Bariatric Surgery FAQ

Horrible Pain On Left Side After Gastric Bypass

Horrible Pain On Left Side After Gastric Bypass - Bariatric Fusion

If you’ve had gastric bypass surgery, or know someone who has, you are probably aware that this surgery may cause patients to experience abdominal pain at times.

In general, most patients complain of pain in the left shoulder or along the abdomen and rib cage area.

It should be noted that a variety of factors may be causing pain to the left side of the body after gastric bypass surgery.

Often, this can be excruciating for patients who are trying to recover.

In this article, we will look at some of the common causes of pain to the left side after gastric bypass surgery.

We will also include some tips and tricks for both preventing and managing this type of pain.

What This Article Covers:

Horrible Pain On Left Side After Gastric Bypass

gastric pain in abdomen

The pain to the left side that is experienced by patients following gastric bypass surgery is commonly mentioned as gastric bypass side effects.

In fact, more than half of patients with gastric bypass problems complain of this type of pain following a gastric bypass surgical procedure.

Let’s look at the most common causes of this pain below.

The Most Common Causes of Abdominal Pain Post-Surgery


Pain on the left side of the body after gastric bypass surgery is most commonly a direct result of the incisions made during the procedure itself.

When bariatric surgery is performed, an incision in made below the ribs where the intestines are being re-routed. This may cause damage to nerves and bruise muscles. Side pain can follow surgery.

Many patients underestimate the extent of the surgery and immediately try to be too active.

This is often because the minimal scarring may lead patients to believe that the procedure was minor, when in fact, there is a lot more going on inside your body than you might think.

It is important to listen to your body and rest. Do not do anything that will lead your bruised muscles into overextension.

The good news is that small modifications to posture have proven very helpful in patients who suffer pain as a result of the incision.

This type of pain will last a few weeks after surgery and dealing with it is part of a healthy recovery process.

Most patients learn to cope with the discomfort of this type of pain early in their recovery.

CO2 Build-Up

Alternatively, the pain may originate from CO2 residue that has built up inside the abdomen.

During the gastric bypass procedure, CO2 is used to inflate and stretch the abdomen so that the doctors can operate.

If some of the CO2 remains in the body after surgery, it can naturally accumulate in the left side of the abdomen. This may cause sharp pain that can even be felt in the left shoulder.

Think of this as a balloon that is partially deflated but some of the air remains inside.

In order to avoid this feeling or minimize the effects, start moving as soon as it is medically feasible after surgery. This will allow the gas to move around and be pushed out.

Any mobility is good mobility here. Intense exercise is not advised at this phase and any kind of exercise should be cleared by your healthcare provider first.

For some people, it might be daunting to get up and walk around so soon after surgery. In that case, in order to remove excess CO2, deep breathing may benefit you.

This symptom is common but very easy to avoid if precautionary measures are taken.

Food Intolerance

The changes to the gastrointestinal tract can be difficult for the body to adjust to. New lifestyle changes are required to be made in order to heal and recover from surgery to see the most benefits.

gastric bypass food stuck or blockage

Food intolerances are not common for everyone however, it is more common to see an intolerance to dairy in gastric bypass patients.

Some people find that they are intolerant to red meat, high fat, high sugar, and dairy after weight loss surgery.

This may change over time or you might have to make adjustments to your food options for life. Working with a dietitian can help make this process easier.

Other Cause of Pain Post-Surgery

Some people may experience pain on the left side of the abdomen or in other areas of the body. If none of the above conditions can explain the pain you are experiencing, you should consider that you may be suffering pain as a result of one of the following:


Anastomotic leakage can be one of the common and more severe gastric bypass complications.

Most leaks develop about three days after surgery, but some may manifest weeks later.

A leak is often characterized by symptoms of intense abdominal pain and pain to the left shoulder.

There are a number of concerns that may cause a leak, including poor blood flow, existing health conditions, and tools used during surgery.

Leaks are a common complication following gastric bypass surgery, but they can become severely dangerous if left untreated. Be sure to contact a physician if you suspect you have one.

They may lead to other health conditions if left untreated, such as aspiration pneumonia that occurs when digestive juices spill into the lungs.

Leaks are treated with antibiotics and by draining any infection that might have occurred.

Doctors will immediately repair the leak and stop all feeding by mouth until the leak has completely healed.

Some people are especially vulnerable to leaks, especially diabetics, men, smokers, and those who have had any type of abdominal surgery in the past.


Gastric bypass surgery alters your ability to register a feeling of fullness.

gastric bypass after effects

Patients may find they eat too quickly without registering satiety until the stomach is stretched, causing gastric sleeve pain after eating.

This may result in a feeling of discomfort or pain, especially in the upper abdomen and ribcage area.

To avoid this, it is important to understand that the stomach is much smaller than it once was. It is recommended that you eat small portions, chew slowly, and only introduce new foods when your doctor gives you clearance.

Nutrient Deficiency

Gastric bypass surgery causes restriction and malabsorption of daily nutrients. That being said, the foods you typically eat will not provide you with the nutrition it once did and supplements are needed to compensate.

Many of the common nutritional deficiencies that occur as a result of gastric bypass surgery have been associated with abdominal pain or discomfort.

This can easily be prevented by using specifically formulated bariatric vitamins and ensuring you are consuming adequate protein.

Just like it can be difficult to get all of your vitamins and minerals in due to the outcomes of surgery, this can also affect your protein intake. When considering the food types and small portions that are permitted in the post-gastric bypass diet plan, it is understandable that you will have to incorporate bariatric meal replacements into your diet.

Dumping Syndrome

gastric bypass pain

Dumping syndrome refers to the process by which food gets dumped into the small intestine too quickly.

This may result in a variety of symptoms, such as abdominal discomfort and pain.

Dumping syndrome can be avoided by not drinking fluids with meals, eating smaller portions, limiting high sugar and fat intake.

Sometimes it is recommended that patients lie down after eating in order to avoid the symptoms associated with dumping syndrome.


Constipation after sleeve gastrectomy is commonly associated with mild to severe abdominal pain and may occur as a result of modifications to a patient’s diet plan.

Constipation can be prevented by avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugar content and by ensuring that you get enough fiber in your diet.

It is important to slowly introduce fiber. Increased fiber can cause gas and an uncomfortable feeling. It is best to work with a registered dietitian on your diet plan to introduce fiber. It is important consume adequate amounts as it can contribute to the feeling of fullness and support bowel regularity.


If pain is followed soon after surgery there can be a number of causes.

More common complications can include CO2 build up, food intolerance, constipation, and issues with the incision site.

Be careful not to over work your body. Focus on healing and recovery. Make sure to follow the recommendations made by your healthcare provider for activity after surgery.

It is important to work with your healthcare provider to ensure you do not have a serious complication occurring like a leak or stenosis. If you have left shoulder pain, coupled with the symptoms of dizziness, rapid heart rate, vomiting, and nausea after gastric sleeve surgery, this may be the sign of a leak.

If none of these resonate with you, your pain may be ascribed to a more general side effect or condition such as a nutrient deficiency or constipation.

For the best results after surgery, follow your bariatric diet plan, take you bariatric supplements daily, and consume enough protein and fiber.

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**This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition.

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