Common Causes of Left Side Abdominal Pain (Including Sharp Pain and Pain in Women Only)

Left side Abdominal Pain - Including Sharp Pain and Pain in Women Only
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Pain in the left side of your abdomen can be felt anywhere between your lower chest and the top of your pelvic area. The pain can be sharp, dull, constant or intermittent. In some cases together with the left sided abdominal pain you will suffer from pressure, bloating or cramps. The left side of your abdominal area contains your stomach, part of your pancreas, left kidney, and part of your colon. Most cases of left-sided abdominal pain are short-lived and nothing to worry about.

Even sharp pains in your abdomen could be a result of trapped gas, heartburn, or indigestion. Sometimes, dull aching pains that don’t go away could be a sign of a more serious health condition.

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Women can suffer from sharp lower left abdominal pain more than men. The lower left abdominal area in females contains some reproductive organs like the left ovary and part of the uterus. So, conditions relating to the menstrual cycle or pregnancy often cause cramping pain and lower left abdominal pain in women.

Of course, any kind of sharp abdominal pain or chest pain can be a cause for worry. Some types of chest and abdominal pain require prompt medical attention if they are accompanied by other symptoms. Some reasons to visit your doctor for left side abdominal pain is if you also have:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Squeezing or pressing pains in your chest that radiates to your left arm
  • Severe pain in the left abdominal area
  • Passing bloody stools

In this article, I am going to look at the various cause of pain that can affect your upper left abdomen and the lower left abdomen. You will also find out about abdominal pain on the left that only affects men or women.

Internal organs in the abdomen

Internal organs in the abdomen

Organs on the Left Side of the Abdomen

On the left side of your abdomen you can find some of the most important internal organs in your body:

Left lung – The lower part of your left lung is located behind your heart and both of your lungs play a vital function in the respiratory system.

Spleen, pancreas, and part of the liver – Although your liver is located under the right rib cage, part of it is located on the left side just under your heart. Below your heart under the left part of your rib cage are your liver, spleen, and pancreas. These organs, along with your liver, are an important part of your digestive system and help to break down food to extract nutrients and filter out waste products.

Left kidney – Your left kidney is located towards your back and, just like the liver, helps to filter blood and keep you healthy.

Part of the stomach, intestines, and colon – Part of your stomach, intestines, and colon are also located on the left side of your abdomen. The last part of your colon is located in the lower left side of the abdomen. If you have any digestive problems, the digestive-related pain might be felt on the left side.

Women’s reproductive system – Women also have part of their reproductive system on the left side of their body: part of the womb, left fallopian tube and the left ovary.

Organs On The Left Side Of The Abdomen

Organs on the Left Side of the Abdomen

Left Side Abdominal Pain: Common Causes

All of us will suffer from some type of abdominal pain in our life. Thankfully, in most cases, pains in the left side of the abdomen or stomach area are not a sign of anything serious.

First, it is good to know where the location of your pain is coming from. Dr. Charles Patrick Davis on MedicineNet says that doctors divide the abdominal area into four areas or quadrants. Your upper left abdominal area is the left-hand side part of your body above the navel and below the chest. The lower left side of the abdomen is between your navel and your pelvic area.1

Also, being able to describe the type of pain can help to diagnose the cause of left sided abdominal pain. For example, the stomach pain could be sharp and stabbing and only happen intermittently. Or, you might feel a constant dull ache just under your left ribcage. Many women describe pain associated with their menstrual cycle as cramping and they may also show signs of bloating.

Let’s look at some of the most common causes of mild to severe abdominal pains that you can feel on the left side.

Gas pain

Gas pain is a very common reason for pain or discomfort in your left or right abdomen. Your stomach and part of your colon are located in your upper left quadrant and are often affected by trapped gas.

Doctors from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases report that burping, passing gas and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms. Some of the reasons for gas building up in your intestines are food that gets broken down in your gut. Bacteria break down undigested food and cause gas that can have a bad odor.2

According to John’s Hopkins Medicine, gas that collects in the stomach and left part of the colon will cause sharp pain in the stomach and cramping on that side. Other symptoms of trapped gas may include:

There is actually a lot that your gas can reveal about your health. However, passing excessive amounts of gas to relieve abdominal pain can be embarrassing. You can try to take ginger as a natural gas-reliving remedy. This is just one of the natural remedies for getting rid of gas and bloating.

Indigestion

Left side abdominal pain and cramping after a meal could be caused by indigestion.

