Upper Right Abdominal Pain: Possible Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options in 2023

Are you experiencing upper right abdominal pain that won’t go away? Upper right abdominal pain can be a sign of underlying medical conditions and is essential to take seriously.

In this article, we provide all the information about understanding and managing upper right abdominal pain with causes, symptoms, and treatment options. You will also learn about standard diagnosis tests, emergency signs, and complications.

So don’t wait; read on for an expansive overview of all your must-know information!

Content Highlights

  • Upper right abdominal pain is localized discomfort ranging from mild to sharp and intense.
  • Common causes include gallstones, kidney stones, hepatitis, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal issues such as constipation or dyspepsia.
  • Diagnosis tests involve blood work, X-ray imaging, or ultrasound scans; treatments may include medications and lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if the upper right abdominal pain worsens with movement or occurs with high fever, jaundice (yellowing of eyes), and swelling in the abdomen due to possible complications like obstructions caused by a tumor, which requires urgent medical help.

What Is Upper Right Abdominal Pain?

Upper Right Abdominal Pain

Upper right abdominal pain refers to pain occurring in the upper right portion of the abdomen, below the ribs, and to the right of the midline. More specifically, this includes pain originating from the organs and structures in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen.

The right upper quadrant contains the:

  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Bile ducts
  • Right kidney
  • Pancreas head
  • Duodenum (first part of the small intestine)
  • Hepatic flexure of the colon

It might be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever, or chills, depending on the underlying cause. You can also read about- Is Diarrhea a Severe Medical Condition?

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Upper Right Abdominal Pain

Here are some common and critical symptoms associated with upper right abdominal pain.

Common Symptoms

  • Aching, tenderness, or sharp pain under the right ribcage or upper right belly area
  • Pain that may radiate to the right shoulder, back, or chest
  • Pain that worsens after eating fatty or greasy foods
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bloating, abdominal fullness, or swelling
  • Fever or chills
  • Jaundice (yellowing skin)

Critical Symptoms

  • Severe constant pain lasting hours
  • Pain with radiation to the back or shoulder
  • High fever (over 101°F or 38°C)
  • Nausea and vomiting that prevent keeping liquids down
  • Bloody or black vomit or stools
  • Confusion or loss of consciousness
  • Signs of shock like rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, dizziness, and cold, clammy skin
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tenderness with muscle rigidity or guarding of the abdominal area

Critical symptoms can indicate a serious medical emergency requiring prompt evaluation. Some potential causes include gallbladder inflammation, liver problems, pancreatitis, abdominal obstruction, or perforated ulcers. Seeking urgent medical care is advised if critical upper right abdominal pain symptoms develop.

How to Identify Upper Right Abdominal Pain?

  1. Steady and constant aches around the upper right side of the abdomen are common signs of upper abdominal pain.
  2. Pain may start suddenly or increase gradually, often spreading to other areas like the shoulder blades, chest, lower back, and scapula area, resulting in an uncomfortable or sharp sensation.
  3. Symptoms that occur together with abdominal pain, which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, can give insights into its causes, too.
  4. Chills and fever suggest infection as one of the causes of upper right quadrant pain. At the same time, bloating could refer to excessive gas production by the intestines as a symptom associated with certain digestive conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
  5. Upper right abdominal pain accompanied by yellow ‘jaundiced’ skin suggests architectural changes related to the hepatitis virus or problems related to gallbladder, such as cholecystitis, which produces intense discomfort on contact when touched lightly at the sides near ribcage is another possible cause for upper right quadrant discomfort.

When to Seek Medical Attention?

It is essential to seek medical attention when you are experiencing upper right abdominal pain, as abdominal pain can be an early symptom of a severe medical condition. If the abdominal pain occurs after eating or physical activity or worsens with movements, this could indicate that it needs further investigation.

The following symptoms should also prompt immediate medical attention: high fever, hives, severe nausea and vomiting, dark urine/vomitus accompanied by jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), shortness of breath due to intense swelling in your abdomen, urgent bowel movement request combined with extreme fatigue or dizziness.

Additionally, suppose a pregnant woman experiences constant sharp pains on her right side above her waistline. In that case, she should quickly find help from a doctor since this could indicate problems related to the fallopian tube that may put both mother and baby at risk.

Possible Causes

causes of abdominal pain

Different conditions can cause upper right abdominal pain, such as gallstones, kidney problems, liver diseases, pancreatic issues, and gastrointestinal issues.

