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Pain in Your Lower Left Abdomen

Pain in the lower left abdomen can be caused by a number of issues from constipation to kidney stones.
Pain in the lower left abdomen
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Last updated July 11, 2024

Pain in the lower left abdomen quiz

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Pain in the lower left abdomen quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your pain.

Take pain in the lower left abdomen quiz

Lower left stomach pain symptoms explained

Are you experiencing pain in your abdominal area, but it doesn't quite feel like your stomach? The abdomen can be separated into four quadrants. The lower left quadrant of the abdomen contains the transverse, descending, and sigmoid sections of the colon; part of the small intestine; the ureter of the left kidney; and the iliac fossa (part of the hip bone and pelvis). The iliac fossa is a gateway to the reproductive organs in both men and women.

Common characteristics of lower left abdominal pain

Due to its complexity, the lower left abdomen is susceptible to multiple conditions that can cause pain. The pain may be focal and remain in the lower left quadrant or move to other quadrants of the abdomen. The pain may be sharp and sudden or dull and achy.

Other possible symptoms of lower left abdominal pain

Take note of the above qualities and other symptoms you may experience including:

Additional symptoms in women of reproductive age

If you fit this description, you may also experience the following:

Make an appointment with your physician as soon as you notice any of these symptoms along with pain in the lower left abdomen.

What can cause lower left abdominal pain?

The lower left quadrant of the abdomen is complex, leaving its many structures prone to inflammation, obstruction, or injury. Thus, there are many types of diseases/conditions that could cause abdominal pain.

Abdominal causes

Causes of pain in the lower left abdomen directly related to the abdomen itself may include the following.

  • Digestive upset (indigestion): Acid that the stomach makes to digest food can irritate the components of the digestive tract, including the lower abdomen. Furthermore, gas found throughout the digestive tract can also cause transient pain and discomfort in the lower left abdomen as well.
  • Abdominal weakness: The colon (also known as the large intestine) is an extremely long organ that is folded upon itself in the human body. As a result, any particularly weak parts of the colon can be exposed to extreme pressure. Other parts of the colon can break through these weak spots and push through the muscle and surrounding tissue. This condition is called a hernia. Hernias can be extremely painful and any bulge will lead to more pain and associated symptoms.
  • Obstructive: The kidney is prone to developing stones of hardened material that can obstruct the ureter. Since the ureter passes within the lower left quadrant, any irritation from the obstruction will result in pain.

Inflammatory causes

Inflammatory causes of pain in the lower left abdomen may include the following.

  • Infectious: Sometimes pouches called diverticula form along the large intestine. These pouches form when weak spots in the intestine balloon outward. Infection of the diverticula can cause characteristic pain and discomfort in the lower left abdomen known as diverticulitis.
  • Dermatologic: Some inflammatory dermatologic conditions occur on the surface of specific quadrants of the body. For example, shingles, a painful rash caused by a virus, can localize to the left lower abdomen and cause severe pain, itching, and sensitivity.

Reproductive causes in men

The reproductive organs in men are within or very close to the lower left abdomen. Problems with these organs often cause referred pain to the lower left quadrant. In men, this may include a condition called testicular torsion. The freely mobile testes can rotate around themselves, obstructing blood flow. The lack of blood flow results in sudden, severe scrotal pain and swelling that often includes the left lower quadrant and other quadrants of the abdomen.

Reproductive causes in women

The reproductive organs in women are also within or very close to the lower left abdomen. Problems with these organs often cause referred pain to the lower left quadrant.

  • Ovarian torsion: The ovaries often lie within the lower quadrants of the abdomen. The ovaries can also rotate around themselves like the testes and result in pain. Furthermore, the ovaries can develop cysts that can cause painful pressure. If these cysts burst extreme pain can result as well.
  • Menstrual cycle patterns or irregularities: These may also result in lower left abdominal pain. Pregnancy-related complications can also be a cause.