Dr. John Cunha on eMedicineHealth says that indigestion is caused by certain conditions that affect how your digestive system works. One of the most common symptoms of indigestion is abdominal pain. Indigestion can also cause excessive gas which can also aggravate abdominal pain on the left side. Other symptoms of indigestion can include:

There are many ways you can improve your digestive system. For example, taking probiotics can help to treat many digestive problems naturally. Also, chamomile tea, fennel seeds, and ginger can all help to improve your digestion.

Shingles

Shingles can cause burning stabbing abdominal pain on the left side of your body (or the right-hand side) before the shingles rash appears.

The Journal of Clinical Medical Research reported that the varicella zoster infection that causes shingles can mimic acute abdominal pain.3 Medical practitioner Dr. Sabrina Felson says that other symptoms that accompany shingles are:4

  • Feeling of prickly skin that can also be sore
  • Blisters appear on the affected area that are red and filled with fluid
  • Blisters crust over in a week
  • Symptoms of a viral infection like fever, fatigue, or a headache.

You can find out how to use Manuka honey to naturally treat symptoms of singles and soothe the discomfort it causes.

Upper Left Abdominal Pain: Common Causes

Let’s look in more detail at various reasons why you can experience upper left abdominal pain (or, left upper quadrant (LUQ) pain) and what you can do about it.

Heartburn

Heartburn can cause burning pain in your upper left quadrant and the middle of your chest. The burning painful feeling is caused when stomach acids escape from your stomach and irritate your esophagus.

According to Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD, heartburn (or, acid reflux) is a common digestive disorder affecting millions of people. Burning discomfort that moves up from your stomach to your chest is the most common symptom. This may also cause upper left-sided abdominal pain because heartburn results in stomach discomfort.5

Along with abdominal pain in your LUQ, you may also have other symptoms like:

  • A constant sore throat
  • Sour taste in your mouth
  • Burping up stomach acid or even vomit
  • Fullness or bloating
  • Increased burping
  • Nausea after eating

One of the best ways to help get rid of the abdominal discomfort caused by heartburn is to drink baking soda and water. Baking soda helps to neutralize the stomach acid and can provide welcome relief.

Peptic ulcer

Another problem connected to your digestive system that can cause abdominal cramping and sharp pain is a gastric ulcer.

Peptic ulcers can affect the stomach (gastric ulcers), duodenum (duodenal ulcer), and esophagus (esophageal ulcer). Ulcers occur when the lining of these organs becomes corroded. The result is inflammation that causes pain in different areas of the abdomen.

Dr. Jay Marks on MedicineNet says that peptic ulcers often cause upper abdominal discomfort after eating a meal or in the middle of the night. However, not everyone with gastric or duodenal ulcers have stomach pain.6

Some more serious complications of peptic ulcers include:

  • Increased abdominal pain that results in vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Passing black tarry stools
  • Vomiting blood

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical help immediately.

To find out how to help treat gastric ulcers naturally, please read my article on the best home remedies to treat Helicobacter pylori which is a common cause of ulcers.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas and can cause intense sharp pain in the upper left side of your abdomen.

Dr. Minesh Khatri on WebMD says that some of the other symptoms of pancreatitis include:7

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  • Upper abdominal pain that starts about 12 hours after eating a heavy meal
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cold clammy skin
  • Tenderness around the abdominal area
  • Abdominal pain that spreads to the back and chest
  • Unexplained weight loss (in the case of chronic pancreatitis)

Bowel obstruction

Some underlying health issues can cause your intestines to become blocked and make it impossible to have a bowel movement. This can result in stomach pain and bloating and make going to the bathroom almost impossible.

According to Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD, some reasons for bowel obstructions include:8

  • Twisted intestine
  • Inflammation of the bowel
  • A hernia
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Tumors
  • Damage to your intestines

Dr. Ratini says that most cases of bowel instructions cause abdominal pain. You may also have some of the following symptoms:

  • Chronic constipation and inability to pass gas
  • No appetite
  • Feelings of nausea and vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea

Most cases of bowel obstruction require examination by a doctor to diagnose the cause of the obstruction.

Lung-Related Issues

Many lung-related conditions can cause chest pain that feels like left upper quadrant pain. Any kind of condition that affects your left lung will cause mild to sharp left-sided pain in your upper torso.