Read More: Leaky Gut Syndrome: What is and How to Treat It?


Gallstones are small stones that form in the gallbladder and can cause upper right abdominal pain. They are usually composed of cholesterol, bile pigments, or proteins. Gallstones may remain asymptomatic most of the time, but they can become painful and dangerous when they block and obstruct the gallbladder.

Symptoms develop when the stones move into parts of the digestive system and include persistent and severe pain located explicitly in your right upper abdomen just beneath your ribs, general feelings of discomfort including nausea, vomiting and indigestion followed by sharp pains over more extended periods.

In some instances, if left untreated, it can lead to obstructions within either the liver or pancreatic ducts, causing jaundice due to blocked drainage pathways leading out from those organs.

Kidney Problems

Kidney problems, especially chronic kidney disease (CKD), are a common cause of upper right abdominal pain. CKD occurs when the kidneys become damaged and unable to clean the blood effectively, with two of the leading causes being diabetes and high blood pressure.

Kidney pain can be caused by many different issues, such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, dehydration, kidney infections, injuries to the kidneys or even cancer. With CKD comes an increased risk of severe health complications such as cardiovascular diseases and end-stage renal failure (ESRD). You can also read – What Are The Common Causes of Urinary Tract Infections?

Symptoms in females may include fatigue, decreased appetite accompanied by swelling in legs and ankles, or changes in urination patterns. Therefore, it is essential for those experiencing any symptoms associated with kidney pain to see their doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment, including recommended lifestyle modifications to help avoid more severe complications down the line.

Liver Conditions

Liver disease is one of the causes of upper right abdominal pain and can manifest as jaundice, abdominal pain, swelling, and other symptoms. Cirrhosis of the liver is a permanent scarring condition that is caused by various liver diseases like hepatitis B or C virus infections, hereditary disorders, and heavy alcohol use.

Alcohol-associated liver disease is another common cause that is preventable if you regulate your drinking habits. It manifests with upper abdominal discomfort on the right side, tiredness, weakness, and weight loss.

Infections, obesity, or genetic conditions can also lead to an increased risk of developing liver diseases such as fatty liver or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In some cases, it’s possible to address these underlying issues through lifestyle changes such as eating a better diet that comprises vitamin A-rich food items, maintaining regular exercise routines, etc. To reduce this unwanted outcome, consult medical professionals when any abnormal symptoms are witnessed.

Pancreatic Issues

Pancreatic issues are a common cause of upper right abdominal pain, usually localized around the top left or middle of the abdomen. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas caused by damage to its ducts or blockage from cancer, gallstones, alcohol use, and hypertriglyceridemia.

Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, burning sensation in the stomach area, tenderness when touching the abdomen, and yellowing skin and eyes, known as jaundice. If untreated, pancreatitis can lead to severe complications such as infection, pancreatic pseudocysts, organ failure, or even death.

Treatment for pancreatitis typically involves pain management methods and medical treatments to address underlying causes such as gallstones or nutritional deficiencies. People should always seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms associated with upper abdominal pains, particularly those related to potential heart attack, including chest pains radiating into arms and difficulty breathing.

Gastrointestinal Problems

Gastrointestinal issues can cause uncomfortable and persistent upper abdominal pain. Conditions affecting the stomach, gallbladder, or large intestine are common culprits of this type of discomfort.

Gastric ulcers, reflux oesophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus caused by acid), pancreatitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) all have the potential to produce upper right abdominal pain in adults and children alike.

Other problems such as lactose intolerance and food allergies can also manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach ache or bloating that often linger around after meals have been consumed.

Symptoms differ from person to person but may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or feeling full after little consumption; frequent trips to the restroom may be necessary with certain conditions like IBS.

Treatment and Management

[Video Credits @Rhesus Medicine]

Different treatment and management options can range from at-home remedies such as rest, ice or heat packs, pain relief medications, and avoiding certain activities that cause discomfort to medical treatments like surgery for more severe conditions.

