Side Pain
June 3, 2008 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Constant pain on left side, sometimes on right side: what's wrong?

Three weeks ago my husband felt ill. He had a fever and developed pain in his left flank. His urine was clear (at least from a dip-stick test, it has not been sent to a lab). Our GP diagnosed an adrenal gland infection and prescribed antibiotics.
The fever went away soon, but the pain got worse and he went for blood tests. There were a few elevetad values (d-dimer and CRP) and the doctor was thinking about pneumonia but said to wait if it got worse. The pain got a lot better, but did not go away completely. He went back a few days later and the blood was fine. The lung doctor did not see anything wrong with the lungs.

This was a week and a half ago. The pain is manageable, but it is still there all the time. It gets worse when he takes a deep breath, then he feels a stitching (I hope that that is the right word) pain. Sometimes (a few times a day), unrelated to his breathing, he feels the same stitching pain at his right side as well. The pain is not sensitive to touch or pressure.

He normally is a very healthy man. He is 33 years old and a runner. He was training for a marathon (he is not running now) and never had any injuries. He eats healthy and does not smoke or drink.

The GP says it is probably myositis, which she explained as "muscle ache" and that he should take painkillers (she prescribed Diclofenac).

He will go back again if the pain does not go away, but we wonder if any of you may have any clues to other causes of this pain or other tests that he might want to discuss with the doctor.
posted by davar to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Sleeping in a bad position? SITTING in a bad position?

I had a work chair I used for years before noticing that I was actually sort of twisted and leaning INTO one of the arms, which explained the above-left-kidney-area muscle pain I had often. Sometimes I was (subconsciously) leaning the OTHER way, into the other arm... and sometimes I'd have right-side pain.

I don't know why I didn't figure it out sooner. The time between working and noticing the pain late at night just didn't connect for me. :)

New work chair, and/or shuffled around desk/computer/keyboard fixed it.
posted by rokusan at 2:48 PM on June 3, 2008

I convinced myself I had mono at least three times in high school because I kept having this ache right where my spleen is... until I realized that it coincided with long car trips, and that I drive with my left side all scrunched up funny.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:53 PM on June 3, 2008

Referred pain from gallbladder?
posted by media_itoku at 2:54 PM on June 3, 2008

It could very easily be a muscle thing, but if you don't get any more info soon, I'd go to another doctor for a second opinion.

I sometimes get this when I'm having problems with my asthma--is his breathing otherwise ok?
posted by sondrialiac at 2:59 PM on June 3, 2008

Thanks for the quick answers! He is actually quite aware of his posture now because the doctor warned two weeks ago that painkillers were important because otherwise he might develop a bad posture. He does not normally drive in a car but he did last Sunday and that did not have any influence on the pain. I will ask about his work chair though.

His breathing is okay, but he did have a cough during/after the infection. The lung doctor made an x-ray of the lungs and they were good.

Getting a second opinion is difficult where we live so I would rather ask our current doctor to look a bit further if it does not improve.
posted by davar at 3:17 PM on June 3, 2008

(I am definitely not a doctor, just a frequent sufferer of colds and coughs of all kinds)

Ah! The Cough! When you cough, you can irritate the lining of your lungs. This irritation can stay long after the cold/bronchitis/asthma attack.

Or, sometimes you can injure the little muscles that you use to cough (especially the muscles on your sides--the same ones that start aching when you run and you aren't used to it).

So, in my experience, it could very easily be a small muscle injury, or irritated bronchial tubes. Since your doc said it was muscular, I'd go with that.

The cure is for both problems is time and rest.

Good luck!
posted by sondrialiac at 3:26 PM on June 3, 2008

I understand that cough can lead to pain, I have experienced that myself sometimes. But my husband is very fit and strong. He does not get muscle pains easily, so it seems so weird that this totally superficial cough would cause this pain and that the pain would stay for such a long time. Also: the pain is really in one place, wouldn't a muscle pain "stretch out" more?

Rest doesn't seem to help much. Let's hope time does.
posted by davar at 4:04 PM on June 3, 2008

He was training for a marathon... Did he overdo it?
posted by Carol Anne at 4:07 PM on June 3, 2008

It is possible that he overtrained. He did not feel that way. He was following a schedule from He is an experienced but not excessive runner: he runs several half marathons a year, and one marathon a year. His last long run did not go well though: he had to stop after about 25 km (15 miles). This was two days before the infection, so there may be a connection.
posted by davar at 4:17 PM on June 3, 2008

I am not a doctor.

But once I did have pleurisy, which was a sharp pain that got worse with deep breaths. It's when your lungs rub against the lining the lungs are supposed to slide easily in.

It got worse until I went to the emergency room. At first they had no idea what my problem was and did a bunch of tests. Finally they figured it out and gave me a shot of toradol, which made the pain go away immediately and then I took anti-inflammatories to fix the problem.

Good luck.
posted by Argyle at 5:30 PM on June 3, 2008

When my husband had similar symptoms a couple months ago, we thought it might be a kidney infection or a kidney stone (it was persistent and after a while he was in a LOT of pain) but it turned out he had pleurisy. He just had major surgery, and apparently it is a common issue after that, but it struck us as strange at first, since it seems like a sort of old-fashioned problem! He's been on naproxen for it since then - they say it takes a while to go away. Here is another link about diagnosing pleurisy. Obviously I have no idea if this is what your husband is dealing with, I'm just throwing this out there since it is the first thing I thought of when I read your question.
posted by Melinika at 5:35 PM on June 3, 2008

Cushing's syndrome/disease. He may have a fractured rib or two from it. Ask the doctor to give him a dexamethasone suppression test. On average, doctors take 9 years to diagnose this because there are tons of TINY symptoms which may be considered "unrelated", or "small". Get the test, you'll know.

I'm not a doctor, but it seems like it...especially if he's STARTED gaining a bit of weight (it may not be related to stopping his marathon training).

Follow up on this (even though the doctor will say "oh, no...hahah...not this all"), and good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:31 PM on June 3, 2008

Pleurisy sounds interesting, because the symptoms do match, but I assume that the lung doctor would have diagnosed that if that was the case. He did listen to the lungs and make an x-ray.
He has not gained weight, and that seems the biggest sign of Cushing's syndrome, but I will keep it in mind if things don't improve.
Today the right side pain is getting worse...

Thanks everybody!
posted by davar at 2:11 AM on June 4, 2008

How severe was his cough? I ask because years ago I had a hard, dry cough that actually separated one of my ribs. Coughing felt like someone sawing me in half. It took weeks for the pain to subside.

If it doesn't get better, get a complete abdominal scan. My husband had pain and we thought it was a kidney stone. Turns out it's kidney cancer, and they removed his right kidney. Flank pain is a symptom. For what it's worth, my husband is 43, works out regularly (been a lifelong gym rat), never smoked, doesn't drink, and watches what he eats. Better to be safe than sorry.
posted by annieb at 5:51 PM on June 4, 2008

Thanks annieb. The cough wasn't that severe, it was persistant but superficial, so we find it a bit difficult to understand how that could cause this pain.
I think it is strange that the pain is sometimes at his right side as well, but I think that that makes it at least less likely that it is cancer.
posted by davar at 8:06 AM on June 5, 2008

« Older Beyond Bruschetta   |   Open Source Social Networking, blah, blah, blah. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.