Tight Feeling In Stomach: 9 Causes And Relief

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Have you ever felt a tight feeling in your stomach? It can often be difficult to describe. It’s not quite a pain and it’s far more than a “butterfly” feeling – so what is it?

People often describe this as bloating or trapped gas. There can be a variety of reasons for a tight feeling or pressure in the stomach and luckily there are some ways to relieve the feeling. 

We’re going to take a look at these causes and shed some light on what we can do to help with it. 

9 Causes for Tight Feeling in Stomach

It can be difficult to assess exactly what the cause of a tight stomach is. The tight feeling in the stomach will often occur in the upper stomach as well. Here are some common causes:

1. Anxiety Induced Pain

It’s surprising how powerful our minds are over our bodies. Some people that experience anxiety may also have “nervous stomach,” with similar symptoms of: 

  • Tension, anxiety and nervousness 
  • Worry or a feeling of dread 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Sweating 
  • Weakness

It’s common for us to feel anxious in certain situations, but if you’re experiencing anxiety regularly – you may require assistance from a mental health expert or general practitioner.

Help can be given in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), lifestyle changes such as exercise and diet or in more extreme cases – antidepressants. 

2. Constipation 

Constipation is when your stool has remained inside the colon longer than it should. It often becomes hard and dry and as a result is much more difficult to poop out.

You may notice if you have constipation that you’re also experiencing: 

  • Few bowel movements a week (3 or less)
  • Straining to poop
  • The feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowels completely 
  • The feeling of a blockage 

Constipation can be uncomfortable but there are usually some simple ways to treat it.

Typically, an unhealthy diet causes constipation (but not always).  In this instance, making basic dietary changes can be the most effective way in relieving constipation.

However, in severe cases you may require medical intervention or over the counter medications such as laxatives. Learn more about different laxative types.

3. Indigestion 

Indigestion can be an umbrella term for a plethora of medical conditions. Generally though, it’s the uncomfortable feeling in your abdomen which often results in symptoms like heartburn or a queasy stomach.

After eating, you also may notice a burning feeling, a feeling of being overly full, feeling nauseated or uncomfortable burping. Indigestion can be attributed to a number of factors. Some include:

  • Eating too quickly 
  • Too much alcohol 
  • Too much caffeine 
  • Anxiety 
  • Heavy smoking
  • Medications like NSAIDs
  • Constipation

There are some over the counter medications that can often help such as antacids.

A healthy diet and routine exercise will also help with indigestion.  In some circumstances, indigestion can be a sign of other more serious conditions like pancreatitis or gallbladder disease.

It may also be an indicator of Celiac disease, lactose intolerance or IBS. It’s best to speak with a doctor to assess your situation. 

4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition that manifests itself with a number of different symptoms like cramps, pain, uncomfortable gas, diarrhea or constipation. 

Due to the complex nature of IBS, it’s not easy to establish treatment – but it is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle which can alleviate pain and discomfort.

It’s also a good idea to keep a food journal to monitor food or drink triggers and what to avoid in future. In some cases, medication may be prescribed. 

5. SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) 

Bacterial overgrowth is the result of increased levels of bacteria in the small intestine.

When food reaches the small intestine, it is fermented by the bacteria, and this produces increased gas. That gas can cause bloating and tightness in the abdomen.

6. Ascites

Ascites is fluid buildup in the abdomen. There are a number of causes of ascites including cirrhosis, heart failure, kidney disease, some infections, and even certain cancers like ovarian cancer. The fluid buildup can result in a feeling of tightness. This can be diagnosed with an exam by your physician and an ultrasound.

7. Food Poisoning

Eating contaminated food or drink can result in food poisoning. This can be through poor sanitation conditions, eating uncooked food, eating or drinking expired products or consuming contaminated foods.

Along with a tight stomach, food poisoning can have a number of unpleasant symptoms including:

  • Extreme vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Feeling weak 
  • DIfficulty eating or drinking 
  • Dehydration 
  • Mild flu-like symptoms 

Food poisoning can happen to anybody. To ensure you’re protecting yourself against it at home, you should maintain a hygienic and tidy environment.

Here are some tips to help prevent food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly
  • Clean all cooking areas and utensils completely if they have come into contact with raw foods
  • Cook all foods thoroughly, ensure a safe temperature with a thermometer
  • Keep a close eye on expiration dates

Food poisoning is horrible but it can normally be treated by staying at home and resting.

You must stay hydrated to reduce the risk of extreme dehydration which could result in hospitalization. 

8. Pregnancy 

A tight feeling in the stomach while pregnant is entirely normal. It can be due to baby movement, gas, constipation, contractions or muscle pains. If it is extremely painful though, you will need to contact your doctor. 

9. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

PMS can result in a tight stomach and bloated feeling, along with other symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, cravings, soreness and irritability.

These are all completely normal but if you’re struggling to cope, consult with a professional as soon as possible. 


It’s not exactly a simple answer when asking how to prevent a tight stomach. It will depend on why you have a tight stomach. Generally speaking though, keeping fit and healthy is the best way.

Consuming enough water and a balanced diet should help – but this isn’t always that simple.

You can speak with a health professional who can assist in getting you a health plan with a safe diet and exercise routine. 

If the tightness is caused by a more serious health condition though, you must speak with a doctor to establish this. You will also need to speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing:

  • Blood in stool
  • Extreme pain
  • Rapid weight loss 
  • Feeling very full after eating 
  • Unexplained fever 

We hope this information has been useful to you. Check with your doctor if you have a persistent feeling of tightness in the abdomen.

Check out these other stomach related articles to learn more about relieving pains:

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Chelsea Cleary, RDN

    Chelsea is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) specializing in holistic treatment for chronic digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), SIBO, and Crohn’s disease. She educates patients on how they can heal themselves from their conditions by modifying lifestyle and dietary habits.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.