Trauma-related causes

Trauma to the lower abdomen from a direct blow or motor vehicle accident can cause pain that may be accompanied by bruising or internal bleeding.

Normal variation of constipation

Constipation means bowel movements which have become infrequent and/or hardened and difficult to pass.

There is wide variation in what is thought "normal" when it comes to frequency of bowel movements. Anywhere from three times a day to three times a week is considered normal.

As long as stools are easy to pass, laxatives should not be used in an effort to force the body to a more frequent schedule.

Constipation is usually caused by lack of fiber in the diet; not drinking enough water; insufficient exercise; and often suppressing the urge to have a bowel movement.

A number of medications and remedies, especially narcotic pain relievers, can cause constipation.

Women are often affected, due to pregnancy and other hormonal changes. Young children who demand low-fiber or "junk food" diets are also susceptible.

Constipation is a condition, not a disease, and most of the time is easily corrected. If simple adjustments in diet, exercise, and bowel habits don't help, a doctor can be consulted to rule out a more serious cause.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, constipation, constipation

Symptoms that always occur with normal variation of constipation: constipation

Symptoms that never occur with normal variation of constipation: vomiting

Urgency: Self-treatment

Viral (rotavirus) infection

Rotavirus infection is a contagious gastrointestinal virus that most often affects babies, toddlers, and young children. It causes severe watery diarrhea, sometimes with vomiting and fever.

Adults may also be infected, though usually with milder symptoms.

Rotavirus spreads very quickly when any trace of stool from an infected child contaminates food or drink, or gets onto any surface. If another child consumes the food or drink, or touches the surface and then their mouth, the child will become infected.

Rotavirus in children is a medical emergency because dehydration can set in very quickly. A child can die if not treated immediately. Take the child to an emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Treatment consists of IV fluids and supportive care, usually in a hospital. Antibiotics will not help rotavirus because they only work against bacteria.

The best way prevention is frequent and thorough handwashing, as well as washing toys and surfaces when possible. There is now a vaccine that will either prevent rotavirus infection or greatly lessen the symptoms if the child still gets the virus.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache

Symptoms that always occur with viral (rotavirus) infection: diarrhea, vomiting or nausea

Symptoms that never occur with viral (rotavirus) infection: constipation, tarry stool

Urgency: Self-treatment

Ovulation pain (mittelschmerz) or midcycle spotting

Mittelschmerz is a German word that translates as "middle pain." It refers to the normal discomfort sometimes felt by women during ovulation, which is at the midpoint of the menstrual cycle.

Each month, one of the two ovaries forms a follicle that holds an egg cell. The pain occurs when the follicle ruptures and releases the egg.

This is a dull, cramping sensation that may begin suddenly in only one side of the lower abdomen. In a few cases, there may be vaginal spotting. Mittelschmerz occurs about 14 days before the start of the next menstrual period.

Actual Mittelschmerz is not associated with nausea, vomiting, fever, or severe pelvic pain. These symptoms should be evaluated by a medical provider since they can indicate a more serious condition.

Diagnosis is made through patient history.

Treatment requires only over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. An oral contraceptive will stop the symptoms, since it also stops ovulation.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), last period approximately 2 weeks ago, vaginal bleeding, bloody vaginal discharge, pelvis pain

Symptoms that always occur with ovulation pain (mittelschmerz) or midcycle spotting: last period approximately 2 weeks ago

Urgency: Self-treatment

Normal abdominal pain

The complaint of abdominal pain and discomfort, with no apparent cause, is one of the most common in medicine. It is a primary reason for patients to visit a medical provider or the emergency room.

The cause of abdominal pain can be difficult to find, because it can just be a completely normal abdominal pain or come from many different sources: the digestive tract, the urinary tract, the pancreas, the gall bladder, or the gynecologic organs.