Pain Relief Methods

  1. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relief medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen effectively ease mild to moderate upper right abdominal pain. Prescription medication can also be used for more severe cases or chronic conditions.
  2. Heat Therapy: Applying heat to the affected area with a heating pad or hot water bottle may help reduce muscle tension, relieving pain by reducing inflammation and decreasing sensitivity to stimulation within the stomach walls.
  3. Ice/Cold Therapy: Applying cold therapy, such as a bag of ice cubes wrapped around your abdomen, may slow down blood flow near the injured tissue, relieving some of your discomforts quickly after application.
  4. Massage Therapy: A massage therapist using specific techniques like myofascial release can help improve circulation throughout the abdominal region while relaxing tight muscles—which may ease the tension that often contributes to upper right abdomen pains.
  5. Distraction Methods: Physical activities or hobbies that require concentration (like playing video games) allow you to take your mind off any potential pain sensations you experience when shifting positions unexpectedly during movement – allowing extra time for relaxation between movements until less active areas have had enough restorative time, thereby providing reduces overuse related aches without exhausting yourself mentally as well as physically.

Read Also: How to Use Kamarkas for Back Pain?

Medical Treatments

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen may be used to help alleviate upper right abdominal pain.
  • Prescription medications, such as antacids and antibiotics, can also relieve discomfort in some cases and address any underlying issues causing the pain.
  • Surgery is rarely needed for upper right abdominal pain but can be necessary in cases of extreme blockages or abscesses caused by infections like appendicitis or diverticulitis.


The role of surgery in the treatment and management of upper right abdominal pain is crucial. Depending on the underlying cause, it may be necessary to surgically remove or repair tissue, organs, or other affected structures to provide relief.

Common surgical interventions for this condition include cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal), nephrectomy (kidney removal), hepatectomy (liver resection), pancreatectomy (pancreatic resection), as well as hernia repairs and appendectomies.

Adequate analgesia must be administered at all stages of surgery to reduce pain levels and maximize patient comfort after the operation. In addition, patients should practice diligent hygiene and closely follow any post-operative instructions provided by their doctor to limit potential complications, such as surgical site infections, which can occur due to inadequate wound care following a procedure.

Emergency Signs and Complications

Knowing the signs that indicate a severe medical emergency is vital to seek timely medical attention.

When to Worry

When experiencing upper right abdominal pain, it is essential to recognize any signs or symptoms that signal the need for immediate medical care. This includes excessive vomiting and diarrhea, nausea with fever, bloody stools or urine; severe sharp pains that come on abruptly and increase in intensity over time, inability to find a comfortable position when lying down or standing up; severe tenderness in the area and any other symptom beyond the normal range of discomfort experienced with occasional abdominal pain.

Ignoring these signals may lead to severe complications like peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), or appendicitis (infection and inflammation of your appendix).

It’s always best to seek immediate medical attention if you are concerned about your abdomen pain after ruling out minor causes as an initial measure.

Potential Complications

Upper right abdominal pain can be a symptom of many different conditions and should always be evaluated by a trained medical professional. Without prompt treatment, severe complications may arise, including:

  1. Sepsis: Severe infection in the bloodstream, which is a life-threatening condition. It can cause multiple organ failure and death if left untreated.
  2. Abscesses: Infection and inflammation in a contained area that can rupture and spread to the rest of the abdomen or elsewhere throughout the body.
  3. Peritonitis: Inflammation of the inner lining of the abdomen due to infection, often caused by an inflamed appendix or ruptured cyst. It’s essential to treat it quickly as it can lead to perforations in other organs, leading to further complications such as peritonitis secondary to leakage into the abdomen.
  4. Shock: A dangerous condition where not enough blood pumps through the body, and vital organs are deprived of oxygen, resulting in organ damage or even death if not treated promptly.
  5. Organ Failure: If infected tissue is left untreated, organ failure will occur due to the flushing out toxins from the body system, resulting in permanent loss of organ functions
  6. Blood Clots: Obstruction caused by blood clots can block blood flow, leading to severe complications such as strokes, heart attack, or pulmonary embolism if not treated immediately
  7. Gastrointestinal Bleeding: Umbilical hernia commonly associated with right-sided abdominal pain can sometimes lead to pancreatic and gastrointestinal bleeding if not diagnosed early.

