Pain on Right Side: Causes, Treatments and When to See a Doctor

Pain on Right Side: Causes, Treatments and When to See a Doctor
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A feeling of pain in the right side of your chest or abdominal region usually makes many people worry. The right side of your upper body contains many vital organs like your liver, right lung, and one of your kidneys. Infection, disease, or blocked arteries can cause pain ranging from mild discomfort to sharp, stabbing right side pain. You might be concerned about any kind of acute or chronic right sided pain, but you need to know that not all causes of this pain are serious and in some cases they might be a result of common conditions such as heartburn, excess gas or muscle strain.

The right side of your rib cage protects your liver, right lung, right kidney, and gallbladder. Just below your ribs in your abdomen are most of the organs connected with your digestive system including your appendix. Disease, inflammation, or infection in any of these organs will cause pain ranging from a dull, mild ache to serious, sharp stabbing pains that can also feel like something is pressing on your chest.

Sometimes, the cause of pain on the right side isn’t connected with an organ but could be caused by stress, anxiety, or damage to the nerves or muscles in your chest. Of course, many people are worried about a heart attack or angina if they suffer sudden sharp pains in their chest. However, because your heart is located on the left side of your chest, cardiac-related pain is usually felt on the left of your body.

This article looks at the many causes of pain in the right side of your body. In it, you will learn why you can have aches and pains in the right-hand side of your chest or abdomen. Knowing the reason for right-side pain can help you know if the cause of pain is serious enough to see a doctor. You will also find some helpful natural remedies to relieve the aching discomfort in the right side of your back, abdomen, or chest.

Organs on the Right Side of the Body

Liver and gallbladder

There are many important organs located on the right side of your body. For example, doctors from WebMD say that your liver lies under the ribcage on the right side of your stomach and the gallbladder is right under the liver. Gallstones or infection around your liver can cause sharp, right-sided pain below your ribs.1

Right lung

Your lungs play an important function in removing toxins from your blood and replacing them with oxygen. Certain lung infections in the right lung can cause severe stabbing pains that can radiate to your back.

Appendix

Another organ on the right side of your abdomen that can cause right-sided pain is your appendix. Sometimes, inflammation or infection can cause appendicitis which will result in severe pain the lower part of your belly.

Right fallopian tube and ovary (in women)

Part of the reproductive organs in women are located on the right side of their body. The right fallopian tube and ovary are found in the pelvic area are just below the right side of the belly button. Therefore, it quite common that premenstrual syndrome, ovarian cysts, or endometriosis can be a reason for right-sided abdominal pain in women.

Diagram of Organs on the Right Side

internal organs on right side of the body diagram

Symptoms of Right Side Pain

Depending on the exact cause of your pain, you may have various degrees of pain. Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine exactly where the pain is coming from because pain from one area in the right side of your chest or abdomen can radiate to the back, stomach, or groin.

For example, flank pain or kidney pain very often starts with gnawing pains just below the ribs on the right. However, the waves of pain from a kidney infection can travel to the back, upper right shoulder, or groin. Also, kidney stones or gallbladder stones can cause sharp painful symptoms anywhere in the belly or pelvis.

Some digestive problems can cause discomfort and aches on the right side or left side of the abdomen. But, sometimes the excruciating pain that appendicitis causes often start with pain just below your belly button and gradually gets more intense as it moves to your lower right belly.

Sharp pains in your lower abdomen that are accompanied by nausea and vomiting and possibly a fever are usually the signs of infection in an organ like the kidneys, liver, or appendix.

Chest Pain in Right Side

pain on the right side of the body

Let’s look at the various causes of pain, aches, and discomfort on the right side of your chest. First, we will look at serious types of chest pain that are related to your heart.

Heart attack

Although the symptoms of a heart attack usually cause crushing pains on the left side of your chest, cardiac pain can also cause squeezing pains under your right rib cage.

Dr. James Beckerman on WebMD says that heart pain can be felt anywhere in the chest including the right side. This type of cardiac pain in your chest can feel like a heavy weight is pushing on your chest. The pain may come in waves of sudden, intense sensations and be felt in your abdomen.2

Heartburn

Heartburn can cause a painful burning sensation in the right side of the chest. Heartburn or acid reflux occurs when stomach acid escapes back up your esophagus and causes irritation and pain.

