Why Do You Have Pain in Left Shoulder After Eating?

Eating is a satisfying and most often a very pleasant function. If you suffer from pain in shoulder after eating, it may turn into a not-so-pleasant experience. Feeling pain in your left shoulder can be caused by a few common things, but some could be a sign of something more serious. Rarely, it is one of the first symptoms of a heart attack and may need immediate medical attention. This article will help you understand some causes of left shoulder pain after you eat and what to do about it.

What Causes Pain in Left Shoulder After Eating?

While eating may normally be a pleasurable experience, there may be occasions when you experience discomfort like pain in left shoulder. When this happens, you may have just eaten too much food. However, there may be a more serious cause that you need to keep an eye on or in some cases, seek emergency help.

Left shoulder pain is often a type of "referred pain," that is pain from something occurring somewhere else in your body. Places that cause this include heart, esophagus, teeth, your pancreas, or other areas even lower in your digestive system.

1. Overeating

If you eat too much, the muscles around your stomach can become overstretched. Too much food can cause your stomach to push on other organs and tissues sending pain up into your shoulder.

Signs of overeating include: abdominal pain, diarrhea, excessive gas and belching, side-pain, cramping, inability to take a full deep breath, and nausea.


GERD is the short term for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It happens when your stomach acids flow back up into your esophagus and causes irritation. When you eat too much, it will cause even more acid to push upward. This can cause pain in left shoulder after eating, as well as at the center of your chest. It is often mistaken for a heart attack.

Other symptoms of GERD include heartburn after eating or even when your stomach is empty, pain in your chest, feeling of acid or food coming back up, cough, trouble swallowing, and hoarseness.

3. Gas

Pain in your left shoulder after you eat may be a trapped gas bubble. When you digest your food, bacteria in your digestive tract can form gas and it can get stuck. This can cause a type of "referred pain" to your shoulder area. Walking after you eat can help get things moving so the gas will pass with either belching or flatulence. Sometimes drinking a carbonated drink or taking an anti-gas pill will help.

Signs of gas after eating include abdominal pain and fullness, bloating, excessive belching and flatulence, cramping, chest pain, and loud stomach noises.

4. Heartburn

Heartburn is a very simple and common occurrence after eating. It happens when you eat too much or eat greasy, spicy foods. Your stomach acids get overstimulated and cause a sensation of burning and/or pain in the chest or shoulder.

Signs of heartburn after eating are burning sensation right in the center of the chest, pain in the right or left shoulder, regurgitation of acid, nausea, and even chest pain.

5. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is one of the more serious causes of pain in left shoulder after eating. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, one of the digestive organs that lie just beneath and to the left of the stomach. When you eat, the pancreas secretes insulin to help control your blood sugar and releases digestive juices. One of the classic first signs of pancreatitis is left shoulder pain just after a meal. The pain may even start during your meal.

Symptoms of pancreatitis include left shoulder pain, searing and stabbing pain that radiates through to the back, severe burning sensation in the abdomen area, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea with severe cramping, trouble taking a full breath, and inability to eat without pain.

6. Heart Attack

Note: If you experience symptoms of a heart attack after eating, call 9-1-1 right away!

The heart needs plenty of oxygen to keep working. When you eat, your body shunts blood and oxygen away from vital organs and sends it to the digestive tract to help digest your meal. If you have heart disease, this can rob your heart of the oxygen it needs. As a matter of fact, a large amount of heart attacks occur after a large meal.

Symptoms of a heart attack are shortness of breath, chest pain, pain that radiates to the neck or jaw, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, arm pain, and irregular heartbeat.

Ways to Help Manage the Pain

If your pain in left shoulder after eating is severe and doesn't go away, you may need to seek emergency medical attention to rule out pancreatitis or heart attack. If this is something you have experienced in the past and feel okay, there are things you can do at home to help manage and relieve the pain. Try these helpful tips:

1. Eat Slowly

Try eating more slowly to help your food digest. If you eat too fast, you may take in too much air and cause excessive gas. Eating slow also slows down the amount of digestive secretions. Eating too fast may signal your body to release too much and cause heartburn. It also takes longer for the signal to reach your brain that you are full and you may overeat.

2. Take an Antacid

H2 blockers are normally taken 30 minutes prior to a meal. Taking an over-the-counter antacid before you eat may help alleviate symptoms of GERD and heartburn. Make sure you wait the full 30 minutes to get the full effect of the medication. If these do not work, you may need to ask your doctor for a prescription antacid.

3. Use an Anti-Gas Remedy

If you are eating gassy foods that may result in trapped gas, try using an over-the-counter anti-gas remedy. If you are eating something gassy like beans or onions, gas remedies can prevent gas buildup. If you have already eaten, you can take gas remedies before or after meals and it will still help relieve gas pain and pressure.

4. Eat Small Frequent Meals

If overeating is a problem for you, try breaking up your meals into smaller more frequent meals. You can try eating a small breakfast, and then a morning snack. Then eat a small lunch with an afternoon snack. Then eat dinner and a light snack before bed.

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