The pain may simply be caused by overly sensitive nerves in the gut. This hypersensitivity can occur after repeated abdominal injury and/or it may have an emotional cause due to fear of the pain itself.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, patient history, and simply ruling out any other condition. CT scan is often requested, but can rarely find a specific cause. The benefits must be weighed against the risks of radiation.

Treatment first involves making any needed lifestyle improvements regarding diet, exercise, work, and sleep, in order to reduce stress. In some cases, counseling, hypnosis, mild pain relievers, and antidepressants are helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), vaginal discharge, fever, nausea

Symptoms that always occur with normal abdominal pain: abdominal pain (stomach ache)

Symptoms that never occur with normal abdominal pain: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, severe abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss, vaginal discharge

Urgency: Self-treatment

Menstrual cramps

Menstrual cramps, also called dysmenorrhea, are actually contractions of the uterus as it expels its lining during a woman's monthly period.

A certain amount of mild cramping is normal, triggered by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. However, painful cramps may be caused by underlying conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, high prostaglandin levels, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID.)

Severe cramping may be present, as well as nausea, headache, and dull pain that radiates to the low back and thighs. It is most common in women under age 30 who smoke, have heavy and irregular periods, and have never given birth.

An obstetrician/gynecologist (women's specialist) can do tests for underlying conditions such as those mentioned above. Women over age 25 who suddenly begin having severe cramps should see a doctor to rule out the sudden onset of a more serious concern.

Treatment of mild cramping can be done with heating pads to the abdomen and with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen. Birth control pills, which regulate the menstrual cycle, are often effective in lessening cramps.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, lower back pain, abdominal pain that shoots to the back

Symptoms that always occur with menstrual cramps: abdominal pain (stomach ache)

Symptoms that never occur with menstrual cramps: being severely ill, disapearance of periods for over a year

Urgency: Self-treatment

Irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is commonly known as IBS. Normally, the muscles of the colon, or large intestine, contract and relax to push food along. It's thought that in IBS, the muscles randomly contract either too strongly or too weakly and therefore cause alternating bouts of diarrhea or constipation.

The exact cause is not known. Food allergy/intolerance; stress; hormonal imbalance; and infection or bacterial overgrowth in the colon may play a role, as well as an overly sensitive gastrointestinal nervous system.

Pre-menopausal women who suffer from depression or lead very stressful lives may be most susceptible.

Symptoms vary among individuals, and often come and go. These include abdominal pain and cramping; bloating; gas; diarrhea; and constipation. IBS is not associated with serious illness such as cancer, but symptoms may interfere with quality of life.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and ruling out any other cause. Imaging may also be done.

Treatment begins with improved diet and stress management. Antibiotics, antidepressants, and other medications may be attempted.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea or vomiting, stool changes, constipation

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Intestinal inflammation (diverticulitis)

When the passage of food through the colon becomes sluggish, the food can stagnate, increase in bulk, create pressure, and cause diverticula – or pouches – to form in the walls of the large intestine. If these pouches become inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis.

Risk factors are a low-fiber diet, smoking, obesity, chronic constipation, and lack of "good" bacteria in the gut.

Patients over 50, with a previous history of inflammatory disease of the colon, are most susceptible.

Symptoms include persistent abdominal pain; fever; nausea and vomiting; and constipation sometimes alternating with diarrhea.

Left untreated, diverticulitis can lead to intestinal blockage and scarring. Rupture of an inflamed pouch can result, leading to peritonitis. These are medical emergencies. If suspected, take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made by ruling out other conditions through physical examination; blood, urine, and stool tests; and CT scan.

Less serious cases are treated with a high-fiber diet, fluids, probiotics, antibiotics, and lifestyle management. Others may require intravenous antibiotics and/or surgery.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation

Symptoms that never occur with intestinal inflammation (diverticulitis): pain below the ribs, pain in the upper right abdomen

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Constipation from not eating enough fiber

Constipation is defined as having stools which are large, hard, and difficult to pass. This leaves the person feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Many things can cause constipation, and a common one is lack of fiber in the diet.