According to doctors from the Cleveland Clinic, chest pain caused by heartburn can be similar to the pain of a heart attack. This is because your esophagus is close to your heart and pain will usually be felt just below the ribs. However, unlike a heart attack, the pain from heartburn won’t radiate to your arms, neck, or jaw.3

To resolve the pain and discomfort that heartburn causes, you can drink a mixture of baking soda and water. The alkaline effect of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) helps to neutralize the stomach acid and reduce the burning sensation in your chest. You should mix 1/2 teaspoon baking soda in a glass of water and drink. Consume the baking soda drink after each meal to prevent pain caused by heartburn.

Please read my article on natural ways to cure heartburn for more information.

Muscle strain

A common cause of pain on the right side of your chest is a muscle strain. Of course, you can strain muscles on either side of your chest by overreaching or too much physical exertion. But, because we tend to use our right hands and arms more, strained muscles can affect that side of the chest.

Dr. Colin Tidy on Patient.info says that straining muscles in between and around the ribs can cause chest pain when moving or breathing deeply.4

Usually, getting plenty of rest or applying an ice or heat pack can help repair the muscle tissues naturally.

Injury to the Chest

You will usually have right-sided chest pain on the front of your body or back if you injure one of your right ribs. Depending on the type of injury, the chest pain could be anything from a mild ache to severe pains that get worse when breathing.

It’s important to look for other symptoms if you have injured your rib cage so much that it hurts. Doctors from the University of Rochester say that chest injuries can cause flank pain if the kidney is injured. Or, a severe blow to your back could cause liver injury resulting in pain in the upper right of your abdomen.5

If you notice symptoms like abdominal pain on the right or left side of your body, you have nausea and vomiting, cold skin, or low blood pressure, you should visit your doctor immediately.

Injury to your chest can also severely affect your lungs.

Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)

Injury or infection to your right lung can cause your lung to collapse (pneumothorax) which will result in severe sharp chest pains on your right side.

MedlinePlus says that chest pains on the side of the collapsed lung can also spread to your shoulder blade. Breathing deeply or coughing can make the pain worse. If the pneumothorax is severe, you may also experience chest tightness, dizziness, have bluish skin, and a rapid heart rate.6

Pleurisy

Another lung condition that can cause chest pains in your right or left side is pleurisy. There is a thin membrane between your lungs and chest wall called the pleura. If this becomes inflamed because of an infection you will get sharp stabbing chest pains.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the sharp pains in your chest usually feel worse when you exert pressure on your chest like coughing or breathing. The agony may also radiate to the right side of your back or right shoulder blade if your right lung is affected. If the fluid between your lungs and chest becomes infected, you may have a fever and it could lead to a collapsed lung.7

Pneumonia

An infection in your respiratory tract can cause chest pain in the upper right side of your body if the right lung is infected. Pneumonia is often a complication of the flu, asthma, or another viral or bacterial lung infection.

According to the British Lung Foundation, pneumonia will cause more symptoms than just chest pain. These can be a fever, difficulty breathing, and coughing up mucus. Pleurisy is also a complication of pneumonia which will make the chest pains even worse.8

However, people who have had a stroke may be at a greater risk of experiencing pneumonia-related severe upper chest pain on the right side. The journal Neurohospilalist reported that more often than not, it’s the right side of the chest rather than the left that is affected by pneumonia after a stroke.9

One of the best ways to combat respiratory infections and prevent pneumonia is to give your immune system a boost. Even just enjoying a healthy diet and getting enough exercise can do wonders for your immunity.

Blood clot (pulmonary embolism)

Severe chest pains on your right side when you’re resting could be a sign of a blood clot. Any kind of blood clot can become a life-threatening condition if it reaches your heart or lungs.

