Umbilical pain is pain that occurs in the center of the abdomen, near the navel, or belly button. The pain can be focused on the umbilical region or radiate out to other parts of the abdomen. Common causes include appendicitis, umbilical hernia, constipation, or over-exertion of the abdominal muscles.
Umbilical pain can accompany acute appendicitis, a condition in which the appendix rapidly becomes progressively inflamed. Emergency treatment is required, as the appendix can burst and spill bacteria into the abdominal cavity, causing a more severe condition called peritonitis, or inflammation of the tissue that lines the abdominal cavity. Typically, the pain starts at the navel and extends to the lower right side of the abdomen. Other symptoms of acute appendicitis include high fever, chills, constipation, nausea and vomiting.
One of the most common causes of umbilical pain in infants is a hernia. In an umbilical hernia, the abdominal lining or part of the abdominal organs protrude through the area surrounding the navel. It is caused when the muscle surrounding the navel does not close completely after birth. The hernia usually resolves on its own by age one. In cases when a hernia is cutting off blood supply, surgery to repair the bulge is usually recommended. Umbilical hernias can also occur in adults, and surgery is usually required to repair the bulge.
Constipation can also cause umbilical pain in some cases. When feces become impacted in the colon and put pressure on the belly button, the pain can radiate outward towards the surface of the navel region. While most people experience bouts of mild constipation from time to time, severe constipation can cause hemorrhoids and tears in the anus from straining. Constipation is usually treated with laxatives, stool softeners, and changes in the diet. Maintaining proper hydration can also help prevent or relieve constipation.
Strenuous exercise, especially without proper stretching before a workout, can strain the abdominal muscles and cause pain that radiates throughout the abdomen and umbilical area. Lifting heavy objects without support can also cause strain on the muscles. Those lifting heavy objects should use the muscles in their legs to perform the bulk of the work.
In some cases, umbilical pain can signal an underlying long-term disease, such as colorectal cancer, Crohn’s or celiac disease. Crohn’s is a disease that causes chronic inflammation in the intestinal tract. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that irritates the digestive tract and causes sensitive to foods containing gluten. Those suffering from lingering or intense belly button pain should contact their doctor to rule out potentially serious conditions.