Pleurisy. Pleurisy occurs when the fluid between the lining around your lungs becomes inflamed. Doctors from Cedars-Sinai report that the first sign of pleurisy is very severe sharp chest pains, especially when breathing. Sometimes the pain is felt in the upper abdominal area, neck, back or shoulders.9

Pneumonia. Viral or bacterial infections of one or both of the lungs cause pneumonia and sharp chest pains. Researchers from the University of Maryland reports that you will have chest pains with coughing, night sweats, fever, and rapid breathing. If the lower lobe of the left lung is affected, then you will have pain in your upper left abdominal area.10

Collapsed Lung. According to Dr. Jacqueline Payne, a collapsed lung will cause sharp stabbing pains on the left side or right side of the chest.11

Heart attack or angina

Although heart attacks or angina can cause pressing heavy discomfort in your left chest, the symptoms can also be similar to heartburn. However, heart attack chest pain usually radiates to your left arm, neck, shoulder, and jaw.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that heart attack symptoms also cause abdominal pain. For example, many people report that before their heart attack they felt a pain like something heavy pressing on the middle of the upper abdomen.12

To keep your heart healthy, you should make positive lifestyle changes like getting physically active and eating healthily.

Lower Left Abdominal Pain: Common Causes

Your colon and other vital organs are located in the lower left quadrant and can cause varying degrees of pain and discomfort. Let’s look at the most common causes of pain in the lower left abdomen.

Diverticulitis

Pain that comes and goes in the lower left part of your abdomen could be related to a digestive condition called diverticulitis. The pain usually gets better after a bowel movement or passing gas.

Doctors from the National Health Service says that diverticulitis occurs when small pockets or sacs in your intestines develop and become infected or inflamed. The abdominal pain is usually felt in the lower left quadrant.13

Other symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Feelings of bloating and fullness
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Passing greasy stool with mucus
  • Noticing blood in your stool

For the best ways to treat diverticulitis, please read my article on natural remedies for diverticulitis.

Kidney infection

Any infection in your kidney can cause left side abdominal pain and flank pain. Because your kidneys are located under your ribs in the middle of your back, kidney infections can cause varying degrees of abdominal pain. Depending on the side of the kidney affected, you will feel pain on that side of your abdomen and middle back.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that apart from flank pain and abdominal pain, kidney pain symptoms include:14

It’s important to avoid habits that damage your kidneys to help prevent kidney disease. Actually, one of the best ways to care for your kidney health is to drink plenty of water to flush toxins from them.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones usually cause excruciating pain when the small mineral deposits move through the urinary tract. This can cause unbearable sharp pain anywhere in your abdomen and groin.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, the pain from kidney stones can come and go and vary in intensity. The typical signs of kidney stones are:15

  • Severe pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain when urinating
  • Urine that has a pink, brown, or cloudy color
  • Signs of a urinary tract infection like foul-smelling urine and fever

One of the best ways to get rid of kidney stones naturally is to drink diluted apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has acidic qualities that dissolve the mineral buildup in your kidneys and help to relieve the abdominal and pelvic pain.

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Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Urinary tract infections are very common causes of left-sided abdominal pain in women. However, UTIs can also affect men. UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urinary system and cause infection, irritation, and inflammation.

This result of the UTI is various painful symptoms that can affect your quality of life. According to Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD, you may have a urinary tract infection if you have the following symptoms:16

  • Pain in your lower abdomen just above the pelvic bone
  • Burning sensation when you pee
  • Lower back pain
  • Passing cloudy-looking urine that has a bad odor

It’s important to treat the first symptoms of a UTI to prevent the condition from getting worse. To find out what you can do, please read my article on natural urinary tract infection remedies.

Crohn’s disease

One of the many symptoms of Chron’s disease is abdominal pain along with other symptoms of digestive discomfort.

Dr. Adam Schoenfeld on MedicineNet says that Crohn’s disease is inflammation that affects the digestive tract. Although Crohn’s disease usually affects the right side of the lower abdomen, it can also cause lower left abdominal discomfort.17

Usually, if you have Crohn’s disease, you are affected by the following symptoms as well:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is another digestive condition that can cause symptoms of digestive upset and lower left or right abdominal pain.

According to Dr. Jenifer Lehner, who works at the Department of Gastroenterology in Jefferson Health System Torresdale Campus in Florida, IBS symptoms usually cause left lower quadrant pain. The pain manifests itself as dull aching following a meal. However, IBS can also be a reason for upper left quadrant abdominal pain in the chest.18

The National Health Service says that related symptoms that accompany IBS are:19

For some of the best natural remedies for IBS, please read my article on the best ways to naturally alleviate IBS symptoms.

