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Sore left side under the ribs - causes of pain, diagnosis

Any irregularities in the work of the body sooner or later manifest themselves, and the symptoms, which are permanent or pronounced, should not be ignored. For example, if you have a side pain on the left side under the ribs, this may indicate the development of a serious disease.

Such a symptom is often a manifestation of problems not only with the heart, but also with other organs, so for successful treatment it is important to find out the exact cause of the pain.


Why can hurt the left side under the ribs?

Sore left side under the ribs

The left side under the ribs on the side hurts for various reasons, and most often it is one of the manifestations of heart disease. For example, in case of a heart attack, pain arises from this side.

On the left are other organs, for example, the pancreas, intestinal loops, spleen, left side of the diaphragm, so there are a number of other pathologies that provoke pain in the left hypochondrium:

  • stomach pathologies - dyspeptic disorders, ulcers or gastritis;
  • the presence of stones in the urinary bladder or ureters;
  • endocrine disorders;
  • osteocondritis of the spine;
  • pancreatitis and other pancreatic diseases;
  • diseases of the nervous system;
  • diaphragmatic hernia.

Finding out why the left side hurts, the doctor draws attention to the frequency of pain and other symptoms that accompany it.

For example, in diseases of the stomach, pain is most often observed after eating, when a spleen ruptures near the navel, hemorrhages appear, and dark circles and bruises form under the eyes.

The cause of left-side pain can be an inflammatory process in the female genital organs or an ectopic pregnancy. In diseases of the pancreas, nausea and bowel problems are associated with pain, and the side pains especially after drinking carbonated drinks or spicy and fatty foods.

If the pain is felt under the ribs closer to the back, then it can be caused by vertebral osteochondrosis or left kidney disease.

It's a dull pain

Aching left

Aching left

The cause of aching pain often lies in such pathologies as a stomach ulcer or gastritis. Concomitant manifestations - poor appetite or lack thereof, nausea and vomiting, bitter or sour belching, less often diarrhea.

Also, dull aching pain in the left side can cause stomach cancer, in which the following symptoms are observed:

  • decreased performance, fatigue;
  • drastic weight loss;
  • yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes;
  • change in taste, the rejection of certain foods.

The aching pain in the left side occurs in cases of pancreatic diseases , and is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and high body temperature.

Sharp pain

Severe pain occurs in peptic ulcer disease, it spreads lower to the waist and is unbearable. Pain is accompanied by general weakness, constipation, headaches, vomiting, heartburn, and sometimes irritability.

With attacks of pancreatitis in the prone position, the left side under the ribs hurts especially strongly, and when you lean and sit down, the pain decreases.

If a sharp pain is triggered by sneezing, coughing, or inhaling, then it can be caused by a serious lung disease or diaphragm — left-sided pneumonia, a malignant tumor, or tuberculosis. In this case, the accompanying symptoms are:

  • dyspnea;
  • high fever and sweating;
  • blue nasolabial triangle;
  • general intoxication, nausea, weakness.

Sharp pain can be a signal of heart disease (it often decreases if the person freezes in a stationary position), or cracks and fractures of the costal bones.

Diagnosing the causes of pain in the left side

Sore left side with back photo

Sore left side with back photo

The mechanism of manifestation of pain in the left side is different, which helps in the primary determination of its causes. The nature of pain is divided into three types:

  1. Reflected pains occur due to irradiation (distribution) in case of lower left-sided pneumonia, pleurisy.
  2. Visceral pains occur when there is a disruption of intestinal motility and stomach, when a spasm or stretching of the muscles of these parts of the digestive system appears. They can be aching, for example, with bloating, and pronounced - with colic.
  3. Peritoneal pains are constant, have a clear localization and can be caused by irritation of the abdominal wall during ulcers, gastritis and other diseases.

If an adult or a child has a pain in his left side under the ribs, then after taking anamnesis, examining and evaluating complaints, the doctor prescribes certain diagnostic tests, depending on what disease he suspects in the first place.

Herpes zoster:

  • ELISA - ELISA - identifies specific immune cells to the virus;
  • PCR, a polymerase chain reaction , detects a pathogen in the blood or vesicular fluid.

Intercostal neuralgia :

  • MRI and computed tomography of the thoracic spine;
  • electroneurography;
  • chest X-ray.

Rib fracture:

  • X-ray examination shows the exact location of the fracture and the presence of bone fragments;
  • Chest ultrasound;
  • pleural puncture.


Spleen enlargement (splenomegaly):

  • complete blood count detects a decrease in hemoglobin and red blood cell count;
  • fecal examination;
  • Abdominal ultrasound;
  • biochemical blood test determines liver function tests that are elevated in cirrhosis or hepatitis;
  • Computed tomography is most informative in splenomegaly and shows the presence of a cyst, abscess, inflammation, tumor formations and enlarged lymph nodes near the organ.

Spleen tumor:

  • Ultrasound of the organs in the abdominal cavity;
  • MRI and CT accurately determine the size and location of the tumor;
  • biopsy;
  • general blood examination.


  • irrigoscopy (large intestine radiography);
  • colonoscopy allows using the small camera to visually inspect the intestines and detect inflammation and ulceration of its walls.


  • Abdominal ultrasound;
  • blood test (biochemistry) shows a high level of the enzyme amylase;
  • CT scan.


  • coprogram (fecal examination) to detect helminths and inflammation of the intestinal sections, to assess the state of microflora;
  • bacteriological analysis of feces complements the results of the coprogram and detects the presence of pathogens;
  • blood test (clinical) - with enteritis there is a high erythrocyte sedimentation rate, an increase in leukocytes;
  • radiography of the abdominal cavity.

If an intestinal obstruction is suspected, ultrasound and radiographic examination of the abdominal cavity must be carried out.

These are the main methods to diagnose the cause of pain in the left side. In addition to them, additional tests may be required on an individual basis, depending on the associated diseases and the results of the studies performed.

Pain in the left hypochondrium in pregnant women

Pain in the left hypochondrium in pregnant women

If the left side under the ribs hurts during pregnancy, then this is not necessarily a sign of a serious illness. However, this is a reason to consult a doctor, and it should be done urgently if:

  • the pain suddenly appeared for no apparent reason, in the absence of any identified diseases;
  • the duration of pain exceeds 15-20 minutes;
  • the intensity of the pain increases;
  • there were discharge of blood from the vagina or other symptoms - weakness, blanching of the skin, fainting.

With such manifestations, there is a risk of spontaneous abortion, so medical intervention should be urgent.

The pain of the oppressive, pulling nature can be caused by the growth of the uterus and its pressure on neighboring organs, for example, on the intestines, which sometimes shifts slightly to the left.

Not expressed pain during pregnancy is caused by a decrease in intestinal motility and, as a result, constipation due to accumulation of food debris.

Which doctor should I contact?

When the left side under the ribs hurts in front or behind, then it is better not to neglect the visit to the doctor. If the pain is acute and sudden, then you should immediately call an ambulance.

In other cases, to start, make an appointment with a therapist who, after examination and conversation, will send for further examination to a more specialized specialist (gastroenterologist, pulmonologist, oncologist, cardiologist, traumatologist, neuropathologist or others).


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