Bizarre Upper Abdominal Pain, progressively worsening - Looking for answers :(

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Just before I start - I have been seeing my doctor and I'm in the middle of various tests to get to the bottom of this - I just thought I would ask online to see if my symtoms are familiar to anybody to help me try and narrow this down, my 2 GPs are very baffled by my not so obvious symptoms so it's taking longer than I wished to get answers due to the varied tests I'm having done and really starting to affect my happiness. 

First off I'm a 25 yo Female, in good active shape, around 8.5st, I eat very well - mainly a vegan diet (but I include fish), don't smoke, very rarely drink, I walk a lot and jog and bike ride weekly.

Just over a month ago I first noticed the pain - I was walking back to my house and about half way into my walk I began to develop what I could only describe as a stitch just under my left rib with strong abdominal pain - I kept walking expecting it to 'click' out and go away as normal stitches do but it didn't, it gradually worsened as I kept walking with a throbbing feeling my partner was so baffled as I'm usually jogging around all of the time! I was walking so slow to mask the pain until I actually had to come to a halt and wait 5 minutes before I could then continue back to my house at a very slow pace. Once I'd arrived at my house the pain seeme to subside and I pretty much forgot about the incident as I didn't feel it happen again for a week afterwards. I thought it was just a bizarre one off event.

Fast forward to a week or so after this first incident and I was out in town doing some shopping and this exact same 'stitch' feeling came back, only it was much stronger it felt like someone was squeezing something just under my left rib really tightly. I had to stop mutlitple times and felt like I couldn't really move at all without the pain coming back.

Over the next few days the pain was always constantly 'there' even just inside my house but it was a dull pain with occassional sharp twinges depending on if I moved around too much (especially when I put my hands over my head) and it often spread to under my right rib - though the stitch when I was walking would always be on my left. Also I should add when it switched to the right there was no pain in the left - it will alternate. Sometimes I can just be sitting down relaxing and there will be a pulsing pain feeling under either my left or right rib - it feels like something is 'there' or something is causing pressure. Tensing my stomach makes the pain come back too.

My bowels are regular - no noticible changes but I do sometimes feel a little windy/pressured in my stomach but I have no constipation at all. No visable lumps or bumps and is not sore to the touch at all it just radiates pain itself from inside. Also no weight loss, fever or blood in stools etc.  


Enough was enough so I decided to go to my GP who  gave me a physical exam - I don't feel ANY pain when prodded in any area of my abdomen - even in the area where the pain presents itself.

I was sent for blood tests to rule out pancreas problems and some others. I had:

A urine sample which came back clear (no UTI) and several blood tests including; full blood count, amylace, calcium profile, liver function, urea & electrolytes - all of these came back clear. 


I then had a pregnancy test as a recommendation which also came back negative.

A week later I was sent for another blood test for clotting on the lungs to rule this out - this also came back negative and I have just been for a chest xray which I am waiting for results with (I should have these tomorrow though my doctor expects this to also be clear).

I am now waiting for a date to have an ultrasound scan of my abdomen, the day can't come soon enough! I suspect this very well be a cyst/ulcer/growth of some sort though I know very little of this subject.

I have nexplannon contreceptive implant in my arm and I have heard cysts can be a side effect - i'd be very upset if this is the reason behind my pain but it's still a possibility up to now.

Does anybody have some ideas of what this baffling pain can be? Some days it's tolerable but some times it can bring tears to my eyes and stop me in my tracks - the only way I can describe the pain is someone pulling a string around the area behind my ribs and tightening it and there seems to be little that stops it apart from keeping completely still. I'm just worried one day the pain is going to increase further and I'm going to be in the A&E which I really don't want to have to do.

If any of these symptoms sound familar then please reply and I can provide any answers to questions - I'm very tired of this baffling pain dictating my plans and I just want to return back to my usual lifestyle!

