Right Side Abdominal Pain

To describe any abdominal pain is easier if you can tell where the pain is located. To communicate more clearly medical practitioners divide the abdomen into 4 quadrants. There is the right half and the left half. And there is the upper and the lower quadrant. Some physicians even divide those 4 sections into subsections to make the location of pain even more specific in their descriptions. In short, it is easy to say a pain in the right side of your abdomen refers to anywhere on the right side of your body, either the upper or the lower right quadrant. A right side abdominal pain  can be very serious.

It is important to pay attention to where it hurts, when it hurts, what kind of pain is it, and how long does it last.  There are many organs located in the right side of your abdomen;  so it is complicated to determine the precise source of your pain. The first thing people think of is, “Where is my appendix?”.  That is because appendicitis cannot wait.

Right side abdominal pain is often constant and dull. But sometimes it is sharp and stabbing.  When you have a constant, yet dull, pain it is often burning or tingling as well.  You need to get your healthcare professional to determine the reason for this pain. They will interview you about the pain itself and give you a complete physical exam. They also need your health history. Tell them if you have been vomiting or if you lost your appetite.

Never ignore an abdominal pain in the right side. Actually, any abdominal pain is your body giving you information about something that is not properly functioning.  It might be a sign of  a serious health condition.  Sometimes a serious illness will generate mild right side abdominal discomfort while other less serious ailments might produce moderate or sometimes severe abdominal pain on the right side.

Image source: ADAM

Causes of Right Side Abdominal Pain

To determine what causes abdominal pain on the right side, it is necessary to look at the different organs and structures that are found on the right side of abdomen. Any illness, infection or irritation in these organs can create abdominal pain on right side.  This is a list of various organs and structures that are located in the right half of the abdomen:

  • Appendix
  • Liver
  • Adrenal gland (right)
  • Blood vessels
  • Pancreas
  • Gallbladder
  • Ureter (right)
  • Skin
  • Duodenum
  • Fallopian tube (right)
  • In females, right ovary
  • Kidney (right)
  • Muscles
  • Right part of large intestines

A wide variety of health conditions or disorders or conditions may be common causes of right side abdominal pain even though they not found in that area.  For example, some tumors could cause right side abdominal pain.  Also, the lower part of the right lung may have an infection or some other illness and result in right side abdominal pain even though it is not counted as a part of the right abdomen.

Signs and Symptoms of Right Side Abdominal Pain

Because a right side abdominal pain could originate with any of the organs in that part of the abdomen and even other organs or health conditions from other parts of your body, it is very difficult to identify the source.  Hence,the symptoms associated with any disorders of the various organs like fever, vomiting,changes in bowel habits, nausea, changes in appetite, intermittent pain or menstrual cycle changes are studied to assess the actual cause for the pain.

These symptoms help in diagnosing the actual cause of pain and thus reducing the need for unnecessary tests. These other conditions are often linked to right side abdominal pain symptoms:


In fact, this is the most common cause for pain in the right side of abdomen, it is caused due to inflammation of the appendix. It usually starts around the navel moving towards the lower right side of abdomen. The severity can vary from dull to severe pain. Usually seen in individuals of 9 to 40 years of age, appendicitis pain is seen in combination with vomiting, nausea, fever, vomiting, and appetite changes.  Constipation or mild diarrhea is also noticed in some cases.

See here for more information on  Appendix pain – Symptoms and location

Kidney Stones:

If you have kidney stones in the right kidney, a sudden and intense pain may be experienced in the right side of abdomen. It starts on the upper right of abdomen and moves towards either the genitals or the navel.

See here for more information on Symptoms of kidney pain.

Gallbladder Disease:

A dull or severe pain in the upper right part of abdomen which is just below the right side rib cage suggests a gallbladder disorder due to either gallstones or gallbladder inflammation. The pain feels like it comes in waves and usually after meals.  Lasting for few hours, it is usually accompanied by vomiting.

Hernia Complications:

Hernias, may not be painful at all times, but a hernia can create  severe right side abdominal pain. Often the steadily increasing pain is followed by nausea and vomiting.

Image source: focosi.altervista.org

Right Ovary Pain:

An ovarian cyst may rupture or twist and  cause sudden moderate or severe pain in the lower right abdomen.   It is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting. The pain tends to spread downwards to the thighs.

Ectopic Pregnancy:

Pregnant women may experience a sudden pain in the lower right abdomen. It is usually accompanied by dizziness and  vaginal bleeding. This is due to an  ectopic pregnancy and requires an immediate medical care. An ectopic pregnancy is one in which the embryo is growing outside the uterus.   This condition is life-threatening to the mother. The fetus will not survive. [4]

Food Poisoning

A right side abdominal pain can also be caused due to food poisoning.  Often it appears as dehydration and respiratory, neurological or cardiac problems along with abdominal pain.

For further information see:

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

A severe pain in the right abdomen could be due to tearing of abdominal aorta walls. Usually this accompanies symptoms of heart disease.

Mesenteric Lymphadenopathy

Often confused with appendix pain, mesenteric lymphadenopathy is seen most often in children. The child experiences pain in the lower right abdomen. Unlike appendicitis, the child’s appetite remains unchanged. Enlargement of neck glands and sore throat are other signs noticed along with trapped wind, blood in stool, constipation and pulled muscles along with abdominal pain. The mesentery is two thin layers of cells that encase the intestines and attach them to the abdominal wall. [5]

Other less common causes of abdominal pain are those with symptoms concerning disorders of urinary tract, liver, pancreas or heart. Though very rare, symptoms of diseases like ulcerative colitis, infectious colitis, colon cancer, and Chron’s disease are noticed along with right side abdominal pain.

Treating Abdominal Pain of Right Side

Right side abdominal pain treatment starts by identifying the actual cause of pain.  Diagnosing the actual cause of pain is difficult due to the presence of numerous organs in the right side of abdomen. Any abdominal pain in the right side can be temporarily subdued by using pain killers until the results of diagnostic tests point a particular disorder.

The actual cause of the pain needs to be determined before deciding  which protocol to follow to try and cure right side abdominal pain.  The diagnostic tests include X-rays, MRI, colonoscopy, ultrasound, endoscopy, barium enema, and blood, stool and urine tests.

Any abdominal pain that persists for more than 3 days should immediately be referred to a doctor. Never ignore persistent or severe abdominal pain. The symptoms of right side abdominal pain play a vital role in diagnosing the cause without tests. Until the diagnosis of the actual disorder that caused the pain, the patient’s only relief may be pain killers. Once diagnosed, the  proper treatment for the malfunctioning organ or structure can be started based on the condition.


  1. www.helpforibs.com/footer/abdominalpain
  2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdominal_pain
  3. www.mayoclinic.com/health/abdominal-pain/MY00390
  4. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10966026
  5. dictionary.reference.com/browse/superior+mesenteric+lymph+node

Published on by under Diseases and Conditions.
Article was last reviewed on April 6th, 2013.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erni-Renee says:

    Over five years ago I began to have a sharp pain in my right side. Due to belly fat, it is difficult to know the exact location, but it is the upper level of the right side and appears to be slightly under the breast, a little towards the side when stable. It was severe at times, faint at other times, and often just disappear. I went to the doctor after calling and talking to a nurse who informed me that if it is a reoccurring pain, I should have it checked out. I was not in pain at the time of my visit. I was told to come via the emergency staff since I did not have a doctor. The staff began to prepare me immediately for a hospital stay but it was because my blood pressure was at stroke level. I refused hospitalization and I reiterated why I came—to have my side checked for the cause of the pain. Of course they wanted me to stay for blood pressure treatment, but after testing my urine and blood, and they x-rayed my side, they said they found nothing and that my other test was normal. That was five years ago and the pain was gone for five years. It reoccurred I guess a year ago when I attempted to help a very heavy woman stand up from her wheelchair. It was faint, but now, at least a year later, it is severe again. It is not as severe as it was five years ago, but it is more painful than a year ago. I’ve read and examined all of the possible causes listed on the internet, but none of them appear to be the same as my pain which stretches across the top of my stomach at times. I have had no vomiting or blood in the stool or urine—no other symptoms. Recently, I have felt dizzy on a few occasions. Do you have any idea what the problem could be? Thank you!

  2. DonnaB says:

    Erni-Renee, if you have not been to see a doctor already. You should. It is a recurring or chronic thing for you. And worth checking out. My guess is you got a hernia when you helped that lady with her wheelchair. Because you said it goes all across your stomach sometimes too. But use the internet for research, not for diagnosis or treatment. You will be safer in the long run. Be well.

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