Common Causes of Abdominal Left Side Pain

Abdominal Pain

Nov 2, 2023


If you’re wondering, “Why is there pain in my lower left abdomen?” there can be a handful of reasons as to why you’re experiencing left side pain. While left side pain is often a sign of gas, it can also be a sign of a more serious condition such as diverticulitis, appendicitis, or stomach ulcers that would require urgent medical attention. To tell the difference and determine if you need to seek emergency care, pay attention to other symptoms you may be experiencing.

Pain in the lower left abdomen accompanied by symptoms such as belching, bloating, or a hard abdomen is typically indicative of indigestion. However, if you’re experiencing upper or lower left side pain coupled with a high fever, nausea, vomiting, or severe stomach pain, seek emergency care to rule out any of the serious conditions listed above.

What does lower abdominal pain mean? Here are some other common causes of pain in lower left abdomen:

  • Appendicitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Constipation
  • Kidney stones
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)

Diagram of causes of male and female abdominal pain.

7 common causes of abdominal pain on the left side of your body

Although many causes of left-side pain can be linked to the stomach, lower left quadrant pain can occur in other organs. It can be easier to self-diagnose left side pain when you know what organs are on the left side of your body. The organs located in your left abdomen include your colon, left kidney, spleen, stomach, and pancreas. If you’re not struggling with gas or indigestion, pain on this side is typically a sign that something is off in one of these organs or organ systems.

If your pain in the lower left abdomen continues, look for symptoms of the following conditions:

1. Appendicitis

Do you feel pain about two inches left of your belly button? While appendicitis pain is usually associated with the right side of your body, the initial pain often starts near the belly button and can be misinterpreted as coming from the left. An appendicitis infection can cause serious problems if left untreated. Be on the lookout for pain moving to the right side of the abdomen and seek medical treatment immediately.

Other symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Dull pain near the navel or upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and/or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Inability to pass gas
  • A fever of 100–102˚F (37.7–38.8˚C)
  • Diarrhea or constipation

2. Diverticulitis

If you or a loved one over the age of 40 are experiencing abdominal pain, fever, and/or nausea, ask your doctor about diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is the inflammation of diverticula pouches in the large intestine and is one of the most common causes of left side pain.

Other symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Bloating and abdominal swelling
  • Stomach cramping or tenderness
  • Painful bowel movements and/or a change in your normal bowel habits
  • Loss of appetite

While diverticulitis is not always a serious condition and can often be treated with rest and antibiotics, surgery may be required for patients with severe infections.

3. Constipation

Another cause of abdominal pain on the left side of the body is constipation. Constipation is usually caused by a lack of exercise, dehydration*, or a diet that is too low in fiber.  This type of stomachache causes a lot of discomfort and can be painful.

Constipation symptoms include:

  • Hard, dry stools
  • Straining to have a bowel movement
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • An inability to completely empty the bowels

Most cases of constipation will not require a trip to the emergency room and can be easily mitigated by getting in daily movement and drinking enough water, but in some cases, the sharp lower left abdominal pain may warrant a visit. If the pain does not improve after using over-the-counter products or making lifestyle changes, seek medical attention.

*Continue reading: How to treat dehydration

4. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones, or nephrolithiasis, are small deposits of calcium or uric acid that build up in the kidneys. They are incredibly painful when passing through the urinary tract.

Common symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Left side pain or back pain
  • Groin pain
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in your urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A fever of 101˚F (38.3˚C) or higher

If the pain is unbearable, you notice blood in your urine, or you’re experiencing any of the signs of kidney stone pain, head to an emergency room near you.

5. Stomach ulcers

Also known as gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach, stomach ulcers are sores in your stomach lining often caused by infections or the overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They can cause upper left side pain and may accompany symptoms such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • A gnawing or burning pain in your abdomen
  • Feeling of fullness after a meal
  • Weight loss

Stomach ulcers can heal on their own but will often come back if not treated properly. Untreated stomach ulcers can lead to complications like anemia, internal bleeding, or a perforation in the stomach wall. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, do not wait to seek medical attention.

6. Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is an infection of the stomach, intestines, or both. It can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or parasites, and is highly contagious.

Common symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

  • Abdominal cramps and pain on the left side
  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fatigue

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms after being exposed to someone with the stomach flu (or if the symptoms have lasted more than 48 hours), call your doctor immediately as you may need medical treatment to recover. Additionally, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration which can lead to other complications.

7. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s can cause pain in the lower left abdomen. These are chronic conditions that cause red, swollen patches in the inner lining of your digestive tract resulting in severe pain, fatigue, and more serious symptoms like bloody diarrhea and unintentional weight loss.

Although symptoms will vary depending on the type of IBD, some common signs include:

  • Abdominal pain on the left side
  • Cramps or bloating
  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling lethargic
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fever and chills

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel diseases, make an appointment with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment often includes dietary changes, medications to reduce inflammation, and in some cases, surgery.

Common causes of left abdominal pain in women

1. Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea)

Menstrual cramps can also cause lower left side pain before and during menstruation. This is due to contractions in the uterus that can cause mild to severe pain and discomfort.

Common symptoms of menstrual cramps include:

  • Pain or cramping on the lower left side of your abdomen
  • Pain in your lower back
  • Bloating and swelling
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

If you’re experiencing recurrent menstrual cramps that are interfering with your life, seek medical attention from your doctor who may recommend medications such as ibuprofen or hormonal birth control to ease the symptoms.

2. Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common cause of left side pain, especially in young women and those who are going through menopause. It occurs when cells from the lining of the uterus grow outside of the uterus and can cause severe pain in the lower left abdomen.

Common symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Painful periods
  • Lower back pain on the left side
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abnormal bleeding or spotting between periods
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Painful urination
  • Infertility

Treatment for endometriosis can include medications such as hormonal birth control or pain relief medication, or surgery to remove the endometrial tissue.

3. Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries which can cause discomfort and pain on the left side of your abdomen. Most ovarian cysts do not require treatment, but if they rupture or become large enough to cause symptoms it is important to seek medical attention.

Common symptoms of ovarian cysts include:

  • Pain on the left side of your abdomen
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Abdominal bloating and swelling
  • Pelvic pain or pressure
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Changes in menstrual cycle (spotting, heavier periods)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain during bowel movements

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms associated with ovarian cysts, it is important to seek medical attention from your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment often includes medications to shrink or dissolve the cyst, as well as surgery if necessary.

Common causes of left abdominal pain in men

1. Hernia

A hernia is a protrusion or bulge of an internal organ, such as the intestine, through the tissue or muscle wall that normally contains it. This can cause pain and discomfort on the left side of your abdomen. Hernias are more common in men (and women) who regularly perform activities that strain the abdominal wall such as heavy lifting or physical labor.

Common symptoms of a hernia include:

  • Pain or discomfort on the left side of your abdomen
  • A bulge or lump in the abdomen or groin
  • Difficulty urinating, passing gas, or having a bowel movement
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Treatment typically involves surgery to repair the hernia, as well as lifestyle changes such as avoiding heavy lifting and engaging in regular exercise.

2. Inguinal hernia

This condition can also affect women but is much more common in men. An inguinal hernia is caused by a weakened muscle that allows organs and tissue to bulge through. This can cause left side pain, as well as discomfort during physical activities such as coughing or weight lifting.

Common symptoms of an inguinal hernia are similar to that of a hernia and can include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the lower left side of your abdomen
  • A bulge or lump in the area
  • Difficulty urinating, passing gas, or having a bowel movement
  • Painful coughing
  • Nausea and vomiting

3. Testicular torsion

Testicular torsion is a medical emergency that occurs when the spermatic cord, which holds the testes in place, becomes twisted and cuts off blood supply to the scrotum. This can cause severe pain on the left side of your abdomen.

Common symptoms of testicular torsion include:

  • Severe pain in the left side of your abdomen
  • Swelling in the scrotum
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately as testicular torsion requires immediate treatment to prevent permanent damage. Treatment may include surgery to untwist the spermatic cord and reposition the testes.

When should I worry about left side pain?

Generally, intermittent left side pain is a sign of gas or indigestion and should pass on its own. But if you notice severe abdominal pain on the left side of your body in conjunction with any of the following symptoms, it’s time to seek medical help:

  • Fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dizzy or lightheadedness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bloody stools or vomit
  • Abdominal pain that lasts more than a week

Head into Complete Care for severe left side pain treatment

If you or a loved one are experiencing abdominal pain on the left side of the body or chest and stomach pain, seek medical treatment at a Complete Care 24/7 emergency room. Our emergency facilities are all fully equipped with top medical staffing and hospital-grade equipment including ER imaging to help identify the possible causes of your left lower abdominal pain that can deliver results in minutes.

Get effective urgent care treatment for left side pain without the typical long wait times of your typical ERs. We have multiple 24/7 ER locations in Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs that are ready to take complete care of you.

More Helpful Articles by Complete Care: