7 Possible Causes of Stomach Pain When Breathing Deeply

Pain in the abdomen is something anyone would be concerned about. And if that pain is sharp and occurs when taking a deep breath, it can be even more alarming. But not to worry. Because stomach pain when breathing deeply is what we’ll be talking about now.

Why Do You Experience Stomach Pain When Breathing Deeply?

stomach pain when breathing deeply

There’s no clear-cut one reason why you might have stomach discomfort when breathing deeply. It is because your stomach contains many different complex structures. So, it can be due to many reasons.

That being said, some conditions occur more commonly. So, let’s take a look at what these are.

Related: Stomach Pain After Drinking Water

What Happens When You Breathe?

Breathing is a crucial part of the problem here. So, we have to look at what happens to your abdomen when you breathe normally.

Your chest and abdomen cavity are separated by a muscle called the diaphragm. Unlike your heart, your lungs can’t expand or contract on their own. They’re attached to the diaphragm below.

The diaphragm contracts, and that’s what makes your lungs expand. The diaphragm is dome-shaped, pointing upwards. When you breathe in deeply, you’re flattening your diaphragm. So, any abnormalities in the diaphragm or structures surrounding it can cause pain when breathing deeply.

Beneath the diaphragm is the abdominal cavity. There are so many organs, nerves, blood vessels, and other structures here.

Pushing the diaphragm down means, you’re pushing all of these down as well. Usually, it’s not a problem. The reason is that the muscles of your abdomen are capable of stretching. So, they can make room for the organs.

But, this stretching can become a problem in many medical conditions. If any of your abdominal organs are infected, they can be against the inner layer of the abdominal wall. This might cause pain.

Common Conditions Why You Might Have Stomach Pain When Breathing Deeply

With that out of the way, let’s look at the most common causes as to why you have abdominal pain when breathing deeply.

Inflammation of the Pleura

The pleura is the layer lining the lungs. The lungs themselves don’t have somatic pain receptors. But the pleura has somatic pain receptors. It means they can feel friction, sharp pain, touch, etc.

Since the pleura surrounds the lungs, they inevitably rub against each other during breathing. So, inflammation of the pleura can cause sharp pain while breathing. This condition is known as pleurisy.

stomach pain when breathing deeply

In this condition, it’s more likely that you’ll feel pain in your chest. However, the pleura does reach down to the diaphragm. It lines the upper surface of the diaphragm beneath the lungs.

So, any inflammation of the lower pleura can manifest as pain in the stomach when breathing deeply. Pleurisy can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection or even embolism.

Diaphragm Spasm or Pain

As we’ve seen that the diaphragm is what moves during your breathing. So, any problems affecting the diaphragm can make you feel stomach pain when breathing deeply. If part of your diaphragm is inflamed or injured, it can cause pain.

You might feel a cramp in your abdomen, too, if you have diaphragm pain. This may be accompanied by difficulty in breathing as well. You may even feel your stomach cramping up. Your diaphragm can be damaged by:

  • Chest wall injury
  • Excessive exercise without warming up
  • Blows to the chest or abdomen
  • Surgeries involving the diaphragm

Hernias

Hernias are another cause of pain while breathing deeply. What is a hernia? A hernia is when an organ or part of an organ comes out of the place where it’s supposed to stay at. Usually, it’s through an abnormal opening or weakness in the muscle wall.

The particular type of hernia most associated with pain when taking a deep breath is a hiatal hernia. So, let’s see what this is all about.

Related: Hiatal Hernia: Is it Related to Back Pain?

As you’ve seen, your diaphragm separates your chest from your abdomen. But, many important structures have to go from your chest to the abdomen. Among them, an important one is a gastrointestinal tract or your food pipe. So, there has to be an opening for it to pass through.

Beneath the diaphragm, the part of the gastrointestinal tract is the stomach. So, the stomach remains typically below the diaphragm.

A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach moves up through this opening in the diaphragm. Now you might think this movement might cause pain. But what it does is that it makes it easier for stomach acid to travel up to the esophagus from the stomach. And this may lead to pain when taking a deep breath.

GERD

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease causes stomach pain when breathing deeply as well. It occurs when stomach acid travels up the esophagus.

The cells lining the esophagus aren’t adapted to survive the stomach acid. Small amounts of acid cause damage that the cells can repair by themselves. But, in GERD, acid goes up very frequently.

Related: Do You Feels Like Something Stuck in Throat and Burping?

