What Causes Side Aches?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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Also called a side stitch, any number of conditions can cause a person to experience side aches. These conditions include Chrohn’s disease, gallstones and diverticulitis. One of the most common causes of this type of pain, however, is appendicitis. Not all side aches are directly attributed to a medical cause. In some instances, people can experience a side stitch in abdominal muscles from laughing too hard or from a lack of hydration while running or exercising.

Appendicitis occurs as the result of the appendix becoming infected. Upon infection, the organ begins to swell and produces a sudden onset of pain. Side aches resulting from appendicitis will generally begin near the naval area before moving to the lower right side of the body. Other symptoms may also include a slight fever, a noticeable swelling in the abdominal area, constipation, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

As an inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease occurs in the digestive tract or the small intestine. Symptoms of this disease include right side aches, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, fever and weight loss. This disease can affect any gender and, in some cases, can affect more than one member of a family.


Gallstones may form in the gallbladder as the result of increased cholesterol levels in bile or from too much bilirubin or bile salts being present. Each of these conditions can cause bile to harden and form stones, which will cause side aches as these stones interrupt the normal passing of bile through the ducts connecting the small intestine and the liver.

Diverticulitis, which is the formation of pouches that bulge through the colon, causes side aches. Other symptoms likely to accompany aches include fever, constipation and bloating. Side pain from diverticulitis occurs in the lower left side of the abdomen.

Kidney pain usually affects the side and the back when one or more stones have formed in that organ. Sometimes accompanied with intense side aches are symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. Severe cases of kidney stones may also cause blood in the urine.

Side aches from running or exercising are common occurrences. Mostly, these aches are due to a lack of hydration, particularly if exercising in warm weather. Pain that is not necessarily related to hydration, however, is known as exercise-related transient abdominal pain, or ETAP. Researchers do not know the exact cause of ETAP, but it commonly affects professional athletes and is sometimes overcome by chiropractic therapies.


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