10 Stabbing Stomach Pain Causes in the Upper Left Side (after eating, under the ribs)

Pain in any part of your body means something is wrong. Upper left abdomen pain can be because of several reasons, such as:

  • indigestion
  • a viral infection
  • acute gastritis
  • stomach ulcer
  • or cancer.

This article covers the basics you need to know about pain under the ribs, specifically after eating. We advise you to take everything with a grain of salt and always consult a medical doctor if the symptoms persist.

man in pain

The abdomen separates into four quadrants, so it is easy to pinpoint the ache’s exact location. In most cases, it should resolve on its own. If it is muscle cramps or spasms, they should go away in a few minutes. If you are experiencing piercing pains, it could indicate something bad is happening.

The following are part of the upper left abdomen:

  • Spleen
  • Stomach
  • Pancreas
  • Left lower rib cage (epigastric region)
  • Left lobe of the liver
  • Left lower lung
  • Left kidney
  • Left adrenal gland
  • Diaphragm
  • Upper left sections of the large intestine

Other terms we can use to indicate aches in these areas are:

pregnant woman in pain

Best medicine for stomach pain

If you think medicine can remedy the stomach ache you are experiencing, these are the most common ones.

Loperamide

We use loperamide to treat the sudden occurrence of diarrhea. It happens if a virus gets inside your gut. Other causes of diarrhea may include the following:

  • Allergies to food
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes
  • Intestinal disease
  • Eating foods that upset the digestive system
  • Bacteria infection
  • Laxative abuse
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Radiation therapy
  • Medications
  • Digestive system surgery

Loperamide works by slowing the gut’s movement. It decreases the number of bowel movements and making a less watery stool. We also use loperamide for patients who recently went through an ileostomy. Healthcare providers also use loperamide to treat ongoing diarrhea in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Bear in mind loperamide only treats the symptoms and not the cause of diarrhea. We recommend reading all the directions on the product page before taking loperamide as an over-the-counter drug. The doctor’s prescription will always overpower the details on the product page.

The dosage is dependent on response to treatment and condition. Adults should not drink more than 8 mg in 24 hours if self-treating. Children should base their dosage on weight and age. We recommend consulting a doctor before taking loperamide, especially for children.

Rapidly dissolving tablets should be taken with your hands completely dry. Allow it to dissolve on your tongue before swallowing it. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

severe stomach pain

Laxatives or Stool Softeners

The most common laxative drug is bisacodyl, which we use to treat constipation. Medical practitioners also use it to clean the intestines before surgery or a bowel examination. It works by increasing the intestines’ movement, inducing stool.

If bisacodyl was prescribed to you by a doctor, we recommend following their prescription. Otherwise, carefully read the directions on the product package. Swallow the medicine whole and do not take it within one hour of having antacids or milk products.

The most common side effects are:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Stomach or abdominal cramping

If these effects last more than a few hours, we recommend consulting a doctor as soon as possible. Maybe you encounter serious side effects. It includes things such as:

  • irregular heartbeat
  • fainting
  • non-stop diarrhea
  • or vomiting

Notify your doctor if you notice these. Allergies to this drug are rare. If you develop any severe allergic reactions, get medical assistance. 

Antacids and Acid Reducers

Medical practitioners use oral antacids or acid reducers to treat heartburn, acid indigestion, and stomach upset. The same is used to relieve bloating, belching, and stomach discomfort.

Antacids only work on existing acids and cannot prevent acid production. You can use it alone or in combination with other acid-reducing medications. Carefully read the product package if you are self-treating.

It is an oral medicine, which you usually take after meals. These are available in chewable tablets, capsules, or liquid. This medicine may negatively react with other medications, so we recommend seeking medical assistance first.

Constipation, nausea, diarrhea, or headache are common side effects that you may experience. Inform your pharmacist or doctor immediately if any of these effects last.

Stabbing pain in the upper left abdomen: 10 reasons

Men, heavy drinkers, people with high triglyceride levels, men or women taking large quantities of prescription medication, and illicit drug users are at risk of upper left abdomen aches.

1. Systemic infections

woman in pain

Body-wide infections can cause an aching sensation in the upper left abdomen.

These infections would include:

  • Bacterial
  • Fungal
  • Parasitic
  • Viral

2. Localized infections

A localized infection refers to a confined infection to one of the organs in the left upper quadrant.

