Ouch! A sharp side pain can be a sign of a variety of medical conditions ranging from simple trapped gas to serious conditions requiring surgery such as appendicitis. In contrast to the brief, sharp side pain sometimes experienced by runners after jogging considerable distances, this sharp side pain is more persistent. What could be the cause?
Although experiencing a sharp side pain can be as inconsequential as a pocket of trapped gas, side pain should never be ignored or assumed to be innocent. Side pain that occurs on the right side can be a sign of appendicitis, particularly if it’s associated with nausea, vomiting, and fever. Because appendicitis is a condition that requires surgery, time is of essence and you should be seen by a doctor immediately if right-sided pain occurs with fever or nausea.
Another cause of sharp side pain unique to women is the presence of an ectopic pregnancy. This is a pregnancy that lodges in the fallopian tubes and can cause considerable side pain along with dizziness, lightheadedness, and, possibly vaginal bleeding. If you experience side pain that lasts more than a few hours, see your doctor, particularly if you’ve missed a period or are known to be pregnant.
Sharp side pain in a woman can also be caused by the presence of an ovarian cyst that ruptures. In addition to pain, a ruptured ovarian cyst can cause vaginal bleeding. Sometimes side pain can be experienced for several hours up to several days during the onset of ovulation. This condition known as Mittelschmerz is benign, but may be confused with other more serious conditions. For this reason, always see your doctor if you have side pain with vaginal bleeding.
Other conditions that can cause sharp side pain are the presence of a kidney stone, although back pain is more common with this condition. The presence of gall stones can cause sharp pain in the right upper abdomen that comes and goes, particularly after eating a fatty meal. Sharp pains in the left lower abdomen can be caused by a disease known as diverticulitis, a condition cause by infection of pockets or out pouches present in the intestinal wall. An undiagnosed hernia of the abdominal wall can also give sharp pains, particularly when lifting. Chronic sharp side pains can also be caused by an undiagnosed colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. In most cases, these conditions will be associated with a change in bowel habits.
Although sharp side pains can simply mean you need a dose of Gas-X, don’t ever make this assumption. Sharp side pain that lasts for more than a few hours should always be evaluated by a doctor.