To determine whether lack of fiber is causing the constipation, all other causes are first ruled out:

  • Not drinking enough water, sometimes to the point of dehydration.
  • Lack of exercise, which helps increase blood circulation and therefore motility (contraction and movement) of the bowel.
  • A very low or no-fat diet.
  • A need for probiotics, which replenish the "good" bacteria in the gut.
  • Medications, or certain illnesses, which have a constipating effect.
  • Constantly ignoring the feeling of needing to move the bowels, and delaying going to the toilet.

If fiber is needed, the best sources are fresh vegetables; fresh or dried fruits; and whole wheat and brown rice, because those include the fiber-rich bran. Over-the-counter fiber tablets can be tried, though laxatives should only be used if recommended by a medical provider.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: constipation, constipation, pain in the lower left abdomen, pain when passing stools, feeling of needing to constantly pass stool

Symptoms that always occur with constipation from not eating enough fiber: constipation, constipation

Symptoms that never occur with constipation from not eating enough fiber: vomiting

Urgency: Self-treatment

How to treat pain in lower left quadrant of the abdomen

Some of the causes of lower left abdominal pain are serious and often difficult to determine on your own. You should consult your physician for lower left abdominal pain that doesn't resolve.

Medical treatments

After your doctor makes the appropriate diagnosis, he or she may suggest the following treatments.

  • Bowel rest: Your doctor may suggest a liquid diet. This will allow your intestines and digestive system to recover from the obstructive or infectious causes of your left lower abdominal pain.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: If your symptoms are due to inflammatory conditions, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or steroid creams.
  • Menstrual cycle regulation: Your doctor may prescribe birth control pills or other options for menstrual cycle irregularities.
  • Surgery: For people with ovarian or testicular torsion, surgery is the first-line option for restoring blood flow and preventing complications. Surgery is also a treatment option for different pregnancy-related complications.

At-home treatments

You can try the following at home to possibly counteract preventable causes such as digestive upset.

  • Eat meals slowly: This will allow your body to fully digest foods and prevent you from swallowing air, which can cause bloating and pain.
  • High fiber diet: A lack of dietary fiber may contribute to weak intestinal tissue, making the left lower abdomen susceptible to obstruction and infection.

Here are some over-the-counter (OTC) options you might consider to help manage your symptoms:

  • For Mild Pain or Discomfort: A gentle pain reliever like acetaminophen can be effective.
  • To Ease Digestive Issues: If your pain is linked to constipation or digestion, a fiber supplement may help.
  • For Gas and Bloating: Over-the-counter simethicone can offer quick relief.

When it is an emergency

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms including:

  • Sudden, severe pain
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Nausea and vomiting that persists
  • Weight loss
  • Severe tenderness when you touch your abdomen
  • Swelling of the abdomen

Frequently Asked Questions

Based on our user's real questions...

What could cause sharp pain in my lower left abdomen as a female?

The cause of sharp pain in the lower left abdomen as a female could be due to a variety of conditions, including ovarian cysts, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, urinary tract infections, appendicitis, or diverticulitis. It is important to seek medical advice to determine the exact cause of the pain.

What could cause pain in the lower left abdomen near the hip bone in females?

Pain in the lower left abdomen near the hip bone in females can be attributed to various causes as there are many structures within the bottom of the abdominal cavity, behind the abdominal cavity, and within the pelvic cavity, all of which is near the hip bone. These areas house the ovaries, kidneys, colon, fallopian tubes, uterus and more. So, the issues that could cause the pain include ovarian cysts, urinary tract infections, diverticulitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, kidney stones, and musculoskeletal issues.

Questions your doctor may ask about pain in the lower left abdomen

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Have you experienced any nausea?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?
  • How would you describe the nature of your abdominal pain?
  • Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

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The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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