The reason that blood clots often affect your upper-right chest is that blood flows to your right side of your heart. Dr. Daniel Ouellette on Medscape explains that, depending on which lung the blood clot enters, you will have pain on that side of your chest. However, you may also experience abdominal pain or flank pain if you have a blood clot.10

Some of the reasons for blood clots forming are deep vein thrombosis and poor blood circulation. To find out how to protect your cardiovascular system and reduce your risk of blood clots, please read my article on natural safe methods to improve circulation.

Panic or anxiety attack

A panic attack is often accompanied by crushing chest pains that can feel like a heart attack. Feeling a racing heartbeat, uncontrollable shivering, and stabbing chest pains can be a frightening experience.

One of the reasons that anxiety attacks cause chest pain is described by Dr. Jeff Huffman from the Association of Medicine and Psychiatry. Panic attacks cause muscles and nerves in your upper body to tighten which can cause painful spasms in the right or left side of the chest. Also, the high blood pressure and racing heartbeat can put more strain on your heart, which in itself can lead to chest pain.11

Thankfully, there are many natural ways to reduce the severity and frequency of panic attacks. Many people use serotonin supplements to help control anxiety and therefore reduce the number of anxiety attacks they have. Because panic attacks are often a symptom of depression, you could also try natural remedies for depression to help you cope better.

Stress

Stress can affect your body in many ways, and tense muscles that result in tight chest pains is just one of them. Stress may also cause abdominal pain on your right side or left side because it upsets your digestive system.

Researchers from the Harvard Medical School published a report on how stress can cause abdominal pain. The report found that even less severe types of stress can cause abdominal pain because of how it affects the gastrointestinal system.12

To help reduce pain under your ribs, you can try some of my great natural remedies for stress relief. Stress can also raise your cortisol levels which can also cause pain in your upper and lower back.

Nerve Damage

Right side pain could be a complication of nerve damage that was caused by a viral infection. For example, shingles can cause chest pains as well as blisters on your skin, itching, and general flu-like symptoms.

According to Dr. Mary Harding on Patient.info, the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles generally only affects nerves on one side of the body. If nerves on the right side of the chest are affected, shingles will also cause mild to severe pains in the right-hand side of the chest. The pain in the affected area can feel like something gnawing at your chest or the chest pain can come and go with sharp stabbing pains.13

There are many home remedies for treating the symptoms of shingles. For example, Manuka honey helps to treat the virus that causes shingles and helps your sensitive skin heal quicker.

Costochondritis

Inflammation in your sternum (breastbone) can cause stabbing chest pains that leave you in a lot of discomfort. People commonly confuse the pain caused by inflammation of the breastbone with a heart attack because that is where they usually feel the pain.

According to doctors at the Southern Cross Medical Care Society, the sudden chest pain from costochondritis usually affects the left side of the chest but it can affect both sides of the chest at the same time. Many people describe the chest pain as a severe aching pain. The pain can also be felt in the back, abdomen, or in your shoulder blades.14

Doctors say that the chest pain usually resolves itself and may take from 1 to 3 weeks to heal completely.

Breast cancer

It is very rare for breast cancer to cause pain under the right breast or the left breast. According to researchers at Cancer Research UK, breast pain isn’t usually associated with breast cancer and about 90% of breast lumps are not cancerous.30

However, on rare occasions, pain under your breast could be a sign of advanced breast cancer.31

If you find any new lump in your breast, you should always visit your doctor for a full checkup.

Abdominal Pain on the Right Side

right side abdominal pain

Many health conditions affecting your digestive system or urinary tract can cause pain anywhere on the right side between the bottom of your ribs and your pelvic region.

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a serious health condition that can be a reason for severe pain in your right lower abdomen. The pain of appendicitis can start as a dull, throbbing pain and then intensifies as the inflammation gets worse.

According to Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD, appendicitis pain usually starts just around your belly button and becomes sharper and more severe as it moves to your lower right abdomen. Along with the lower abdominal pain, you may have nausea, abdominal swelling, or a high fever. Sometimes, the pain of an inflamed appendix can radiate to your upper abdomen or back.15

Dr. Ratini warns that acute appendicitis can quickly turn into a medical emergency. If you have any sharp constant pain in your lower abdomen, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.

Gallstones

Sudden stabbing pains at the upper part of your abdomen could be a result of gallstones or gallbladder infection. Your gallbladder is located just under your liver on the right side of your body. Together with your liver, your gallbladder helps to break down food to get nutrients from it.

Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD explains that gallstone pain can start suddenly in the upper abdomen and spread to the right shoulder blade or right-hand side of your upper back. The pain can be so discomforting that it can last continuously for up to 5 hours.16 Gallstones may also be a reason for feeling nauseous after eating.

One way to help get rid of gallstones and improve your digestion system is to drink lemon water. The acidic nature of lemon can help dissolve the hardened digestive fluid in your gallbladder.

Liver disease

Your liver is the largest organ on the right side of the body and pain in your upper abdomen can be a sign of liver disease. Although we talk about liver pain, there are actually no nerve endings in the liver so you cannot feel pain in the liver itself. So, any “liver pain” you feel is caused by either inflammation stretching the tissues around the liver or the liver presses on an organ in your upper abdomen.

Dr. Gruvinder Rull on Patient.info says that congestive heart failure can stretch the capsule of the liver. This can result in pain in your right upper abdomen and back.17

It’s important to care for the health of your liver and avoid practices that can damage the liver. For example, citrus fruits, garlic, and apples are just some of the foods that boost liver health.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones could be another reason for pain in the right side just below your ribs or in the middle of your back. Kidney stones form when mineral deposits build up in one or the other kidney. If they move, you can suffer from excruciating waves of pain anywhere in your abdomen from your ribs to your pelvis.

Along with the severe pain in your belly and back, Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD says that the pain can travel all the way down to your groin. You may also have pain when urinating and your urine may be cloudy and smell bad.18

One excellent natural cure for kidney stones is apple cider vinegar. The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar help to get rid of the stones and reduce your abdominal pain. Other ways of getting rid of kidney stones naturally are keeping a healthy diet to improve kidney health.

Constipation

Suffering from lower abdominal pain and lower back pain is a common symptom of constipation. If stools become hard and difficult to pass, they can build up in your colon and cause pain on the right side or left side of your abdominal area.

According to researchers from Cancer Research UK, chronic constipation causes pain in your back because the stool buildup presses on nerves. You may also experience abdominal swelling and severe abdominal pain if you can’t do a bowel movement.19

To get rid of constipation naturally, you can try some natural laxatives to help get your bowels moving again.

Excess gas

Another digestive issue that can give you pain on the right side of your upper body is too much gas. The pain of trapped gas can feel like something is stabbing you just under your ribs. Usually, you will feel pain on the side of your body where the buildup of gas is.

Doctors from Johns Hopkins say that gas that builds up on the right side of the colon may feel like gallstone or appendicitis pain.20

Some ways of preventing chest pains caused by gas in your intestines include drinking chamomile tea to boost your digestive health or consuming more ginger in your diet. There are also other home remedies for gas and bloating.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome causes digestive problems that produce symptoms of lower abdominal pains.

Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic say that among the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are recurrent abdominal pain that feels crampy. Sometimes, IBS causes constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms that cause pain under the ribs and around the lower abdominal region.21

Some natural methods to manage IBS include taking peppermint capsules to calm the digestive system or using probiotic supplements to get your digestive system working better.

Pancreatitis

Inflammation of the pancreas can cause pain just above the belly button on your right side or your left side of your belly. Drinking too much alcohol or an abdominal injury can damage the pancreas causing it to become inflamed.

Doctors from Cedars-Sinai say that pancreatitis can bring a severe abdominal pain. The pain can be on the upper right side, upper left side, or felt throughout the whole abdomen. The discomfort may also radiate to your back. Even mild pancreatitis can be a reason for a severe painful sensation in your upper abdomen.22

You may also find that chronic pancreatitis causes your stools to be fatty and smelly.

Right Side Abdominal Pain in Females

right side pain in women

Because problems with the reproductive system can cause pelvic pain and discomfort, there are some types of aches and pains that are unique to women.

