Belly button pain: What it indicates in adults or children

Belly button pain: What it indicates in adults or children
Photo source: Getty images

Abdominal or umbilical pain can be felt as a result of an inflammation of the stomach or the intestine or as a symptom of increased flatulence with minor diarrhea or constipation. Typically, the affected person begins to feel pain as a result of an inflammation of the appendix. If this happens, it is a good idea to write down the time, duration, localization and other accompanying symptoms.

Pain in the middle of the abdomen around the navel may indicate common digestive problems, constipation, bloating, flatulence, more serious inflammatory diseases, infections, intestinal issues, or a problem with an organ in the digestive system.

Minor causes of pain

Some cases of pain in this part of the abdomen are not serious, for example flatulence or bloating due to a temporary digestive problem, diarrhea or constipation.

Such pain is not long-lasting and soon wears off. The affected person feels that the pain is not organ-specific, sharp and intense.

Oftentimes, the pain manifests as a distended abdomen, increased bowel motility, increased flatulence, infrequent bowel movement or constipation.

In some cases, these difficulties are associated with mental exertion or stress. But, in some situations, the above symptoms are present in more serious diseases.

A woman's belly, navel, a clock hanging from her jeans
Time of onset, duration and other necessary information about the pain. Photo: Getty Images.

It is important to note:

  • time of onset
  • duration
  • location/site/area
  • character
  • intensity
  • what caused the pain
  • general and associated symptoms

More severe discomfort and pain

In the middle of the abdomen around the navel, more serious health problems are also manifested by pain. These should definitely not be underestimated. We recommend a professional examination to prevent complications.

The man is holding his right lower abdomen with his hands, his appendix hurts.
Typically, the pain slowly shifts towards the right lower abdomen. Photo: Getty Images

Typical pain around the navel

Very often this area begins to hurt due to appendicitis. This is an inflammation of the worm-like appendage of the colon located at its beginning. Another medical term used in this regard is appendix vermiformis.

The pain is dull, vague. Later, the pain moves to the right lower abdomen. The course is rapid. The symptoms include nausea, a feeling to vomit or vomiting. Unappetite, distended abdomen. Tachycardia, that is, rapid pulse, is present. Body temperature mostly up to 38.5°C.

TIP: find out more in the article How to recognize appendicitis..


A more serious problem is an intestinal obstruction called ileus. This is a persistent and stabbing pain in the middle of the abdomen. Bowel obstruction can be recognised by the fact that the pain is located in an unspecified area around the navel, but can also be felt when touching the whole abdomen.

There can be several causes of obstruction, e.g. a mechanical obstruction. Obstructive ileus arises when the intestine is entangled, or as a result of compression and obstruction by tumors. Another type is neurogenic, when it arises on the basis of a disorder of innervation of the intestine.

There is also a vascular cause of intestinal obstruction, when embolism or thrombosis of the intestinal vessels occurs.

The cause may also be in the stomach

Model of the stomach
It may indicate a problem with the stomach. Photo: Getty Images.

Acute gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining, is also manifested by pain in the middle of the abdomen. Another example is gastric ulcers, where pain is caused by the ingestion of food.

In both stomach ulcers and gastritis, pain around the navel occurs with spicy foods and foods that irritate the mucous membranes. In this case, they are also diseases that should not be underestimated, as they can lead to complications or become chronic.

Inflammation of the pancreas and intestine

Pancreas and problems with it are also reported by pain in this part of the abdomen, around the navel. Similarly, as well as problems of the duodenum, causing inflammatory, ulcerative or other infectious diseases.

In the same way, Crohn's disease or celiac disease also have pain in the middle of the abdomen listed among the symptoms. The cause can also be in various viral, bacterial, mycotic but also parasitic diseases.

However, it should also be remembered that any other symptoms should always be observed and the possibility of external influences and antecedent factors on the abdominal pain around the navel should be ruled out.

Model of hernia, i.e. hernia of the abdominal wall
A hernia. Photo: Getty Images

Hernia and pain

Pain is also present in a hernia, i.e. a rupture of the abdominal wall through which an organ, such as the bowel, protrudes or exits.

The pain is exacerbated by intestinal kinking or strangulation. There will be a complication if herniation lasts for a longer time. In this case, there is a risk of insufficient blood supply and inflammation of the affected site.

This type of hernia is called umbilical hernia, but there is also inguinal hernia and incisional hernia.

Aneurysm of abdominal aorta

Abdominal aortic aneurysm presents with pain around the belly button after the arterial aneurysm has ruptured. The pain is acute and gradually goes into a state of shock. The affected person needs urgent medical intervention.

This person needs hospitalisation and surgery as soon as possible.

Belly button pain in children

The child is lying on the examination table, the doctor is examining his abdomen, he is in pain
Belly button pain in children may arise as a result of inflammation, an accident, or stress. Photo: Getty Images

Abdominal pain in childhood can have multiple causes. Probably the first thing we think of is appendicitis.

As mentioned, with appendicitis, it is important to take a look at the overall symptoms. It has a sudden onset, rapid progression.

The pain originates around the navel and then starts shifting to the right lower abdomen.

Associated symptoms such as nausea, a feeling of nausea and vomiting. The child is weak, suffers from lack of appetite, and has an associated fever. The fever does not rise above 39°C.

An appendicitis is usually followed by hernia.

Another example is pain due to psychological strain and stress, i.e. psychogenic abdominal pain. An injury is a likely culprit. Infectious diseases are not rare at this age, either. It is important to know whether someone else in the family experiences the same difficulties.

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Interesting resources

  • Drake RL, Vogl AW, Mitchell AW (2015). "4: Abdomen". Gray's Anatomy For Students (Third ed.). Churchill Livingstone Elsevier. pp. 253–420. ISBN 978-0-7020-5131-9.
  • Neumayer L, Dangleben DA, Fraser S, Gefen J, Maa J, Mann BD (2013). "11: Abdominal Wall, Including Hernia". Essentials of General Surgery, 5e. Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health.
  • Bickley L (2016). Bates' Guide to Physical Examination & History Taking. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 9781469893419.
  • ANP-BC, Karen M. Myrick, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC; ANP-BC, Laima Karosas, PhD, APRN, FNP-BC (6 December 2019). Advanced Health Assessment and Differential Diagnosis: Essentials for Clinical Practice. Springer Publishing Company. p. 250. ISBN 978-0-8261-6255-7.
  • Cartwright SL, Knudson MP (April 2008). "Evaluation of acute abdominal pain in adults". American Family Physician77 (7): 971–8. PMID 18441863.
  • Mahadevan SV. Essentials of Family Medicine 6e. p. 149.
  • Tytgat GN (2007). "Hyoscine butylbromide: a review of its use in the treatment of abdominal cramping and pain". Drugs67 (9): 1343–57. 
  • Sherman SC, Cico SJ, Nordquist E, Ross C, Wang E (2016). Atlas of Clinical Emergency Medicine. Wolters Kluwer. ISBN 978-1-4511-8882-0.
  • Skiner HG, Blanchard J, Elixhauser A (September 2014). "Trends in Emergency Department Visits, 2006-2011". HCUP Statistical Brief #179. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
The aim of the portal and content is not to replace professional examination. The content is for informational and non-binding purposes only, not advisory. In case of health problems, we recommend seeking professional help, visiting or contacting a doctor or pharmacist.