Appendicitis Pain: Location, What It Feels Like & Duration

Updated in October 2022

Appendicitis pain is usually felt on the right side of the abdomen and/or around the belly button. It starts very suddenly and within 24 hours of initial inflammation of the appendix. Appendicitis pain can be accompanied by other symptoms, like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite or fever.  

The appendix is a part of the large intestine and is located in the lower right abdomen. It is described to be shaped like a finger cut off of a glove. This organ can become obstructed for many reasons, like accumulation of stool, swollen lymph nodes or intestinal worms, which can all contribute to bacterial growth and inflammation of the appendix. 

Symptoms of appendicitis should be urgently assessed to avoid further complications, like appendix rupture. 

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Appendicitis pain location

Appendicitis pain initially starts in the center of the abdomen, and can be described as diffuse and felt around the belly button. After a few hours, however, the pain can start to be felt in a more specific spot. 

Appendicitis pain is classically reported to be felt in the right lower abdomen, however this type of pain can also be a sign of another condition, like Crohn’s disease, intestinal inflammation, a right ovarian cyst or an inguinal hernia. Learn more about what can cause right-side abdominal pain

Lower left abdominal pain 

Pain in the lower left abdomen is rarely associated with appendicitis, however it can be a sign of pancreatitis, intestinal inflammation, trapped gas, an inguinal hernia or a left ovarian cyst. Read more about what can cause left-sided abdominal pain and what to do. 

What appendicitis pain feels like 

Appendicitis pain starts suddenly and is sharp. Some people may experience a mild or weak pain at the start, but it comes more intense and constant over time. This pain often worsens with coughing, sneezing or walking. 

Although appendicitis pain is normally felt in the lower right abdomen, appendicitis pain can also be felt around the belly button. It can also be felt in the entire abdomen, which is generally what happens when the appendix ruptures. 

Duration of pain 

Appendicitis pain is usually felt within 24 hours of the onset of appendix swelling. It can worsen if the appendix ruptures, which can occur 48 to 72 hours after the start of symptoms.

Appendicitis pain usually does not resolve until the appendix is surgically removed. Therefore, you should seek urgent medical attention or proceed to an emergency room if you notice any symptoms of appendicitis. Having a prompt assessment can prevent further complications, like an abdominal cavity infection, which can be life-threatening. 

What to do

When pain in the lower right abdomen is constant and accompanied by other symptoms, live fever, loss of appetite, and nausea, you should seek medical attention for assessment and diagnosis. 

Diagnosis of appendicitis is confirmed through a physical assessment, in which the doctor will palpate the abdomen, as well as lab tests and imaging tests. The doctor will likely order an abdominal ultrasound to visualize the appendix and look for signs of inflammation. 

If appendicitis is confirmed, treatment involves surgical removal of the appendix, known as an appendectomy. It is preferably completed within 24 hours of the initial diagnosis.