Is Diverticulitis Pain Normal?

Diverticulitis can cause symptoms including abdominal pain. One of the most common diverticulitis symptoms is abdominal pain on your lower left or right side. Diverticulitis pain can get worse when you sleep or exercise. The pain might be managed with changes in diet and medications.

This article will address what diverticulitis pain feels like and how it might be treated.

Person sitting on bed, holding abdomen

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What Does It Feel Like to Have Diverticulitis?

Diverticular disease affects the colon (large intestine) and occurs when small pouches, called diverticula, form in the lining of the colon. Most people don’t know they have diverticula, and there may not be any symptoms. However, when these outpouchings become inflamed, diverticulitis results.

Initially, it might not be obvious that the symptoms come from diverticulitis. Knowing what diverticulitis feels like might help narrow down the cause of symptoms and help you understand when to see a healthcare provider.

The Location of Diverticulitis Pain

Diverticulitis might cause pain in the lower left or lower right sides of the abdomen. You may feel aching or cramping. The abdomen might also be tender to the touch, especially during an examination by a healthcare provider.

Additional Diverticulitis Symptoms

Abdominal discomfort or pain, or pain in the suprapubic area (below the naval), is commonly noted in diverticulitis. Other signs or symptoms can include:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Mucus in the stool 
  • Vomiting

Red Flag Symptoms

Symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea that won’t stop, copious bleeding from the rectum, severe abdominal pain, fainting, or dizziness, are reasons to seek care at an emergency department as soon as possible.

Most Common Causes for Diverticular Disease

It's not exactly clear why people develop diverticular disease, but there are several different causes. These include genetics, lifestyle, and environmental causes.

Factors that may lead to inflamed diverticula and causing symptoms include:

  • Genetics: A predisposition toward diverticular disease can be inherited. Certain genes may make it more likely for a person to have diverticula.
  • Lifestyle: It's thought that a low-fiber diet, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking cigarettes, and overusing medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or steroids may be factors in developing diverticular disease.
  • Microbiome: The community of microbes in the gut is called the microbiome. An imbalance (dysbiosis) in these bacteria is another potential cause of diverticular disease. It's also thought that bacteria or stool getting stuck in a diverticulum could be a factor in diverticulitis.
  • Structural changes: Changes to the colon's muscles, tissues, and nerves may lead to developing diverticular disease.
  • Immune changes: A change in the immune response in the colon may also contribute to diverticular disease.
  • Chronic constipation: Moving hard stool through the colon may contribute to developing diverticula.

Diverticulitis usually results when several of these factors combine to cause an inflammation of the diverticula. Changes in the microbiome, immune response in the colon, stool moving slowly through the colon, and other lifestyle factors may lead to an attack of diverticulitis.

How Do You Know If Your Pain Is From Diverticulitis?

It may not be possible to know that abdominal pain is from diverticulitis if it’s the first time you’re experiencing symptoms. Seeing a healthcare provider when you notice any new abdominal pain is important, even if it has happened before.

Could Your Abdominal Pain Be Something Else?

The symptoms of diverticulitis can be nonspecific, meaning that they can also be caused by other diseases or conditions. It can be helpful to keep track of symptoms in order to be specific about them with healthcare providers. Conditions inside or outside of the digestive system could cause symptoms similar to diverticulitis.

Diseases and conditions that have symptoms similar to diverticulitis include:

  • Abdominal aorta rupture or dissection: A rare and extremely painful tear in the largest artery of the body
  • Appendicitis: When the appendix becomes inflamed, which can cause lower right quadrant pain and fever
  • Colon cancer: A tumor or growth in the colon that can cause symptoms such as pain, constipation, and bleeding
  • Ectopic pregnancy: A fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus and cannot grow into an embryo, causing pain and vaginal bleeding
  • Gallbladder problems: Inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis) or gallstones (cholelithiasis)
  • Hernia: Intestines or other organs that push through a weakened area of the abdominal wall, causing pain or a bulge on the belly
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): A group of diseases that causes inflammation in the body and symptoms in the digestive system, such as pain, bleeding, and diarrhea
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A disorder of the brain-gut connection that can lead to abdominal pain and constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Ischemic colitis: A lack of blood flow to the colon, which causes abdominal pain
  • Mittelschmerz: Abdominal pain sometimes felt with ovulation (the movement of an egg through the fallopian tubes), occurring midway through a menstrual cycle
  • Ovarian cyst: A pocket of fluid that may form on an ovary, which may cause pain
  • Pancreatitis: A painful inflammation of the pancreas
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease: An infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries that may cause pain
  • Salpingitis: Inflammation of the fallopian tubes caused by a bacterial infection

How to Manage Diverticulitis Pain

Mild pain from diverticulitis might be managed at home. However, most cases require antibiotics. More serious pain may require treatment in the hospital.

At home, pain treatment may include Tylenol (acetaminophen). NSAIDs such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen) aren’t usually recommended for diverticulitis pain because they can be associated with bleeding in the digestive tract.

Pain that can’t be treated at home might need management in the hospital with intravenous pain medications. Antibiotics may also be given.

Aside from pain management, a liquid diet might be recommended for a few days. However, there’s no good evidence that it may help. Antibiotics might also be recommended in complicated cases. Surgery might be a possibility when diverticulitis keeps coming back.

Preventing Diverticulitis Flares

There’s not much evidence to show what types of medications or lifestyle changes might help prevent diverticulitis. However, some lifestyle changes might be recommended by a healthcare provider, indluding: 

  • Avoiding NSAIDs
  • Eating less red meat
  • Eating more fiber
  • Keeping to a healthy weight
  • Reducing alcohol intake
  • Stopping smoking

Antibiotics, probiotics (friendly bacteria), and Lialda (mesalamine) have so far not been shown definitively to reduce the recurrence of diverticulitis. More clinical trials are needed on these medications.

Popcorn, nuts, and seeds were formerly thought to increase the risk of diverticulitis, but research shows this to be untrue. In fact, these high-fiber foods may protect against developing diverticular disease. A diet rich in fiber is encouraged.

Can Diverticulitis Pain Last for Weeks?

Not everyone who has diverticulitis has pain. However, when pain is present, it may last for several days after treatment starts. For complicated cases of diverticulitis, the pain may last longer.

If the pain doesn’t improve after treatment starts, is severe, or lasts for more than several days, it’s important to be examined by a healthcare provider. 

When to Seek Care

If you have symptoms such as abdominal pain and bleeding, seek care from a healthcare provider to determine the cause.

Uncomplicated diverticulitis might get better with some conservative treatment at home. For more complicated cases, treatment in the hospital might be needed.

If symptoms don’t get better with treatment, it’s important to go for follow-up care. There could be another reason for the symptoms or a complication caused by diverticulitis.


Diverticulitis may cause abdominal pain. In most cases, symptoms of diverticulitis last for a few days. Some people may have a recurrence. but most people recover fully and symptoms resolve. If pain or other symptoms don’t get better, see a healthcare provider and get reevaluated.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Amber J. Tresca
Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker who covers digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.