Left Side Abdominal Pain in Men Only

There are some types of lower quadrant left abdominal pain that only affect men. Here are the 2 most common.

Inguinal hernia

Hernias occur when part of an organ or tissue pushes through the abdominal wall that usually results in a bulge. Although an inguinal hernia can affect some women, it mostly happens in males of any age.

According to researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, inguinal hernias happen when part of the small intestine pushes into the inguinal canal in the groin. The first sign of an inguinal hernia is a bulge just below the lower abdomen and thigh.19

Other symptoms of an inguinal hernia are:

  • Pain in the groin that gets worse when lifting heavy items or coughing
  • Aching discomfort in the groin
  • Enlarged scrotum
  • Sudden worsening of pain along with extreme tenderness – this requires prompt medical attention.

Testicular torsion

Testicular torsion is a medical emergency that causes a lot of testicle pain and generally affects adolescent males.

Testicular torsion happens when a testicle rotates in the scrotum and cuts the blood flow in the scrotum. Dr. Timothy Rupp, who is an emergency medical consultant, says that the typical symptom of a testicular torsion is lower abdominal pain. This may cause a fever and cause nausea and vomiting.20

Left Side Abdominal Pain in Women Only

Women’s reproductive organs are found in the lower abdominal area and pelvis. Any condition that affects the left ovary or left part of the uterus can cause lower left quadrant pain and groin pain.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when part of the uterine lining starts to grow on other organs in the lower abdomen. This reproductive condition can cause irregular menstruation and make it difficult for you to get pregnant.

According to UCLA Health, lower abdominal cramping and pain happens because the endometrial tissues bleeds and contracts along with the uterus. This causes irritation and inflammation in the part of the abdomen where the endometriosis occurs. Some women may just have pain with their period whereas others have constant pelvic pain throughout the menstrual cycle.

Doctors say that lower abdominal period pain is the most common symptom. However, endometriosis also causes:

Ovulation

Painful ovulation can cause lower left abdominal cramping or lower right cramps depending on which ovary produces the egg. At this time in your menstrual cycle, discharge associated with ovulation increases. A common name for painful ovulation is mittelschmerz – German for “middle pain.”

Researchers from the Victoria State Government say that about 25% of women suffer from ovulation pain. This usually results in lower left or right abdominal cramping about 2 weeks before the next period is due. Sometimes, the pain can be a mild as a light twinge, whereas other times it can be a sharp pain in the abdomen.22

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Ovarian cysts

Cysts on your left ovary can cause sharp sudden pain in your lower left abdominal area. Ovarian cysts are common during the menstrual cycle and many women don’t show any symptoms.

However, Dr. Wayne Blocker on eMedicineHealth says that if the cysts become large or they rupture, they can cause varying degrees of abdominal pain. Some of the painful symptoms associated with ovarian cysts are:23

  • Sudden, sharp lower abdominal cramping
  • Feeling of fullness in the pelvis
  • Chronic lower abdominal pain along with back pain
  • Pain when using the bathroom
  • Vaginal pain and irregular spotting

There are other warning signs of ovarian cysts that you shouldn’t ignore. Some of these include irregular menstruation, pain during intercourse, and unexplained weight gain.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the reproductive organs that is often the result of a sexually transmitted disease. The infection occurs due to bacteria that affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.

Expert in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. David Soper says that a common sign of PID is pain in the lower abdomen. The symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease usually occur near, or just after the end of the period. Other symptoms include:24

Because pelvic inflammatory disease is a bacterial infection, it’s important to visit your doctor if you notice any signs of a vaginal infection with abdominal cramping.

Pelvic congestion syndrome

Pelvic congestion syndrome is another common cause of abdominal pain in women that can affect either side of the pelvis. The reason for the pelvic pain is that blood veins in the pelvis become dilated and twisted, just like varicose veins. This condition causes deep and chronic pelvic or uterine pain is more common with women who have experienced at least one pregnancy.31, 32

Other symptoms of pelvic congestion syndrome include:

Left Side Abdominal Pain in Women Due to Pregnancy

Let’s look in more detail at some causes of lower left side abdominal pain that can happen during pregnancy.

Baby growing

As your baby grows, stretching and changes in your uterus, abdominal muscles, and ligaments can result in abdominal pain on either side. Pregnant women also complain of pain in their pelvic bone because of changes that take place in the pelvic area.

