Pain in the sides? Should you be worried?
It might not have been very noticeable initially, and perhaps you felt a cramp building up in the abdomen. However, since then, the pain has intensified, seemingly out of nowhere. You are now experiencing pain on your sides, but what could be the cause? Where did it come from, and should you be worried?
We are all familiar with pain, from an accidental kick of the toe against the foot of the bed or the twist of an ankle. However, internal pain tends to be more of a concern and can be an imminent sign of something serious or nothing at all.
Pain is usually your body’s way of signalling that something is amiss. It could be your body’s way of trying to tell you to ease up as something is wrong.
“It is common for patients to experience a pain in the sides of their abdomen, and we have encountered patients who often seek medical advice for such pain because it can be distressing,” explains Dr Ganesh Ramalingam, Surgeon and Head Doctor of G&L Surgical.
“Usually, we will advise the patient to describe the location of the pain and whether the pain aggravates with time. These are common questions that can help determine where in the body that something might have gone wrong. And if the pain is severe, immediate medical attention should be given. Even if it isn’t something as serious, it’s always better to be sure.”
In most cases, if you notice that the pain is becoming unbearable and there are signs of fever, change in your stool patterns or persistent feelings of nausea, you are advised to seek professional medical advice immediately.
With that said, here are a few things that may be causing pain in your side.
Gas & Constipation
A common reason for pain in the sides of your abdomen could simply be due to what you have eaten or drank.
Bloating happens when the gas or air builds up within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Each person may experience bloating differently. While some may experience a feeling of tightness or swelling in the abdomen, others may experience bloating where excessive gas is built up in the intestine (flatulence), leading to frequent passing of gas.
You may be experiencing bloating if your abdomen feels hard and painful and you feel compelled to burp or experience urges to pass gas.
Apart from bloating and gas, constipation could be another cause of pain in the sides. If you have not experienced bowel movements for several days, stools may have built up in the intestines, leading to discomfort.
Gas or constipation tends to be the most common cause when it comes to pain in the side. While each can cause severe pain, they are usually not a cause for concern.
In most cases, gas and constipation pains also tend to be inconsistent, and the pain tends to subside depending on whether you are seated or standing up. Usually, these pains will subside within an hour or if you have passed your stools.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS for short, is a common condition that affects the large intestines. This condition can affect the frequency of bowel movements and can cause pain in the abdomen. In most cases of IBS they can be hereditary and are triggered by factors such as stress and diet, which leads to stomach cramping, pain, bloating, diarrhoea, and constipation.
IBS can easily be treated with medication so if you suspect that you have irritable bowel syndrome, consider seeking professional advice.
Kidney Stones & Gallstones
Kidney stones and gallstones are other common problems that lead to pain in the sides.
Kidney stones are formed from deposits of salt and minerals from residual waste that does not get passed out from the body (urine). This waste may clump up and develop into a solid, leading to a kidney stone. When you have kidney stones, you will typically experience a sharp pain in your back or lower abdomen, depending on which kidney is affected.
Gallstones are small solid pieces of material usually made of cholesterol, which form in the gallbladder. They are typically caused when cholesterol levels in the blood are too high, which hardens and turns into stone.
If you have gallstones that lead to a gallbladder infection, you may experience a sharp, intense pain in the right side of your abdomen that may last for several hours. In such cases, surgery might be recommended to treat the condition.
With that said, most people with kidney stones or gallstones may not immediately require surgery to have the stones removed. Our doctor will usually assess if your condition has progressed to require immediate surgery or if a simple diet change could help reduce the symptoms.
Appendicitis may be one of the most serious conditions that lead to pain in the sides of the abdomen. An appendix infection can be life-threatening and usually requires immediate surgery to remove the entire appendix to prevent further complications.
Appendicitis can affect anybody, but it commonly occurs in individuals between 10 to 30 years old. However, the signs and symptoms do not always follow a simple pattern. If the appendix gives way, pus and infected material will leak into the whole abdomen. This can cause an infection of the abdominal cavity known as peritonitis, a life-threatening condition.
If you notice a fever and a persistent pain in your right side, accompanied by feelings of nausea or vomiting and a loss of appetite, you are advised to seek medical attention immediately as you may have appendicitis.
Left Side Pain vs Right Side Pain
Knowing the location of your abdominal pain, whether it’s on the left or right side of the abdomen, can better indicate where you may have a health condition. In determining the location of the pain, doctors will usually provide a clear plan to investigate the cause of the pain.
While pain is never normal, it is not always serious. Identifying the location will help you seek the correct doctor for treatment.
If you are experiencing persistent abdominal pain on your sides and are unsure of what to do, consider seeking medical advice from a doctor.
At G&L Surgical Clinic, we endeavour to provide you with professional and trusted medical advice with your recovery at heart. Call us at +65 8218 7799 to make your appointment today!