Prevention and Well-being

Taking steps to ensure your health and well-being can help reduce the risk of upper right abdominal pain. Learn more about how to manage this condition better here.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Eating smaller, low-fat meals throughout the day and avoiding spicy and fatty foods can help reduce discomfort caused by gas or indigestion.
  • Limit alcohol intake: Alcohol irritates the stomach lining and causes pancreas inflammation, so moderating consumption can help.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Staying hydrated prevents constipation and bloating, which reduces abdominal discomfort. Opt for water over sodas or juices.
  • Exercise regularly: Moderate physical activity like brisk walking aids digestion and bowel motility to reduce gas pain. It also promotes a healthy weight.
  • Manage stress levels: Stress can exacerbate digestive issues. Relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or tai chi may help.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking impairs stomach and intestinal function, worsening many causes of abdominal pain.
  • Maintain good posture: Slouching can tense abdominal muscles, leading to strain-related pain. Practice good upright posture instead.
  • Get adequate sleep: Fatigue disrupts digestive rhythms, potentially worsening pain. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet

is essential to prevent and alleviate upper right abdominal pain. Eating balanced meals with enough calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients is vital for keeping the digestive system healthy and reducing discomfort.

In addition, keeping an eye on portions can be beneficial in warding off uncomfortable bloating from excess gas production. Harvard gut doctor recommends limiting the intake of fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, or sauerkraut if any symptoms of bloating arise as these specific foods are high FODMAPS which means they may cause digestive distress for some individuals.

Furthermore, eating small frequent meals throughout the day can help alleviate gas production by allowing your stomach acid to break down food particles into smaller sizes easier instead of overloading it all at once.

Special Considerations: Upper Right Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy

abdominal pain during pregnancy

Pregnant women should be aware that upper right abdominal pain can have unique causes and treatments requiring careful assessment and management. Read on to learn about common concerns and safe treatment methods.

Common Causes and Concerns

Upper right abdominal pain during pregnancy can be caused by a wide array of health issues, ranging from mild to severe. The most common causes are adnexal masses, ovarian torsion, and leiomyomas.

Adnexal masses are benign growths typically occurring in the ovaries or fallopian tubes but can also cause upper right-side pain. Liver problems like cirrhosis and cholecystitis – gallbladder inflammation- are another phenomenon associated with this type of discomfort.

Pancreatic issues such as pancreatitis may also present symptoms that mirror those seen in the case of upper abdominal pain. Additionally, gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) could potentially contribute to this phenomenon as well.

Symptoms such as nausea, cramping, and muscle pain are commonly associated with these conditions, and it is essential to note that cystitis or UTIs characterized by symptoms of frequency and dysuria can also play a role in causing abdominal distress in pregnant women.

Related Read: 10 Natural Remedies for Pain Relief

Safe Treatments

  1. Low-risk therapies such as antihistamines or topical steroids are safe to use during pregnancy for treating common causes of abdominal pain.
  2. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided, but acetaminophen is considered to be a safe medication for short-term use when necessary.
  3. If infection and inflammation occur in the abdomen due to any condition during labor and delivery, antibiotics can be administered safely with medical guidance and monitoring closely if needed.
  4. Interventions like massage therapy or acupuncture may also provide relief from certain types of pain, but make sure to consult your doctor before their initiation to prevent any potential risks associated with them.

Upper Right Abdominal Pain in Children

Learn the risks to look out for and how to identify whether your child is suffering from such pain.

Understanding the Causes

Pains in the upper right abdominal area can have many causes, ranging from indigestion and gallstones to more severe issues such as kidney diseases or pancreatitis. Gallstones, hardened deposits of digestive fluid found in the gallbladder, are one of the most common causes of pain in this area.

Symptoms may include severe abdominal pain radiating towards your shoulder blade or chest region and sweating while experiencing a stomachache. Kidney problems such as kidney stones can cause sharp pains in the lower back and flank region, with nausea and vomiting when expelled through urinating.

Liver conditions like cirrhosis lead to jaundice-related symptoms, including yellowing of skin eyes, intense itching sensation over the abdomen, and dull aching pains on that side.

Pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis) or some viral attack leads to recurrent bouts of sudden burning pains radiating through the entire abdomen, including the upper right corner, due to the release of inflammatory substances inside the body cavity.

When to See a Doctor

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of upper right abdominal pain that require immediate medical attention is essential. Suppose a person experiences severe sharp abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, mental confusion or slurred speech, high fever and chills, bloody vomit or stools, nausea with vomiting accompanied by dizziness and lightheadedness. In that case, they should seek medical help as soon as possible.

Additionally, if the pain persists for more than one day despite at-home treatments such as rest or heating pad application, it could lead to further complications, and the person should reach out for medical care.