Ovarian cyst

During the menstrual cycle, it is normal that small cysts appear and disappear in the ovary that is producing the egg. However, if the cyst continues to fill with fluid, it will start causing you pain in the lower abdomen on the right side or left side depending on the location of the affected ovary.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, other causes of ovarian cysts are hormonal problems, pelvic infections, or endometriosis. These cysts can cause pelvic pain, dull aches in the lower back, and pain during your period. Or they can give you abdominal cramping but no period.23

Dr. Sarah Marshall on WebMD recommends that you see your doctor for pelvic pain with nausea and vomiting and if you have other changes in your menstrual period.24

Endometriosis

If you suffer pelvic pain just before or during your period, it could be a symptom of endometriosis. This is a condition describing the condition when the lining of the womb grows outside of it. This can cause pelvic cramping, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and changes in your bowel movements.

According to UCLA Obstetrics and Gynecology, pain caused by endometriosis may even be a constant lower abdominal pain, although, the pain usually improves during the period.25

Mittelschmerz

Mittelschmerz is mid-cycle period pain can also be a reason for left-side or right-side lower abdominal pain. The pain usually occurs with ovulation and it generally affects the side of the ovary which is producing the egg.

According to Dr. Frederick Gaupp on eMedicineHealth, pain during your period occurs when the lining of the abdominal cavity gets irritated. Therefore, when the egg is being produced in your right ovary, you will also have right side abdominal pain.26 Depending on how your period affects you, the ovulation pain may be anything from a mild pain to severe pelvic pain that lasts for a few days.

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the womb. Usually, at the start, there isn’t any pain. However, if the pregnancy continues, the ectopic pregnancy can cause lower belly pain on one side of the body.

Doctors from WebMD say that the pelvic pain occurs sharply on one side of the abdomen. Then it spreads through the pelvic area. The pain may also radiate to the left or right shoulder blade because of bleeding in the abdomen. Other symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are heavy vaginal bleeding, signs of shock, or dizziness.27

If you think that you might be pregnant and have abnormal vaginal bleeding with pain around your lower back, you should visit your doctor for a checkup. Ectopic pregnancies can become a life-threatening condition.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Cramping on either side of your lower abdomen could be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease. PID is a womb infection that is usually the result of a sexually transmitted disease.

According to Dr. Louise Newson on Patient.info, pelvic inflammatory disease can cause belly aches and pains ranging from mild to severe aching. The pain may also affect your lower back and feel like a persistent grumbling pain.27

It’s important to get prompt medical attention if you think you have PID because you could infect your partner and the disease can result in infertility.

Pain in the Right Side – When to See a Doctor

The reasons for experiencing pain on the right side of your body are many and varied. If right-sided chest pain and abdominal pain persist and natural remedies don’t give you relief, you should visit your doctor.

Dr. Jennifer Robinson on WebMD advises that persistent upper body pain can be a sign of a serious health condition and needs professional medical advice.28

You should see a doctor for pain in the right side of your upper body if you have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A sudden crushing pain under your breastbone
  • Any type of chest pain that radiates to your left arm, jaw, or back
  • Along with the right-side pain, you have nausea, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat
  • You have signs of an infection like a fever or chills
  • Your urine is a red or pink color and/or you have pain urinating
  • You have swelling in your abdomen
  • You pass bloody stools
  • Your chest pain doesn’t go away

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  11. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2002; 4(2): 54–62.
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  13. PatientInfo. Shingles.
  14. SouthernCross. Costochondritis.
  15. WebMD. Understanding appendicitis.
  16. WebMD. Gallstones.
  17. PatientInfo. Upper quadrant pain.
  18. WebMD. Kidney stones.
  19. CancerResearchUK. Chronic constipation.
  20. HopkinsMedicine. Gas in the digestive tract.
  21. ClevelandClinic. Irritable bowel syndrome.
  22. CedarsSinai. Pancreatitis.
  23. WomensHealth. Ovarian cysts.
  24. WebMD. What is an ovarian cyst?
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  28. PatientInfo. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  29. WebMD. Chest pain causes.
  30. CancerResearchUK. Breast cancer.
  31. CancerResearchUK. Symptoms of advanced breast cancer.
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