such as the intestines break through the weakened part of the abdominal wall and bulge out. For this reason, a surgical treatment is required to repair hernias. Having sharp pains in your belly button along with vomiting may indicate a strangulated hernia, which requires immediate medical treatment. 

The following factors increase your risk of developing hernias:

  • A persistent or chronic cough
  • Having weak abdominal walls
  • Regular lifting of heavy weights
  • Quick weight gain

2. Crohn’s Disease 

Crohn's disease causes inflammation in the digestive tract that can lead to severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, malnutrition, and fatigue. This inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may also affect different areas of the digestive system in some people.

It can also cause dull to sharp pains in the belly button that can last up to 30 minutes after meals. Although the cause of Crohn’s disease still remains unknown, genetics and immune system malfunction may likely contribute to its occurrence. People at any age can get Crohn's disease. However, this disease has been commonly observed in people ages 18-24. Crohn's disease may also lead to complications, such as bowel obstruction, ulcers, and malnutrition.  

3. Indigestion

Belly button pain with bloating may be due to indigestion. Other symptoms of indigestion include:

  • Nausea
  • Feeling full before finishing a meal
  • Pain near the belly button and substernal pain (pain just below the breastbone)
  • A feeling of discomfort after a meal

You need to see your healthcare provider if you still experience the symptoms for more than two weeks and if the pain is accompanied by other symptoms, which include:

4. Ulcer

An ulcer may also cause belly button pain and bloating. Ulcers often develop in people who have infections and those who chronically use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. 

Aside from a dull pain near the belly button and bloating, other symptoms of an ulcer may include:

  • Heartburn
  • Burping
  • Acid reflux
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feeling full along with abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Weight loss
  • Pain that is relieved after eating or drinking and when an antacid is taken 
  • Passing dark, tarry stools

5. Appendicitis

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix, a part of the large intestine, becomes inflamed and infected. Pain experienced due to an inflamed appendix can cause pain near the belly button. Aside from belly button pain, its other symptoms also include an upset stomach and fever

In appendicitis, pain is usually experienced in the lower right side of the abdomen that sometimes radiates to the back. If the pain won't go away after four hours and if you have severe abdominal pain, seek emergency medical help.

6. Pregnancy

Pregnant women may experience pain in their belly button and nearby areas due to round ligament pain. A sharp pain can be felt in the hip area or on one or both sides near the belly button. 

Round ligament pain is often experienced by pregnant women around their second trimester. The round ligament stretches and connects the front of the uterus (womb) to the groin to support the growing fetus. The ligaments tend to quickly contract when pregnant women cough, laugh, or quickly stand. These quick contractions often result in pain, which only lasts for a short time. Round ligament pain during pregnancy is normal to experience. However, if the pain lasts for a longer time, consult your doctor immediately. 

7. Gallstones

Gallstones are hard deposits that are formed in the gallbladder due to cholesterol buildup. The gallbladder is the organ that stores bile, which is a digestive juice needed to digest fatty foods. The size of gallstones can be as small as poppy seeds but can also get big as the size of a golf ball. People may also have one or multiple gallstones. 

Most people are even unaware that they have gallstones because they rarely develop complications. Gallstone formation tends to be more common in women who are overweight and are in their 40s. In some cases, gallstones lodge in the ducts and cause an obstruction, which then leads to abdominal pain. 

Intensifying pain in the belly button and nearby areas can also be experienced when a gallstone is passed. For some people, they tend to have constant pain and cramping, which may last up to nine hours until they pass the gallstone. 

Consult your healthcare provider if you have debilitating pain that lasts longer than a few hours, high fever with chills, and yellowing of the skin to rule out complications, such as cholecystitis or inflammation of the gallbladder. 

References

Belly Button Pain. (2017). https://www.healthline.com/health/belly-button-pain#treatments

Adult umbilical hernia repair. (2016). https://www.facs.org/~/media/files/education/patient%20ed/adultumbilical.ashx

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Appendicitis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/appendicitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20369543

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Indigestion. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/indigestion/symptoms-causes/syc-20352211

Round Ligament Pain. (2017). http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/round-ligament-pain-during-pregnancy/

Key Takeaways

  • Pain in the belly button is not a medical condition on its own, but a symptom of a possible underlying condition.
  • A simple and mild belly button pain can be quickly treated, but in certain cases, medications, surgery, or both are required for treatment. 
  • Knowing the causes of your belly button pain can help you determine the right kind of treatment you need.