Symptoms in children, such as prolonged abdominal pain that lasts longer than 72 hours, along with unintentional weight loss and hearing loss, may need specialist care. To ensure safety, always look for any sign of dehydration requiring intensive medical attention upon noticing sudden changes in your child’s behavior, like excessive sleepiness due to fatigue from extreme sweating.

Latest Updates in 2023

With the latest advances in medical technology, understanding upper right abdominal pain is easier than ever! This article dives into the most up-to-date treatments and research being done to make managing this common issue more efficient.

Research on New Treatments

  • AbbVie has progressed in treating upper right abdominal pain, with data released at the 2023 Digestive Conference.
  • New medications have been developed to help reduce symptoms and discomfort, such as elagolix, which allows lower hormone levels that contribute to endometriosis-like pain.
  • Traditional treatments, such as acupuncture or herbal remedies, are also widely used for various chronic pains.
  • Certain immunological drugs have shown efficacy against some cases of gut pain. Examples include biologics like infliximab and adalimumab that target interleukin (IL)-6 or proinflammatory molecules involved in gut inflammation and intestinal injury caused by abdominal pain disorders.
  • A newer class of ketogenic medicines is also showing promise in reducing stomach-related issues associated with upper right abdominal pain, such as nausea and vomiting when taken before meals.
  • Pain management cannot rely on medication alone; lifestyle changes should be considered to complement traditional treatment plans, such as quitting smoking or curbing caffeine intake. Physical exercise can be crucial in improving overall health and managing individualized symptoms related to the disorder.

Advancements in Diagnostics

  • Enhancements to the diagnosis of appendicitis are ongoing, including new molecular markers and serum studies.
  • Imaging modalities such as computed tomography (CT) may be used with clinical presentation and laboratory findings to diagnose acute appendicitis.
  • CT scans that involve contrast material further aid in improving diagnostic accuracy and distinguishing between infectious and noninfectious causes of abdominal pain.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also an option for diagnosing acute appendicitis, particularly when other tests fail to detect it or yield inconclusive results.
  • Ultrasound can be helpful for pregnant women suspected of having appendicitis due to specific safety concerns associated with CT scans among pregnant women.
  • Colorectal cancer screening, even if colorectal cancer does not present with any noticeable symptoms, should form a part of the evaluation for cases involving persistent abdominal pain, especially in later stages of life or after middle age, when incidence rates increase considerably.


Upper right abdominal pain can be a disruptive and uncomfortable experience that requires proper diagnosis and treatment. It is essential to distinguish the cause of the pain to receive appropriate medical care, as an underlying condition may require specific medications or even surgery.

Patients should stay informed about the latest treatments available for upper proper abdominal pain management to decide how best to handle their symptoms.

For most conditions causing upper right abdominal pain, establishing healthy lifestyle habits such as maintaining a balanced diet and exercising regularly helps reduce discomfort over time.

Even with mild cases of stomach soreness, it is essential to pay attention if it persists or becomes severe—consulting with a doctor is recommended for immediate relief from extreme distress.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you want to know more about the right abdominal pain and related topics, check the answers below.

1. What is upper right abdominal pain?

Upper right abdominal pain is discomfort or sharp, stabbing pains that occur in the area of your abdomen just under your rib cage on the right side.

2. What are some possible causes of upper right abdominal pain?

Possible causes of upper right abdominal pain include liver disease, gallstones, hepatitis, and appendicitis. Other possibilities include gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion, ulcers, and Crohn’s Disease.

3. Is Airphysio a treatment option for managing upper right abdominal pain?

Airphysio is an effective way to manage upper right abdominal pain by using targeted manual therapy techniques such as positional release and breathing exercises combined with aids from the device itself, like pulsators, which relax tense muscles near organs commonly affected by this type of pain, including the liver and appendix areas respectively.

4. Are there any lifestyle changes I should make if I have frequent bouts of Upper Right Abdominal Pain?

Yes! The latest updates suggest you should be aware of potential food allergies or sensitivities that may contribute to inflammation in these areas; limiting processed foods can also be beneficial to reducing flare-ups associated with Upper Right Abdominal Pain and maintaining minimal stress levels.


Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and does not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information is not comprehensive and should not be used to make health or well-being decisions. Consult a qualified healthcare professional with questions about a medical condition, treatment options, or health regimen. This website or the content should never replace professional medical advice.


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