Thank you smile 

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36 Replies

  • Posted


    I sympathise as I've had very similar discomfort in both my left and right ribs for over a year. I've also lost weight, suffer fatigue and have periods of feeling lightheaded. I'm much older than you - 61 - but have always considered myself fit and healthy, apart from IBS which I manage through my diet. My problem flared up when my father became very ill and continued after he died but this was a year ago. I've had all the tests you've had plus an abdominal ultrasound, colonoscopy, barium enema and upper endoscopy, all of which have been clear. I'm psyching myself up to revisit my GP but am not confident of resolving the problem. It's so frustrating as 

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  • Posted

    Sorry Sarah, reply was accidentally sent before I'd completed it! What I meant to conclude was that it's so frustrating when the emotional and physical quality of your life is constantly affected and there doesn't seem to be an explanation for it. Sorry I can't offer any help or advice - only empathy - but I hope your test results allow the doctors to resolve your issues.
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    • Posted

      Hi Bunty, thanks for your reply.

      I'm sorry to hear you have similar problems too - I have also considered stressful events triggering the soreness. I had a close death in the family also not long after graduating university last year (which was also very stressful with deadlines towards the end).  

      Would you say you have good posture? I work at a desk for my job and sometimes find I am sitting awkwardly though I wouldn't have considered this to be the cause to my problems! 

      It is very frustrating at the moment considering that it's difficult for me to actually describe the symptoms accurately to the doctor seeing as they change around so often and usually aren't at their worst in the doctors office.

      I hope you can find some answers also, all the best smile  

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  • Posted

    Hi Sarah, I have had this pain but I think mine is linked to food intollerance. I found out I was lactose intollerant after getting much tummy ache and nausea and pains behind my ribs....but it took a long time and I still can't eat it now....have you had any kind of bug that may have caused an intollerance.  Do you get any acid as this can also cause the rib feeling...Hopefully a scan will put your mind at rest, but do try food changes as it could be linked to it. x
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    • Posted

      Hi WorryChick, that is a good suggestion - it could be an intollerance. I don't have any dairy at all (I have soya milk and vegustro 'cheese') so it can't be lactose.

      I'll try avoiding certain types of food for 2/3 days at a time and see if I can rule something out in the meantime, it could be possible it's food related with the occassional 'bloating' I get - it's kind of like that feeling you get just as your stomach is about to rumble when you're hungry but it doesn't actually do it - it just feels like there is some pressure in there. Thanks for the reply x   


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  • Posted

    Hi Sarah - very similar experience, mine started just before Xmas, and Ive only just gotten relief now, approx 6 months later ... Mine turned out to be a number of things so  I shall list them alongside what brought releif!! -

    Ulcer/pre-Ulcerous inflammation (stomach) ........... Lansoprazole (via GP)

    Underactive thyroid causing constipation .........Levothyroxine (via GP) and .....

    Ulcer = heartburn/constipation ..........................Milk of Magnesia (OTC)

    Constipation causing trapped wind pain............Simeticone (try Deflatine OTC)

    All of above reducing friendly bacteria.............Pre+Pro Biotic supplement (OTC)

    Acidic or overly fatty food .....plain simple diet incl llots of ive yogurt, + ginger

                                             ..... AVOID: fruit, pastry, cucumber, hot drinks, big meals

    Artificiall Sweeteners intolerance ... Cut them out: sucralose+aspartame especially

    I especially recommend Milk of Magnesia as it is cheap, easy and dual purpose - you can take a small dose for heartburn/nausea/pain - or a large dose for constipation, and it is perfectly safe because it doesnt make your intestines 'lazy' 

    Ask your doctor if they already checked your thyroid levels as it is well-known that an underactive thyroid slows everything down especiallly digestion - other red flag symptoms are: feeling cold all the time, dry skin, brittle nails, thin/lank hair, poor concentration/memory, feeling exhausted all the time.

    I also take a Vitamin D3 high dose supplement, an Omega 3 supplement, and make sure to eat small amounts through the day rather than large meals.

    Initially I assumed it would be things like lactose or gluten as you hear so much about them - but actually I discovered true allergies are pretty rare. The only things I turned out to have true intolerance of were Artificial Sweeteners (they cause trapped wind which causes that 'pressure/fullness' feeling), cucumber and bananas.

    That trademark pain under your ribs, if it isnt an ulcer (which they now know is nothing to do with stress, alcohol, bad diet - its caused by bacteria!and can be eased with antibiotics and acid-reducing tablets) - then it could be something called Splenic Flexure Syndrome. Your Splenic Flexure is where your transverse colon turns a sharp corner to become your descending colon, and that corner is located just by your stomach under your ribcage - and its very hard for the contents of your gut (solids or gases!) for get round this corner. Some people get such bad pain they think they are having heart failure and end up calling for an ambulance!!! only to get told its wind which must be sooooooooo embarrassing!! But that is genuinely how bad the pain can be - it can fair take your breath away.