The most common infections are as follows:

  • Abscess – Likely infection in the kidney.
  • Pancreatitis – Inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Pneumonia – Infection of the lungs.
  • Pericarditis – Sac infection enclosing the heart.
  • Ulcer – An open sore in the stomach, which is painful.

3. Idiopathic conditions

These conditions combine heredity, viral infections, allergies, and diet and exercise choices.

  • Autoimmune diseases – An autoimmune disease happens if the body’s defense system cannot differentiate foreign cells from its cells. It causes the body to attack its cells. There are more than 80 types of this disease affecting different body parts. For example, lupus attacks the organs in the left upper quadrant. It causes pain and eventually damage.
  • Colon – Excess gas or constipation causes pain to form in the upper left colon, which is under the left rib cage.
  • Left Kidney – Stones or mineral deposits can cause severe pain.
  • Liver – Enlargement of the spleen is because of liver damage.
  • Metabolic Disorders – These cause imbalances in organ functions, such as diabetes.
  • Stomach – Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acids to push back into the esophagus.

4. Drugs and medications

Medication and drugs may cause damage and pain to the left upper quadrant. The common ones are as follows:

  • Aspirin – Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that reduces inflammation, pain, fever, or a combination of these three. High doses of aspirin may trigger bleeding in the stomach. Eventually, it will lead to pain.
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Cocaine
  • NSAIDs – All other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Opioids – You may experience pain as a side effect

5. Cancer

Although cancer rarely causes pain in the upper left abdomen, it can still happen. A localized tumor can grow anywhere in the area, causing discomfort. Lumps are not always visible. On the other hand, blood cancer affects the entire body. It may lead to aches in different parts. 

6. Stomach ulcer

A gastric or peptic ulcer is an open sore forming during inflammation in the stomach lining. The bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) causes inflammation in the area. Prolonged intake of pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. They may also result in ulcers.

Spicy foods, stress, drinking alcohol, and smoke may aggravate ulcers but do not cause them. Some symptoms are heartburn, bloating, nausea, and an aching sensation in the stomach. It could get worse at night or between meals. You may also experience blood in stool or vomit.

If left untreated, it may bleed and result in anemia. It could puncture the stomach and cause peritonitis, which is an infection in the abdominal cavity.

Diagnosis may include one or more of the following:

  • Endoscopy
  • Physical examination
  • Breath testing
  • Stool

7. Normal abdominal pain

Abdominal discomfort for no reason is common. Identifying the root cause is challenging because it can be from the muscles or from different sources, such as:

  • the pancreas
  • the gall bladder
  • the digestive tract
  • or the urinary tract.

Overly sensitive nerves in the gut can be a possible source. It may occur after repeated injuries in the same area. A diagnosis may include patient history, physical examination, and CT scan. However, CT scans are ordered if the doctor thinks the benefits outweigh radiation risks.

Treatment may involve lifestyle improvements. It includes things such as sleep, exercise, and diet. 

8. Heart attack in a woman

One of the leading causes of heart attack happens when a clot in the coronary artery blocks oxygen and blood supply to the heart. It leads to an irregular heartbeat. It’s called arrhythmia, causing a decrease in the heart’s pumping functionality. 

9. Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas creates and releases insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable. It also creates enzymes, which help digest food in the small intestine. If these enzymes accidentally activate in the pancreas, it causes discomfort and inflammation.

We recommend taking a trip to the emergency room as soon as possible. Diagnosis may include imaging, blood tests, and physical examination. 

10. Acute gastritis

Gastritis means irritation or inflammation of the stomach lining. Acute gastritis happens during a sudden and severe ache. The bacteria H. pylori is the common cause of infection in the stomach. Other common causes include excess intake of:

  • pain relievers
  • overdrinking alcohol
  • stress
  • smoking
  • and autoimmune diseases.

Symptoms usually include a sudden burning ache and fullness in the upper abdomen. Some may also experience vomiting and nausea. We recommend seeking medical attention as soon as possible if symptoms persist for more than a week or if you see blood in your stool or vomit.

Gastritis could lead to stomach ulcers if left untreated. Diagnosis includes blood tests, breath tests, and stool sample tests. 

Pain in upper left abdomen after eating

Any pain may intensify after eating a large meal, especially with high-fat content. Indigestion is also referred to as functional dyspepsia, upset stomach, or dyspepsia. It is not a disease. It is a collection of common symptoms.

