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Most of us have dealt with a nagging cough at some point in our lives. But have you ever noticed a twinge of pain in your stomach as you cough? This might seem unrelated, but there’s a scientific reason behind this phenomenon. Here are some of the underlying causes and symptoms of stomach pain when coughing, from strained muscles to underlying health conditions.

Causes of Stomach Pain When Coughing

Overuse and Strain of Stomach Muscles

One common reason for abdominal pain during coughing is the overuse and strain of stomach muscles. When we cough, especially when it’s intense or prolonged, such as during a cold or flu, we contract our abdominal muscles forcefully. This repetitive contraction can cause the muscles to become sore or even strained. Consider how a strenuous workout might lead to sore muscles the next day.

Coughing repeatedly can have a similar effect on the muscles around the abdomen. It’s this overuse that leads to the sensation of pain or discomfort. Fortunately, this kind of pain is often temporary and tends to subside once the coughing has stopped. Regular, gentle stretching may alleviate some of the discomfort, but if the pain persists, it might be wise to consult a healthcare provider.

Existing Health Conditions

Stomach pain when coughing might also be a sign of underlying health conditions. For example, if someone already has a chronic abdominal condition, coughing might exacerbate the existing pain or discomfort. In some cases, the coughing itself is not the cause of the pain but rather a symptom of another issue that is being brought to the surface. A person with gastrointestinal problems, for example, might find that their abdominal pain becomes more noticeable when they cough. Similarly, someone with a hernia may experience increased pain during a coughing fit.

It can be more complex to diagnose the exact cause of pain when existing health conditions are involved. Thus, if the pain is persistent or if the underlying condition is known, it’s best to consult a healthcare provider. They can perform a physical examination and possibly other diagnostic tests to determine the exact cause and prescribe an appropriate treatment.

Location of Stomach Pain While Coughing

Abdominal pain can be categorized into four main areas, each potentially signifying different underlying issues. Understanding the location of the pain can be key in identifying the root cause and providing appropriate treatment.

  1. Left Side: Pain on the left side of the abdomen might be associated with issues in organs like the spleen or part of the colon. Conditions such as kidney infections or diverticular disease could cause pain in this region. Depending on the exact location and nature of the pain, it might be a sign of something more serious, and a professional medical assessment may be necessary.
  2. Right Side: Pain in the right side of the abdomen is often associated with the liver, gallbladder, or the right part of the colon. Gallstones, liver disease, or infections could be the underlying causes of this type of pain. Persistent or sharp pain in this area should not be ignored and should be examined by a healthcare provider.
  3. Lower Abdomen: The lower part of the abdomen houses several vital organs, including parts of the reproductive system and urinary tract. Pain in this area could be a sign of issues such as ovarian cysts in women or prostate problems in men. Other conditions like hernias or urinary tract infections can also cause discomfort here.
  4. Upper Abdomen: The upper abdomen contains critical digestive organs such as the stomach and pancreas. Pain in this region may indicate gastritis, pancreatitis, or an ulcer. A person suffering from pain in the upper abdomen, particularly if it’s accompanied by other symptoms like nausea or indigestion, should seek medical advice.

Common Reasons for Stomach Pain When Coughing


Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, which is located on the lower right side of the abdomen. The condition typically presents with swelling, nausea, fever, decreased appetite, diarrhea, or constipation. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening, as the appendix may burst, leading to serious infection. It is essential to seek medical care promptly if appendicitis is suspected.


Gallstones are hardened deposits that form within the gallbladder. These can cause symptoms such as bloating, severe pain lasting at least 30 minutes, fever, pain in the upper back or right shoulder, jaundice, nausea, gas, or indigestion. Gallstones may require surgical removal if they cause persistent symptoms or complications. They can lead to inflammation or infection in the gallbladder, liver, or pancreas.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are solid masses that form from crystals in the urine. The symptoms include severe pain on the back sides, bloody urine, cloudy urine, nausea, fever, or chills. They can cause excruciating pain and may require medical intervention. Depending on the size and location, kidney stones might be treated with medication, shock wave therapy, or even surgical removal.

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease affects the digestive tract, specifically the colon. Small pouches, called diverticula, form in the colon’s walls, leading to symptoms like bloating, pain, fever, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. This condition can be managed with dietary changes and medication, but severe cases may necessitate surgical intervention.


Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, often caused by a urinary tract infection. Symptoms may include cloudy or dark urine, frequent urination, blood in the urine, and feeling unwell. Antibiotics usually treat this condition, and it is essential to finish the prescribed course of medication to prevent recurrence.


Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, a vital organ in digestion. Symptoms include pain that spreads to the lower back, worsening abdominal pain, loose stools, swelling, and unintentional weight loss. The condition requires immediate medical care and can be caused by gallstones, heavy alcohol consumption, or certain medications.


Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause significant pain in the pelvis, lower back, and lower abdominal areas, worsening during certain activities. Treatment may include pain relief, hormone therapy, or surgery.


A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. Pain often worsens when coughing, running, sneezing, passing a bowel movement, or lifting heavy things. Depending on the location and severity, a hernia may require surgical repair.

Ovarian Cysts

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in or on the ovaries. These cysts may cause lower pain, bloating, and sharp pain in the side of the stomach. Most cysts are harmless and resolve on their own, but they can sometimes cause serious symptoms, requiring medical intervention.

When to Seek Out Immediate Medical Attention Due to Stomach Pain

If any of the following symptoms occur, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Severe abdominal pain that worsens
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Nausea or vomiting

Final Words

Understanding why the stomach hurts when coughing requires an examination of various underlying conditions and factors. From common occurrences like overuse and strain of stomach muscles to more serious health conditions like appendicitis, gallstones, and kidney stones, a multitude of reasons could contribute to the pain.

Recognizing the specific symptoms and seeking timely medical care can lead to proper diagnosis and treatment. Whether it’s a temporary discomfort or an indication of a more severe issue, awareness of one’s body and medical consultation is key to appropriate management and recovery.

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