What is side pain?
Side pain is discomfort that occurs on the left or right side of the torso between the armpits (axilla) and the hips. These general areas contain bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, organs, and other structures that can become infected, inflamed or damaged.
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Side pain can also radiate to or from the front or back of the torso, especially the abdomen, chest, and middle to lower back area. The chest cavity contains the lungs, heart and other major structures of the respiratory and cardiovascular system, in addition to organs and structures of the digestive, nervous and lymphatic systems. The abdominal cavity contains the stomach, intestines, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, spleen and pancreas. Side pain can be a symptom of a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions, such as infection, infarction, inflammation, indigestion, trauma, intestinal obstruction, and cancer. Side pain can occur on one or both sides of the torso at a time. Side pain can be described as mild and dull or a severe cramp-like feeling. Depending on the cause, side pain can occur suddenly and disappear relatively quickly, such as when you experience a stitch in your side from running or other vigorous exercise. It can also build for a period of months and years if it is due to a slow-growing tumor or organ disease.
Seek prompt medical care if you have unexplained or persistent side pain or if you are concerned about your symptoms. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of side pain can help control symptoms and reduce the risk of complications of underlying diseases, disorders and conditions.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have side, back or abdominal pain after trauma or injury, shortness of breath, blood in your vomit or stools, dizziness or fainting, sudden abdominal swelling, or chest pain, which may radiate to your shoulder blades, jaw, or left arm.
What other symptoms might occur with side pain?
Side pain may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.
Digestive symptoms that may occur with side painSide pain may accompany symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:
What causes side pain?
Side pain can be caused by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Relatively mild conditions that can cause side pain include indigestion and exercising too much. Serious and life-threatening conditions that can cause side pain include heart attack and trauma.