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) says that sometimes the lower abdominal pain could be worse when you sneeze or cough. During the first trimester, mild abdominal cramping is normal. However, you should speak to your healthcare provider if your experience sharp pains and unusual discharge.25

Round ligament pain

Round ligament pain is a normal part of pregnancy that can cause stabbing sharp pains in the second trimester. The American Pregnancy Association reports that round ligament pain is caused by the ligaments in the groin that support the uterus slowly relax and contract.

The APA says that round ligament pain can cause stabbing pain in the left lower abdomen or right lower abdomen. However, the pain should only last a few seconds and not turn into dull cramping abdominal aches.26

For some helpful advice, please read my article on how to ease left sided pregnancy pain.

Braxton Hicks contractions

Braxton Hicks contractions can cause cramping abdominal contractions that feel as if you are going into labor.

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that these cramping-like contractions can start as early as the second trimester. Rather than feel like short, sharp abdominal pains, Braxton Hicks contractions are described as a dull ache that comes and goes. They are more similar to menstrual cramps and, unlike true labor contractions, don’t appear at regular intervals.27

Preeclampsia

One potentially serious condition that causes lower abdominal pain in pregnancy is preeclampsia. Doctors aren’t sure why some pregnant women develop preeclampsia. This condition causes high blood pressure and can result in complications during pregnancy.

Doctors from WebMD say that some of the warning signs of preeclampsia are:27

  • Swelling of hands and feet
  • Abdominal pain
  • Reduced urine output
  • High blood pressure
  • Unexplained nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness

If you notice any of these symptoms, then it’s important that you speak to your healthcare provider immediately.

Ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is when the growing fetus grows outside the uterus and causes abdominal pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Many women who have suffered ectopic pregnancies complain of pain on the left side of their uterus. Doctor Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet says that the fact that many women may not know they are pregnant can complicate treating ectopic pregnancies. However, most of the symptoms occur 6-8 weeks after the last menstrual period.28  

Other symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Absence of menstruation
  • Abdominal pain usually on the left side
  • Nausea
  • Changes to the breasts
  • Internal bleeding

Ectopic pregnancies can quickly become medical emergencies, so if you notice any of the above symptoms, even though you don’t think you are pregnant, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Miscarriage

One of the causes of sharp lower abdominal pains during pregnancy is a miscarriage. Although some kind of light cramping is common during a normal pregnancy, sharp abdominal pains are not.

Doctors from the National Health Service say that some signs of possible miscarriage are:

  • Severe cramping in your lower abdomen
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge or fluid
  • You no longer have signs of pregnancy like enlarged breast or morning sickness

Sharp Pain in the Left Side of Abdomen

The most common causes of sharp pains in the left side of your abdomen include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Trapped gas
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Pneumonia
  • Pleurisy
  • Testicular torsion
  • Ovulation
  • Round ligament pain during pregnancy
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Miscarriage

When to See a Doctor about Left Side Abdominal Pain

Most left sided abdominal pain, even the occasional sharp pain, is nothing to worry about and should not last long.

However, doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that you should visit your healthcare provider for abdominal pain in the following circumstances:30

  • The abdominal pain is severe and relentless
  • You also have nausea and vomiting
  • The skin on your abdomen is tender to touch
  • You have bloating as well as dull aching pain in your left or right abdominal area.

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

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  6. MedicineNet. Peptic ulcer disease.
  7. WebMD. Understanding pancreatitis.
  8. WebMD. Bowel obstruction.
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  10. UMM. Pneumonia.
  11. PatientInfo. Pneumothorax.
  12. MedicineNet. 12 heart attack symptoms and early warning signs.
  13. NHS. Diverticular disease and diverticulitis.
  14. MayoClinic. Kidney infection.
  15. MayoClinic. Kidney stones.
  16. WebMD. What are the symptoms of UTIs?
  17. MedicineNet. Crohn’s disease.
  18. Medscape. Irritable bowel syndrome clinical presentation.
  19. NIDDK. Inguinal
  20. Medscape. Testicular torsion in emergency medicine.
  21. OBGYN-UCLA. Endometriosis.
  22. BetterHealth. Ovulation pain.
  23. eMedicineHealth. Ovarian cysts.
  24. MSDManuals. Pelvic inflammatory disease.
  25. AmericanPregnancy. Cramping during pregnancy.
  26. AmericanPregnancy. Round ligament pain.
  27. WebMD. Preeclampsia and eclampsia.
  28. MedicineNet. Ectopic pregnancy.
  29. NHS. Miscarriage.
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  31. MSD Manual .Pelvic Congestion Syndrome
  32. WebMd. Pelvic congestion syndrome
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