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Upper left abdominal pain radiating into back

Hi everyone,

I have had this TERRIBLE upper left side abdominal pain for about two and a half months now. I do not know what to do. I think that I have chronic pancreatitis, but it seems that no doctor wants to listen to me.

It all started in early September. I was very ill for a few days. High fever, nausea, chills, terrible abdominal pain and I vomited once. This lasted about 3 days. I did not eat. Since then, I have had this pain in my upper left abdomen and it radiates to the back. My stool is light. Don't know if it is considered clay colored.

I went to my primary and he suggested gallbladder, even though the pain was in the left. He did blood work and ultrasound and said everything looked. The pain came on so bad the one day I called 911 cause I thought I was going to pass out and I was home alone with my daughter. Had my amalyse and lipase tested and that was in a normal range.

I was a very heavy drinker for a long time and then stopped for about 3 and 1/2 years. I got drunk a few times over this summer just before this all started. I have since stopped drinking. Also, the pain is always there. But if I eat a lot or something very greasy it really sets the pain off more.

Today I went to the ER again because the pain was really bad and I told the dr. I really thought I have chronic pancreatitis. He took my blood and urine and told me my blood looked fine. My gastro suggested IBS but I don't have any symptoms of that. I feel like no one is listening to me. I am missing work, my husband is sick of me complaining and my daughter needs her mom to be in better shape.

I am having a colonoscopy and endoscopy in two days, but that is not going to look at my pancrease. Can anyone help me. I am sooo desperate!!!!
9 Responses
1728693 tn?1332168862
I'm assuming there is no fever with this pain, because of there is you need to go to emerg to have this investigated yesterday.

From 'net sources -

Left side abdominal pain may arise from the internal organs of the gastrointestinal and urinary tract, chest, pelvic cavity, abdominal wall muscles, bones (ribs, spine, pelvis), vessels, nerves or skin. The presence of other signs and symptoms are an important indication of possible causes of left sided abdominal pain and factors that exacerbate or ease the pain are a vital clue to the underlying condition.

If the pain is of a sudden onset, unbearable and associated with a high fever, dizziness, confusion or a loss of consciousness, immediate medical attention needs to be sought. Take note of whether the pain is related to eating, sleeping, bowel movements, flatulence (passing gas), movement or menstrual cycle in females.

The list of causes of  left side abdominal pain are listed below are arranged in order from the upper abdomen (above the navel) to lower abdomen (below the navel). It is intended to serve as a guide but ultimately a diagnosis by a medical professional is necessary so that the appropriate treatment can be commenced as soon as possible. An abdominal ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan or MRI are often necessary for a definitive diagnosis, along with specialized investigations like a flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or double contrast barium enema for gastrointestinal conditions.

UPPER Left Abdominal Pain

Upper left abdominal pain is most often due to a condition afflicting one or more organs or structure in the LUQ (left upper quadrant) of the abdomen. It may also be due to conditions in the thoracic cavity or lower left abdominal area that either refers or radiates to the LUQ. Causes of upper left abdominal pain include:


Also known as the large bowel, it is responsible for the final stages of water absorption which leads to the formation of a solid stool from liquid intestinal chyme from the small intestine. It houses a number of species of colonic bacteria which are necessary for normal functioning but can be pathological if there is an overgrowth or pathogenic bacteria replace it. The large intestine includes the cecum (junction between small and large intestine), colon, rectum and anus. Conditions of the large intestine that may cause left side abdominal pain includes :

    Volvulus – twisting of the transverse colon around its axis (rare)


The abdominal muscles includes several types of muscles that make up the abdominal wall. It protects the abdominal organs which lacks a skeletal shield like the chest cavity and also plays various roles in movement of the legs and thorax. These muscle also stabilize the trunk during standing, walking and running and are prone to injury. Muscular conditions that may cause abdominal pain includes :

    Muscle strain
    Abdominal hernia
    Strenuous exercise
    Blow, blunt force trauma
    Rectus sheath hematoma
    Abscess in psoas muscle


The pancreas is a large multipurpose gland which has exocrine functions that affects digestion and endocrine functions which control metabolism. It empties its digestive enzymes (exocrine component) into the duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, along with bile released by the gallbladder. Without these enzymes, the process of digestion is severely hampered. Pancreatic conditions that may cause left side abdominal pain include :

    Acute or chronic pancreatitis
    Pancreatic cancer


The spleen is the largest lymph node in the body responsible for filtering blood and removing cellular debris and foreign microorganisms. Although the spleen can be removed without hampering life, it nevertheless plays several important roles in the body. Splenic conditions that may cause left side abdominal pain includes :

    Splenic infarct
    Ruptured spleen, often in car accidents
    Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) only in cases of massive splenomegaly.


The kidney is responsible for filtering the blood, removing wastes and passing it out in the urine while conserving essential electrolytes and water. It also plays other important roles in regulating several functions in the body that are not associated with urine, like stimulating the production of red blood cells. The kidney is located in the upper part of the abdomen and shielded by the ribcage. Urine from the kidney leads to the bladder via the ureter. Conditions affecting the kidney and/or ureter that may result in left side abdominal pain include :

    Pyelonephritis – infection of the kidney
    Glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation), kidney cyst or tumor
    Urinary stones


The adrenal gland, also known as the suprarenal gland, is located on the top of the kidney. It has two distinct layers, the medulla and cortex, which secrete various hormones that play important roles in the body.

