Having A Fluttering In Your Upper Stomach? Let Me Tell You The 5 Reasons

It’s natural to panic if you suddenly feel fluttering in upper stomach. But let me tell you, you’re not alone. Many people are in the same boat as you. Most often than not, a fluttering feeling is not serious.

But, why do you experience this fluttering feeling? And what does it indicate? And when do you have to see a doctor? You’ll get the answers here. So, let’s take an in-depth look at this fluttering in the upper stomach.

What is this fluttering feeling?

A fluttering feeling is a subjective sensation. So, it varies from person to person. What’s fluttering to you might be something different to someone else. But, in general, if you feel a quivering or vibrating sensation.

If you feel fluttering in upper stomach, it can be due to various reasons. There are several important structures in your abdomen. As the upper stomach is below the chest so you can experience a lower chest fluttering in your upper abdomen as well.

fluttering in upper stomach
Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Although there can be more than one reason, the most common culprit is the diaphragm. So, let’s take a look at what this diaphragm is and how it makes the fluttering in the upper stomach.

The Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a thin layer of muscle located in the trunk. It separates the chest and the abdomen internally. The word diaphragm, in ancient Greek, means partition. It rightfully forms a partition between the important chest and abdominal organs.

The anatomy of the abdominal diaphragm

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped shaped muscle. It is located inside your body cavity. It is made up of thin muscle fibers. It is attached to your ribs and spine. The left and right sides bulge upwards with a central depression. These elevations are called right and left hemispheres.

The diaphragm is a special muscle. It is voluntary. It means, that you can move this muscle according to your will. Wanna try moving it now? Take a deep breath. You’ll see that your chest expanded. You’ll also feel pressure in your abdomen. What you did just now was, move your diaphragm.

Structures surrounding the diaphragm

Your chest contains the heart and lungs. These organs sit on top of the diaphragm. The heart and the lungs have an outer covering. This outer covering is fused with the diaphragm. So, these organs are indirectly attached to the diaphragm.

Below your diaphragm are the organs of your belly. The liver is the largest in your body. It is located below the right hemisphere. Below the left hemisphere are the stomach and the spleen.

Your small intestines or small bowels are present in the abdomen as well. They also touch the diaphragm to some extent. Both of your kidneys touch the diaphragm as well.

Normal function and movement of the diaphragm

So, how does your diaphragm work? It can contract, that is, it can get smaller. As we’ve already said, it’s an upward-pointing dome. So, if it gets smaller, it comes down. This expands your chest cavity.

Expanding your chest makes your lungs expand as well. In fact, the diaphragm is the main muscle layer for breathing. Your lungs don’t have muscles like your heart. So, it needs other muscles to expand. And the diaphragm is the main muscle helping your lungs.

Now you may be wondering, what’s the point of all of these? You see, any abnormalities of these organs can influence the diaphragm and create fluttering in upper stomach.

Diaphragm spasms

The Diaphragm, like any other muscle, can spasm. It’s an unusual and uncontrolled contraction and relaxation of your muscle. If the diaphragm spasms, you’ll feel fluttering in the upper stomach.

So, what causes this diaphragm spasm? Let’s take a look at some of the common causes:

Blow to the abdomen

This might be obvious. But, if you get punched real hard, your diaphragm will spasm. The direct blow might damage your phrenic nerve. It can also have a direct impact on the muscle itself. So, you might have that fluttering feeling.

This blow may even cause your diaphragm to be paralyzed temporarily. So, you might experience some breathing difficulties. And not to mention, a lot of pain!

Hiccup

The hiccups may be the reason why your chest is fluttering. Hiccups are synchronized contractions of the diaphragm. Scientists think that this occurs when too much gas accumulates in the stomach. If you eat too fast or swallow too quickly, gas may go in. Then you’ll get the hiccups.

Hiatal Hernia

This is a condition where the esophageal opening gets too big. So the stomach moves through that bigger hole to the chest and the diaphragm gets irritated because of the large stomach. You might feel the fluttering in upper stomach due to this thrust of the hiatal hernia.

You may also feel heartburn, abdominal pain, difficulty in breathing, and chest pain. If you do experience any of these, it’s best to see a doctor.

Working out

Believe it or not, a diaphragmatic spasm can be triggered by a workout. If you don’t warm up properly, the likelihood of this happening increases. If you also do back-to-back core exercises, you put too much pressure on your diaphragm. Thus, over-exercising and inadequate warmup can be the cause of fluttering feelings.

fluttering in upper stomach
Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

Phrenic nerve irritation

As you read, the phrenic nerve is the nerve supplying the diaphragm. Any disturbance in this nerve can cause a fluttering in the upper stomach.

Diaphragmatic flutter

This is a rare case where the diaphragm irregularly contracts. Scientists are unsure of the mechanisms behind this. These contractions can be severely painful.