This causes damage to the cells of the esophagus. The nerves can detect this damage and send signals to your brain. That is why you feel the sharp and burning pain if you suffer from GERD.

But what does that have to do with breathing? As we’ve seen, the diaphragm moves when you take a breath. As it moves down, it presses the stomach down, and the stomach is connected to the esophagus on top.

So, that’s why you might feel pain when you breathe in deeply. The acid of the stomach damages the esophagus. Hence, if you’re suffering from GERD and have sharp pain in the stomach when breathing deeply, this is the likely cause.

Appendicitis

This is a more serious condition that can cause lower right abdominal pain when breathing deeply. Your appendix is a part of your digestive tract. It is located at the junction of your large and small intestines. It is a blind pouch so that you can think of it like a deflated balloon.

Appendicitis is the infection and inflammation of your appendix. If food gets blocked inside the appendix and the opening closes off, it expands like a balloon. Bacteria can multiply inside there. And if it bursts, it can leak all the bacteria in your abdomen. This causes a serious condition called peritonitis.

The appendix is located in your lower right abdomen. When you breathe in, your appendix can rub against your abdominal wall. If you have appendicitis, this can cause sharp pain when breathing deeply.

Liver Disease/Cholecystitis

Your liver and gallbladder are located in the upper left part of your stomach. The liver lies just beneath your diaphragm. So, it moves the most while breathing in and out. And your gallbladder is attached to the lower surface of the liver.

Any problem affecting the liver might cause pain in the upper left abdomen while breathing deeply. Common liver infections are hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, etc.

Stones can accumulate in the gallbladder and cause gallstones. This is pretty common. Stones can obstruct the gallbladder and cause inflammation. This is called cholecystitis.

The pain of cholecystitis is in the upper left abdomen. Sometimes, there’s a pain in the right shoulder as well.

Problems Affecting the Bladder and the Uterus

During pregnancy, you might have problems breathing too. The reason is that the baby grows in the uterus. This can increase the pressure in the abdomen. So, this might even cause pain when breathing deeply.

If you have any conditions affecting the bladder, it can cause lower abdominal pain when breathing deeply. These conditions include inflammation, upper urinary tract infection, interstitial cystitis, etc.

Others

There may be other causes that can cause pain when breathing sometimes. For example, infection of the abdomen and sometimes the lower chest can be responsible. Bacteria and other organisms can cause infection in various organs. And that might be the reason why you might feel pain when breathing.

Some other more serious medical conditions can also cause this. They include aortic dissection, cancer, heart attack, etc. These are very unlikely to be the reason why you have the pain. Other severe symptoms also accompany them.

What to Do if You Have Stomach Pain When Breathing Deeply

As we’ve seen, there can be many conditions why you might feel pain when breathing deeply. Some of them are more serious than others. But, the probability of that is low. Still, you should see your doctor if you feel the pain is too much or if it’s been happening for a long time.

FAQs

Why Does My Stomach Hurt When I Inhale Deeply?

If it hurts your stomach when you inhale deeply, it can be due to several causes. The problem can be in your chest or your abdomen. Some of the reasons are Pleurisy, hernia, gallbladder and liver disease, diaphragm injury, etc.

Does It Hurt to Breathe With Appendicitis?

In appendicitis, there’s going to be pain whether or not you’re breathing. The pain will get worse if you take a deep breath. But, even when you’re not breathing, there will be severe pain. The pain will be worse if you press down on your lower right abdomen.

Can Stomach Pain Affect Your Breathing?

Sometimes, stomach pain can make it a bit difficult to breathe. The reason is that the diaphragm (the muscular partition between the abdomen and the chest) moves while breathing. This pushes the abdominal organs up and down.

So, the diaphragm can’t do its work correctly because of the pain in case of stomach pain. Then, it can affect your breathing.

Conclusion

Stomach pain when breathing deeply is genuinely a cause of concern. However, it is seldom due to any life-threatening conditions. By seeing your doctor at the right time and following their advice, you can be rid of this pain.

Samin Ishmam

I'm an aspiring medical student. Studying for tests is a huge part of my life right now, but I try to keep up with the latest innovations in science by reading research papers and attending conferences. My interests lie mainly in cardiology among other fields of medicine. And I love being able to help people get through the low points in their lives, which is why I've chosen this field as my profession. Outside of studies, I love writing and trying to spread knowledge on healthy living among everyone.

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