    Adrenal adenoma (benign tumor)
    Adrenal carcinoma also known as adrenocortical carcinoma. (malignant tumor)


The lungs are responsible for gas exchange between the air and blood stream. Although not often considered in abdominal pain, diseases affecting the base of the lung may affect the pleura lining around the lung) and diaphragm (main muscle of respiration) that can lead to pain. The lung itself cannot feel pain unless the surrounding structures are affected. Some conditions of the lung that may cause abdominal pain includes :

    Pneumonia – usually bacterial or viral
    Pleuritis – inflammation of the lung membrane
    Pulmonary embolism – blood clots in the lungs


The heart is the muscular pump that circulates blood throughout the body. It is situated in the mediastinum, the centrally located cavity between the lungs and is in close proximity to the upper middle abdominal area. It often causes referred pain to the upper abdomen when diseased.

    Heart attack
    Angina pectoris – pain behind the breastbone in heart or coronary arteries disease
    Pericarditis, mycocarditis or endocarditis

Heart diseases are often considered as medical emergencies as the condition can be life-threatening. It should always be suspected when accompanied by symptoms such as pain to the left jaw or arm with dizziness and/or fainting.

The diaphragm is the largest muscle of respiration and separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. During inspiration it pushes the abdominal contents downwards as the chest cavity expands. On the left side, the most prominent feature is the diaphragmatic opening which allows the esophagus (gullet) to pass to connect with the stomach.

    Abscess – collection of pus below diaphragm


The stomach is the hollow sac that lies between the end of the esophagus and the first part of the small intestine known as the duodenum. It is prone to various diseases often associated with the corrosive gastric acid that it produces and holds. Some conditions of the stomach that may be responsible for left sided abdominal pain includes :

    Stomach ulcers
    Hiatal hernia
    Stomach cancer
    Stomach polyps – pain is more likely in large masses.


    Bowel obstruction
    Abdominal adhesions

Avatar universal

Thanks. There is no fever now, but when this all started I had a fever of 104. I went to urgent care and they sent me home saying it was the flu. I literally thought I was dying for the next 3 days. After all that I still had the pain in my left upper abdomen radiating into my back.. and still do. I met with my primary and he said there was no flu that early in the season. SO now I think that whatever I had is related to the constant pain I have now. The pain is always there, and gets worse after eating. Extremely worse if I eat something fatty or greasy.
1728693 tn?1332168862
If you really DO suspect pancreatitis, there are things you can do to try to ease the symptoms. According the the Mayo Clinic website -

    Stop drinking alcohol. If you're unable to stop drinking alcohol on your own, ask your doctor for help. Your doctor can refer you to local programs to help you stop drinking.

    Stop smoking. If you smoke, quit. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you can't quit on your own, ask your doctor for help. Medications and counseling can help you quit smoking.

    Choose a low-fat diet. Choose a diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, and that limits fats.

    Drink more water. Pancreatitis can cause dehydration, so keep a water bottle or glass of water with you during the day to help you remember to drink more water.

Hope you get some answers. The only other organ on that side is the spleen, but I think that would be seen on an ultrasound if it is enlarged.
Avatar universal
Think abd wall hernia (even without an obvious bulge).  Very common in women.  A small one can act like this and cause signs of intermittent bowel obstruction or chronic recurrent pain radiating along the nerve paths that the hernia irritates.  Usually symptoms are worse with sitting, bending, and resolve in the morning but worsen as the day goes on.  Often a missed diagnosis in women.  Telling the doctors that you think it is your pancreas may lead them on a wild goose chase (called red herring) and lead to recurring labs to check your pancreas.  If they have ruled out pancreatitis by labs, and CT was not done with the correct procedure to see hernia, they may miss this diagnosis.  Mark the area that hurts with a pen, look up signs of danger for hernia, and see your doctor urgently or not depending on your symptoms.  Rule out hernia.
1143850 tn?1413216148
Did you ever get diagnosis please as I have similar symptoms
1143850 tn?1413216148
Did you ever get diagnosis please as I have similar symptoms
Avatar universal
I have the same symptoms and I am starting to think mine are caused by tapeworm. My left lung will feel like I'm being poked by needles my upper middle stomach feels in a knot. I'm only 19 male and have been experiencing these symptoms on and off for 4 years
Avatar universal
I have chronic pancreatitis but it was difficult to diagnose because during an attack my amylase and lipase would be totally normal. Doctors at the ER didn't believe I was telling the truth about my level of pain. Then my internist thought to check those levels 2 days after an attack and sure enough they were both highly elevated. So I sympathize. I hope my story helps someone.
I have all the exact symptoms. I have had every test imaginable except an ERCP which I don't recommend because if you don't have pancreatitis it can push you into it. I did show infectious colitis which went away with antibiotics. I'm still in pain and don't know why. I am having exploratory surgery coming up. I understand your pain. It's just awful it hurts to eat and hurts to do simple daily activities. You go to the ER and everything comes out normal which is even more frustrating because they look at you like you are crazy or just drug seeking. Hang in there. Did you ever have the colonoscopy? Also have you been checked for H-Pylori?
Avatar universal
I had severe upper left quadrant pain the whole 2nd year of seeing my doctor at least once a month (1st year was spent treating a "cold" that wouldnt go away.) I was finally diagnosed with end-stage liver disease at 27 years old, and the doctors tried to send me straight to hospice, telling my parents that out of all of the blood work and tests I'd had done, they didnt check my liver because i was so young (This was a lie). Thankfully i was not a throwaway like they assumed, and my uncle helped arrange for me to go to KU Medical, where they literally nursed me back to life (ended up a transplant recipient, instead of dead 4 months after i was married;) Long story short, make sure you see your test results yourself, and it was my liver, even though the pain was on the left.
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