Your diaphragm is most likely the cause of this stomach twitching. But it may occur due to other causes as well. Some of them are:

Pregnancy and fluttering in upper stomach

Pregnancy might be a possible cause of the fluttering feeling. The fetus moves inside the uterus of the mother. Generally, this feeling is felt in the abdomen. However, it is experienced in the upper stomach sometimes. This fluttering-like movement is called ‘quickening’.

This feeling is almost like having gas in your stomach. But you may feel fluttering as well. This occurs at around 20 weeks of pregnancy. So, if you feel a flutter during that time, your future baby is the likely cause!

Stomach gas

Your stomach normally contains a small portion of gas. But in some cases, the gas may increase more than normal. You’ll feel bloated or belched in that case.

But, these stomach gases can even make you feel the fluttering after eating. You’re more likely to develop gas if you eat too fast, or without chewing properly. Some of the foods which can give you gases include beans, pulse, broccoli, cabbage, onions, garlic, dairy, fizzy soft drinks, etc.

Anxiety

Sometimes, before an interview or a first date, you can feel fluttering in upper stomach. It is perfectly normal for anyone. It happens because of psychosomatic interactions. It means that your mental state can influence your body as well.

Anxiety and nervousness are most commonly associated with the fluttering feeling. So, if you have anxiety or if you’re nervous about something, that might be the culprit. It’s nothing to worry about.

Heart problems

Conditions of the heart can cause the fluttering feeling as well. One particular group of heart disease called arrhythmias are responsible. In these diseases, your heart beats abnormally.

The conducting system of your heart is damaged. This system coordinates the movement of every individual heart muscle fiber. So, if they get damaged, the heart can beat abnormally fast.

Then, you can feel the flutter. One particular condition is called atrial flutter. Here, the patient experiences flutter in the chest. But in these cases, the fluttering feeling will be more in the chest area rather than in the abdomen.

However, they may be felt in the upper stomach as well. Now don’t go thinking you have a serious heart condition. Because these are not that common. The fluttering feeling is likely due to the causes mentioned above.

What to do about fluttering in upper stomach?

So, what’s the most effective solution to this fluttering feeling? It mainly depends on the root causes of the problem. Let’s take a look at the remedies you can follow.

Do nothing

If it’s a temporary spasm, it will go away on its own. If you’ve only experienced this spasm once, then your body will fix it. Normally, diaphragmatic spasms go away on their own.

Visit the doctor

If the spasms are recurring, you should visit the doctor. You should tell your doctor if the spasms cause you pain. They can get you checked out and rule out any severe conditions. They can also give you anti-spasmodic medications if they deem it necessary.

If you have a major hiatal hernia, you will need surgery. Discuss the surgery options with your physician. If you have phrenic nerve irritation, the cause has to be treated. So, your doctors will help you in that case as well.

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Things you can do at home

If your flutters aren’t that serious, you can do some things to ease them. They include:

  • Lightly massaging the core.
  • Lightly stretching your core by bending backward.
  • You can also try putting a hand on the chest and the other hand on the upper stomach. Then, breathe slowly and tighten your stomach. This is done ideally by lying down.
  • OTC pain meds can help as well if you feel a bit of pain.

FAQ

What causes fluttering in the stomach?

The fluttering feeling in the stomach can be caused by a variety of reasons. The most common ones are anxiety, nervousness, diaphragmatic spasms, hiccups, etc. Some uncommon causes include diaphragmatic flutter, cardiac arrhythmias, surgical injury, phrenic nerve irritation, and inflammation, etc.

What is diaphragm flutter?

Diaphragm flutter is a rare disease where the diaphragm irregularly contracts. Scientists are unsure of the mechanisms behind this. These contractions can be a little bit painful.

How is diaphragmatic flutter treated?

The rare condition, diaphragm flutter has no definitive treatment. Doctors use antispasmodics, muscle relaxants, and pain meds to manage the condition. But, a normal case of diaphragm spasm goes away on its own.

Conclusion

To conclude, if you feel fluttering in upper stomach, it’s most likely not anything serious. With time and some light stretches, it will go away. But it’s best to visit a doctor if it’s recurring or you experience too much pain.

Dr. Rimita Farid

Hi this is Dr. Rimita Farid. I have completed my MBBS from MAHSA University in Kuala Lampur , Malaysia and currently a registered doctor in Bangladesh. I am training in Dermatology and Venerology and writing for me has been a hobby, even before i decided to be a doctor. I believe our lives are getting stressful with every moment and i believe writing is the solution to all our problems. The power of pen and paper is highly underestimated by many, and i am blessed that i realized how stimulating writing can be for my well being. Hope my articles are relatable and can reach as many readers as possible.

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