Side pain is any sort of pain, sometimes quite sharp but sometimes less pronounced, usually occurring in the chest area or wider abdomen, (1) although it can also be experienced in the lower back. Whilst there are several potential causes (see below) of side pain, it usually results from the inflammation or infection of muscles, blood vessels or organs. It can occur on the left or right sides of the torso or involve the entire abdominal area. It can also occur and disappear quite quickly, depending on the cause.
Alternatively, it can build slowly over time and take a while to present itself. If you are experiencing side pain you should act on it quickly or talk to a medical professional as it might be a symptom of other more major underlying health problems.
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What are the symptoms of side pain?
Different people will experience side pain in different ways depending on the specific cause but, in addition to the pain itself, (2) common symptoms include:
Menstrual cramping for women
Difficulty with breathing
Pain lasting for several days
Difficulty with eating
Difficulty with going to the toilet
Difficulty with passing wind
Pain when urinating
Coughing up blood
Side pain can range from simple, mild pain to severe, sharp instantaneous pain and in its most serious form to chronic pain that endures for many months or even years.
What are the potential causes of side pain?
It is suggested that you seek medical attention and consult a medical professional to determine the cause of your abdominal pain. Some of the causes below may seem severe but all are potential causes of side pain.
Food allergies. Eating a food that you are allergic to can have a range of effects, including side pain
Food poisoning. In addition to side pain it is common to experience vomiting and fever.
Constipation. This can be avoided by having a healthy diet with sufficient fiber
Trapped wind. A build-up of trapped gas in the stomach can cause side pain or other abdominal pain.
Endometriosis. Often causes a swelling in the abdomen which can result in side pain.
Hernia. Caused when an internal part of the body, usually but not always the bowel, pushes through a weak part of muscle or surrounding tissue wall. It often causes a swelling in the abdominal area which can cause side pain
Kidney Stones. Abdominal pain is caused as a result of the kidney stone passing to the urethra. Kidney stones often create difficulty in urinating and back pain issues as well as side pain and general abdominal pain. (3)
Urinary tract infections. As well as cloudy urine, blood in the urine, back pain or a general sense of feeling unwell, side pain is a potential symptom.
Spinal arthritis. Often caused by bone rubbing against bone it is experienced as a tingling sensation and can affect your back or side.
Sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, running from the back of the pelvis through the buttocks and all the way down both legs, ending at the feet. Sciatica is caused by the irritation of this nerve. The pain can be mild or very severe and is made worse by coughing, sneezing or sitting for long periods of time.
Hepatitis. Often results in severe side pain.
Bowel cancer. Can cause pain in the abdomen and can also result in constipation, loss of appetite and feelings of weakness.
Chrohn’s Disease. Another type of bowel disorder that can give rise to abdominal side pain. It affects the sigmoid colon.
Polycystic kidney disease. As well as high blood pressure, headache and potential blood in urine as well as kidney stones, side pain is a common symptom.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Identifiable by bloating, cramping pains in the abdomen, constipation and build-up of gas
Ulcerative Colitis. A specific inflammatory bowel condition, Ulcerative colitis is one of the most common causes of side pain.
Stomach Ulcers. Due to the stomach’s positioning in the torso, side pain is a common symptom.
Gastroenteritis. Often caused in children by them swallowing food without chewing sufficiently, Side pain is a common symptom.
Alternatively, you could be experiencing problems with any of you organs, muscles or blood vessels associated with or contained within your abdominal area including the stomach, spleen, liver, adrenal gland, kidney, large intestine, pancreas, or ovaries/fallopian tubes. Problems with the lungs or heart may also be a cause of side pain.
Treating Side Pain
Identifying the root of the cause is vital for effective treatment. Your medical professional will be able to offer you the best personal advice. To diagnose the root of the problem doctors will sometimes use a range of tests including X-rays, endoscopy, colonoscopy, barium enema or ultrasound. They will usually take a blood sample and sometime urine and faces samples to determine the associated illness.
Generally, treatment will involve prescription of painkillers that provide temporary pain relief but solving the root cause will always be the aim.
Conditions arising from inflammations will usually be treated with antibiotics.
In general, it is a good idea to drink plenty of fluids to relieve back pain, especially if it is caused by an issue such as kidney stones. If the problem is more to do with bowel movement then a change in diet will likely be necessary. Some conditions, such as hernia, will require surgery.
If you are experiencing side pain get the advice of a medical professional.
Your side pain could be a symptom of more underlying health issues.
There is a range of ways to treat side pain, depending on the underlying cause.
Side pain can be short and sharp or long and drawn out pain.
Often the person affected will experience symptoms of their condition in addition to side pain which aids eventual diagnosis.