The lower abdomen is home to many important and interconnected systems in the human body.  For this reason, persistent or severe stomach pain when coughing can be alarming and give patients reason to worry about an underlying cause. 

Abdominal pain comes in many forms, with some patients experiencing a dull, lingering ache and others describing their pain as “sharp” or “sudden.” Oftentimes, pain symptoms can become worse while coughing, laughing, and sneezing, as each of these actions requires tension in the abdominal muscles. Pain when coughing should be taken seriously, not only because of potential digestive conditions but because digestive issues left untreated can sometimes expand to impact the respiratory system and cause chest pain or life-threatening breathing difficulties. 

Below are some common reasons you may be experiencing stomach pain when coughing


Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that sits behind the stomach in the lower abdomen. Symptoms of pancreatitis can include worsening abdominal pain that spreads to the lower back, abdominal swelling, unintentional weight loss, and diarrhea. This condition is usually treated through diet changes and fluid regulation in a controlled setting. Treatment of this illness is paramount, as chronic pancreatitis may lead to permanent damage. 

Ovarian Cysts 

Ovarian cysts are sacs of fluid that can develop in the ovaries. While most of these cysts do not pose a serious health risk, as they are disposed of by the menstrual cycle upon bursting, larger ovarian cysts may require treatment. Symptoms of ovarian cysts can include: 

  • Mild to severe lower abdominal pain
  • Sharp pain in the side of the stomach
  • Abdominal bloating or swelling

Surgery may be required to treat large cysts that are not responding to medications, or for those that may be cancerous.

man with kidney stones and stomach pain in Houston, TX

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hardened deposits of calcium that develop in urine. Passing a kidney stone may cause severe abdominal pain as the stone scrapes the sides of the bladder and urethra on its way out of the body. Kidney stones symptoms may include any of the following:   

  • Severe Abdominal Pain
  • Stomach Ache
  • Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine
  • Bloody Urine
  • Fever or Chills
  • Nausea or Vomiting

Kidney stones can sometimes resolve themselves naturally with the help of a few lifestyle changes. However, surgery may be required for large stones or in the case of an emergency.


A hernia occurs when organs push through the muscle tissue that holds them in place. Hernias can occur when increased pressure is placed on the muscles of the abdomen, such as lifting a very heavy object. Symptoms of a hernia can include pain while lifting, coughing, or bending over, abdominal bulging or burning, and nausea. Older men, overweight individuals, and patients who suffer from consistent constipation are at a higher risk of developing a hernia.

Hernias can become life-threatening when they cause a portion of the bowl to lose circulation and effectively die. Emergency hernia situations are addressed through surgery; however, there are also surgical options for repairing hernias before progressing to a critical level. 


Gallstones form when there is an excess of bile, bilirubin, or cholesterol present in the gallbladder. Gallstones are largely asymptomatic but can eventually result in gallbladder attacks as they grow. Common symptoms of gallstones can include severe abdominal pain that lasts for 30 minutes at a time, bloating, fever, chills, jaundice, gas or indigestion, nausea, or vomiting. 

Gallstones can either be treated through medications prescribed to dissolve them or through surgical removal.


Most commonly impacting women, endometriosis occurs when tissue resembling the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. This can cause severe back pain in the lower back, hips, and lower abdominal areas. This pain can be exacerbated by menstruation, sexual intercourse, urination, and bowel movements. Left untreated, endometriosis can cause infertility. 

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease occurs when small sacs, called diverticula, bulge against weak spots in the colon. A flare-up of this condition can cause abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, abnormal stool or bowel movements, and bloody stool. For treatment, your physician may suggest medications, a probiotic regimen, and a high-fiber diet. 

diverticular disease emergency room Houston, TX


Cystitis is a common type of urinary tract infection that can cause frequent urination, cloudy, dark, or foul-smelling urine, abdominal pain, and bloody urine. While most cases of cystitis will resolve themselves within three days, sometimes infections will increase in severity. In the event of increased pain, doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat the condition.  


Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix resulting from a blockage in the appendix’s lining. Patients may experience broad stomach pain that centralizes to the right side of the body and increases in severity. Feelings of stomach pain may worsen when coughing or sneezing. Patients may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, fever, loss of appetite, inability to pass gas, and nausea.

Appendicitis is a serious condition that can result in a severe and potentially fatal infection and, as a result, should be treated immediately. 


GERD, also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, is a digestive disease that causes bile to flow back into the esophagus, thus irritating the esophagus’s lining. GERD may cause sharp stomach pain, coughing, vomiting, and other severe heartburn symptoms. GERD can be treated through the use of antacids and dietary changes. 

Other Underlying Issues

If the conditions above are eliminated as potential causes of stomach pain when coughing, then it is possible that the pain is a result of another underlying issue. The severity of these potential causes can range from pulled abdominal muscles to certain types of cancer. It is imperative that you do not attempt to self-diagnose a possible condition. Instead, speak to your general practitioner or a gastroenterologist to procure a professional diagnosis.

Village Emergency Centers Can Help

Seek medical attention if your stomach pain does not improve quickly, is severe, or if your pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Dry Cough
  • Burning Sensation in the Throat
  • Abdominal Bulge with Tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Black or Bloody Stools
  • Trouble Breathing

Stomach pain when coughing can cause feelings of uncertainty and worry. In times of emergency, reach out to medical professionals you can trust for help! Visit our website to find a Village near you.