    Good luck and I hope some of the things that worked so well for me are useful for you. Like you I have a mainly veggie diet with fish  and maybe chicken now and again. I hve found it very difficult to get used to really restricting the amount of fruit in my diet but fruit gives me real problems cos its so acidic. I am hoping that eventually I can go back to a more normal, varied diet again once my tummy's completely better. But right now it is massively better than it was even a month ago - I had really reached the point where I couldnt go on, the pain was ruining my life.

    All the best (and sorry for such a long rambling answer!!!)

    christine x

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    • Posted

      Hi Christine!

      That's a very informative reply, thank you for sharing your experience and symptoms - I hope you continue to feel better smile

      I am just trying to rule things out at the moment - I'll pick up some milk of magnesia and see if it helps, I've heard others talking about this too so it's worth a try.

      - If my ultrasound scan comes back as clear I may suggest thyroid levels to my dr and see what he says.

      At the moment I'm trying to cut down on foods that will produce gas which is hard for me as I eat so much fruit and veg usually! Also I'm making sure I have regular drinks between my dinners - just small amounts to keep things flowing - this seems to help a bit I've noticed.

      I'll keep this post updated until I find out the cause to my abdominal pain.


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  • Posted

    Hi Sarah, doesn't sound like lactose then (although whey/milk in loads of ingredients, so check that) but it could be wheat....I also gave up wheat and gluten.  I also take a pro-biotic daily a strong one....I think that has helped with gut bacteria. Good luck with your tests xxx


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    • Posted

      Yes I have considered wheat - I've heard true celiac disease or food tolerances are actually very rare though. I would have thought the symptoms would be obvious after eating a specific type of food.

      What type of pro-biotic do you have? I have been looking into trying one smile

      Thanks for the advice!

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  • Posted

    UPDATE: Today I got an all clear on my X-Ray results, so that's one thing crossed off the list.

    I'm currently looking into digestive issues/intolerances whilst I wait for a date for an ultrasound.

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    • Posted

      The body doesn't absorb wheat and dairy well and its actually very common after a bug to get a food intollerance.  Cealiac is rarer and an allergy I believe not an intollerance to wheat. xx Good news the xrays clear. xx Look up the low FODMAP diet; its hard but it sorted me out! Also carbs cause acid so perhaps cut down on carbs and stick to lean fish, meat and veg and rice and non stoned fruit. xx


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    • Posted

      Yr quite right about that 'after a bug' thing - all my problems really started after I had norovirus twice. It wipes out all the friendly bacteria and causes conditions in the gut that make it hard for the bacterial colonies to re-establish... 

      I looked at the FODMAP diet too, but genuinely the only pattern I can find in my symptoms is to do with acid production from fruit+some veg (something to do with the cellulose i think its called) and fats (that also increase acid production). 

      Isnt it a nightmare having abdo problems - painful, take ages to sort out, embarrassing symptoms, ive been a hermit since mine started!!- cos the pain is so bad I often can stand up or even sit up straight or concentrate on a conversation... 

      Ive also heard that this sort of pain/acid/gas type abdo problem is often common in peri-menopause.... Yet another thing to worry about!

      Hope yr doing better too x

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  • Edited

    Just in case anybody finds this thread and would like a conclusion to my problem I decided to post a quick update.

    After my X-Ray I had an abdominal ultrasound 2 weeks later and this was also completely clear. I am all clear, no more pain and the best guess my doctors have on what caused it was that I consumed too much fibre. (I'm a vegan and have a LOT of fruit). Apparently it's possible to have severe trapped wind caused by fibre intake so now that I have lowered my daily levels I have now found complete relief.

    I am very glad the answer was so simple yet hard to identify at the time!

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    • Posted

      Hello Sarah,

      I know it is an old post but in case you still receive email notifications I thought I'd ask.

      I've been experiencing the exact same thing and my tests are clear too and I live very healthy too. I do eat a lot of fibre and I will cut it as of this moment. Thank you so much for your update about fibre. In case you read this - have you had this problem since then?



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