Common causes of indigestion may include one or more of the following:

  • Excessive eating
  • Fast easting
  • Consumption of spicy or greasy foods
  • Overdose of caffeine, carbonated beverages, or alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Anxiety
  • Antibiotics, vitamins/supplements, and pain relievers

The most common symptoms are discomfort, pain, and bloating in the upper abdomen immediately preceding eating. Maybe your indigestion lasts for more than two weeks and does not respond well. Simple treatment may indicate something more serious.

We consider abdominal pain radiating to the arm, neck, or jaw a medical emergency. Physical examination and patient history are part of the initial diagnosis. Laboratory tests if the patient suddenly experiences symptoms may happen. 

Upper left abdominal pain under ribs

Pain under the ribs may be related to injury-related causes. Any injury to the abdomen can lead to internal bleeding if left unattended. These injuries may be because of sports injuries, accidents, or medical procedures.

The following injuries may include:

  • Organ rupture – The most vulnerable is the spleen.
  • Lower left rib fracture – A broken rib can cause damage to the kidney, spleen, or lung.
  • Collapsed lower left lung – It could cause significant pain. It may occur in any part of the left lung, such as the center. 

Upper left quadrant during pain pregnancy

Internal bleeding happens in an ectopic pregnancy where the fetus grows inside the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. It irritates the nerves and causes discomfort or pain in the shoulders and upper abdomen. You may experience severe pain if the fallopian tube begins to rupture, which is a life-threatening emergency.

Constipation and heartburn during normal pregnancy can cause pain in the upper left quadrant. However, pre-eclampsia can cause high blood pressure and general upper abdominal pain. 

Upper left abdominal pain when bending over

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes burning and discomfort after a meal, which you will feel when bending over. Another possible cause is an inguinal hernia. Soft tissues in the abdomen stick out through the muscles, causing symptoms like pain.

Left upper quadrant pain radiating to the back

Kidney stones or chronic pancreatitis are the two most common causes of pain radiating to the back.

Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis refers to the worsening inflammation of the pancreas. It does not improve, which becomes life-threatening.

The following are possible causes of chronic pancreatitis:

  • Genetic factors
  • Alcoholism
  • A blocked pancreatic duct
  • Autoimmune disease

Men from ages 30 to 40 with a family history of the disease and a history of alcoholism are most prone. However, anyone can have it. The most common symptoms include:

  • severe pain in the abdomen and back while or after eating
  • vomiting and nausea
  • weight loss, and diarrhea.

The pancreas controls blood sugar levels by releasing insulin. It is also responsible for secreting digestive enzymes. Chronic pancreatitis could lead to malnutrition, chronic pain, diabetes, or permanent pancreatic damage.

A typical diagnosis would include an x-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound, physical examination, and patient history. Treatment could involve medication, surgical procedures, or both. A change in lifestyle through exercise, diet and stress management can help alleviate the issue. 

Kidney stone

Renal lithiasis, nephrolithiasis, or kidney stones, are solid particles that form inside the kidney. Concentrated urine causes minerals to crystallize, forming stones.

The leading causes of kidney stones are as follows:

  • A personal or family history of kidney stones
  • Not drinking enough water
  • High sugar, salt, or protein diets
  • Obesity
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Digestive conditions or diseases, including gastric bypass surgery
  • Hereditary disorders or metabolic conditions

Common symptoms you will encounter are pain in the abdomen, back, or side.

You can also have urine of different colors, including:

  • brown
  • pink
  • or red urine

Some other signs to look out for include:

  • pain during urination
  • vomiting
  • and sometimes fever.

Diagnosis would include urine tests, imaging, and blood test.

Depending on the doctor’s assessment, you can pass smaller stones by drinking over-the-counter pain relievers and extra water. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help pass the stone. Larger stones may involve a surgical procedure. 

FAQ

The following are the frequently asked questions for stabbing pain caused in the upper left side.

When should I worry about upper left-side pain?

Upper left-side ache varies significantly. However, you may need to worry if the pain is persistent and severe. We recommend seeking medical help right away because it could be an indication of something worse.

What organ is on the upper left side?

You will find the following organs:
– Spleen
– Stomach
– The main body of the pancreas
– The left portion of the liver
– The left portion of the kidney
– Splenix flexure of the colon
– The bottom part of the colon
– Adrenal glands

Should I go to the ER for upper left abdominal pain?

We recommend visiting the ER if the pain is persistent and severe. Visit your nearest ER to receive a diagnosis and treatment.