Pain in the side? Causes & tips for side pain

Do you suffer from a nagging or stabbing pain in your side and have no idea what the reason is? Then it is important to look for the right cause. If the pain in the side is not caused by intense physical exertion, various conditions may be the cause. Kidney stones, gallstones or liver problems are just a few examples of possible causes of lateral pain. Pain on the side of the body can be aching, stabbing, dull or radiating and sometimes also make breathing difficult. The cause of these complaints can be determined based on the location where the pain occurs, especially on the left or right side of the side. What are the possible causes of pain in the side region and what tips are useful in treating it?

Stabbing pain in the side

Pain in the side is a phenomenon that many people have suffered from. It is a painful feeling on the side of the body, under the ribs, where the pain can radiate to a lower part of the body. The painful side can occur on both the left and right side of the body. Patients sometimes describe the pain as aching or stabbing pain. In some cases one also speaks of a rather burning pain or of suddenly appearing and disappearing stitches in the side or shooting pains . Pain in the side often makes breathing a lot more difficult.

Pain in the side innocent?

Pain in the side can occur during exercise, where a nagging pain gradually turns into a stabbing pain. After finishing the sporting activity, the pain in the side will usually disappear on its own. But even without exercising you can suffer from a sore side. In that case, it is important to find the right cause, because sometimes there is a serious, less innocent problem at the origin of the pain complaints.

Causes of side pain

Everyone who plays sports has suffered from side pain at some point. In that case, it is a signal from your body that you have gone over your limit. Due to the physical exertion, the diaphragm may suffer from cramps. If this is accompanied by a lack of oxygen and fatigue, it can give you a very annoying, stabbing pain in the side area. Besides physical exertion, there are other causes that can be the cause of side pain. These causes can be more or less distinguished on the basis of the location in the side where they cause complaints, namely on the left side of the side or on the right side of the side.

Pain in the left side


There may be pain on the left side that radiates to the center of the abdomen: this may indicate a problem with the pancreas. A possible cause of this is (acute or chronic) pancreatitis. The pancreas is an organ that fulfills an important function in the digestive system, namely processing and removing waste products. If there is a problem with the pancreas, the pain can also be felt in the left shoulder or back.


If you have pain on the left side, this may indicate a problem with your spleen. The pain is rather dull and is felt on the left side of the side. One of the causes is an enlargement of the spleen , which increases the pressure within the splenic capsule. Often the cause is a long-term infection.

Pain in the right side


Gallstones can lead to pain in the side that is comparable to the pain caused by kidney problems . However, this pain manifests itself more at the front of the trunk, on the right side of the ribs. You especially feel this pain if you are overweight or have eaten too much.

Liver problems

If there is pain on the right side of the abdominal area, a possible liver problem should also be considered. Liver disorders do not always manifest themselves clearly and sometimes cause few or no symptoms. However, vague abdominal complaints that sometimes radiate can indicate a problem with the liver.

Left or right side


Pain complaints in the sides that are more of a nagging nature may be related to kidney complaints. Kidney problems can occur if you have drunk too little, causing too much waste products to remain in the kidneys. The kidneys are an important purification station in the body and if you drink too little, your kidneys cannot sufficiently remove these waste products from your body. In the long term, this can lead to kidney inflammation, kidney stones or kidney cancer. Kidney pain can manifest itself on the left or right side, just below the ribs. In a so-called “kidney crisis”, the pain in the side can radiate to the lower abdomen and the urinary tract. In that case, the pain can be experienced as unbearable and accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, fever and vomiting.


Pain can also be felt near the rib region, which is difficult to explain at first glance. However, in some cases the link can immediately be made to the muscles near the ribs. For example, an inflammation or cramp in one of the intercostal muscles can be very painful. However, the pain of intercostal muscle inflammation can pass relatively quickly once the muscle has recovered. Sometimes medication is required, such as an anti-inflammatory painkiller.


If you think that another cause may be the cause of the pain complaints, consult a doctor to make the correct diagnosis. This is certainly advisable if the pain in the side persists for several days. Further medical examination will then allow to determine the precise cause (is it kidney stones, gallstones, etc.?). The doctor can find out more about the cause by taking a history (asking the patient questions), physical examination, a blood analysis, an ultrasound or a scan. Taking into account the result of that examination, medical treatment will be started.

They suffer from pain: tips


First of all, it is important to reduce or completely stop physical exertion if you feel pain in your side. Normally the pain should quickly decrease and disappear completely. If the pain in the side is not related to physical exertion, check whether you have not drunk enough water recently. This can happen, for example, during a heat wave in the summer, when you sweat a lot and forget to drink enough water.


A painkiller may be recommended to quickly combat the pain complaints. Consider classic painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, the latter medication also has an antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effect. After taking an analgesic, the pain should decrease. If this is not the case, the cause of the pain is probably not a temporary problem, but further investigation is necessary.

Side pain treatment

Depending on the specific problem that is causing the side pain, various treatments are possible. In addition to treatment with medications, initiated and supervised by a doctor, supplements can also be useful. For example, in case of side pain caused by a liver problem, you can take supplements to support the liver. The same applies to problems with the spleen, gallbladder and pancreas. Supplements can stimulate the functioning of the various organs, which can prevent side pain in the future. In case of pain in the side caused by a problem in the ribs, a rib brace or elastic rib band can be effective to breathe and move more comfortably.

read more

  • Kidney pain? Symptoms of kidney pain and kidney problems
  • Gallbladder pain and gallstones: symptoms & treatment
  • Rib pain: causes, treatment & tips
  • Pain in the pancreas or pancreas: causes, symptoms, tips
  • Spleen pain: causes, treatment & tips for spleen pain
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