If you are experiencing abdominal pain upon exertion or when you exercise, finding the exact cause is a priority. Most people associate upper stomach pain with their liver, which is located just under your rib cage and extends to the right side of your body. Your liver plays an important role in the function and digestion of fats in the body. It also plays a part in your metabolism. If you are experiencing any type of pain in the stomach area, your liver could be the culprit.
When you exercise, you are using several muscle groups throughout the body -- even if you are not targeting them specifically. Muscles can easily become pulled or strained during a workout. Most common muscle pains, especially in the abdomen, go away after rest and might or might not return the next time you exercise or apply any physical exertion. You can generally recognize the differences between liver pain and a torn muscle. Liver pain ranges from a dull ache just below your breast bone that can extend into your mid to lower back, to a sharp pain under the breastbone that extends to your right side. The pain might increase as you increase cardio output. You might also experience extreme fatigue with the pain, and in serious cases, a yellowing of the skin and eyes can occur – this is called jaundice.
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One of the main causes of distinct liver pain is liver failure. Liver discomfort in the beginning stages of liver disease generally occurs after a fatty or high-calorie meal. Certain foods and drinks high in aspartame (NutraSweet), herbal supplements, heavy alcohol usage and acetaminophen might also lead to liver discomfort and pain. As you exercise, your body converts stored glucose to energy to supply your lungs, heart and muscle function. Your liver plays a vital role in the conversion of glucose. If it is injured in any way, pain can occur. Other underlying causes of liver pain during exercise include inflammation, an infection such as hepatitis, and taking certain herbal supplements.
You should seek medical attention if your liver pain persists during exercise. The only way to accurately determine if the pain in your abdomen is in fact your liver and not caused from something else involves a series of tests. Initially, a liver function test in conjunction with a comprehensive metabolic panel will be able to determine the overall health of your liver. If results show that your liver enzyme levels are normal, your doctor might diagnose your problem as being muscular or skeletal and offer suggestions to reduce pain and discomfort during exercise. Further testing with an ultrasound or conducting a liver biopsy will help make an accurate diagnosis so treatment can begin. The liver can heal itself, and a combination of medicinal therapy in conjunction with a change in diet might be all that is needed to help with liver pain.
While the liver is a self-healing organ, your body also relies on it for survival. Pain is one of the first signs that something has gone awry. Persistent pain that increases during exercise and does not subside afterward is something that needs to be looked at immediately. It could indicate you are in liver failure. Severe pain accompanied by vomiting, weakness and fever can be life-threatening, and you should seek emergency care at once.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.