What Does Ovarian Cyst Pain Feel Like?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that commonly develop in or on the ovaries. Though most resolve or go away by themselves and don't cause any symptoms, an ovarian cyst that ruptures (or breaks open) can be serious and cause sharp, severe, sudden, and intense pain.

This article discusses ovarian cyst pain symptoms and when you may need medical attention.

A woman experiencing stomach or abdominal pain
LaylaBird / Getty Images.

Describing Ovarian Cyst Pain

Many small or average-sized intact ovarian cysts are painless. But if a larger ovarian cyst bursts open (or ruptures), you may notice intense pain immediately. Why some cysts rupture and others don't is unclear to experts.

A functional ovarian cyst (the most common type) will often shrink and disappear after a few menstrual cycles without any treatment. Typical functional cysts might cause pelvic pain or pressure that can feel similar to period cramps but usually won't compare to the possible severe pain of a ruptured ovarian cyst.


Serious ovarian cyst pain might feel:

  • Sharp
  • Sudden
  • Severe
  • Intense

This pain may also start as a dull ache or pressure. You might also feel pain even more intensely during sexual intercourse.


Ovarian cyst pain commonly happens along the lower abdomen, but you may also feel it in the lower back depending on the exact location of the cyst. This pain might feel strongest on one side of the body.

Other Symptoms

Other symptoms of a ruptured ovarian cyst include:

  • Spotting or bleeding
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Feeling faint or dizzy

Signs of a Ruptured Ovarian Cyst: When to Go to the ER

Though having an ovarian cyst isn’t always a cause for alarm, if it ruptures (breaks open), the situation can be painful and potentially serious. That’s because a burst ovarian cyst could lead to infection, torsion (twisting of an ovary), or bleeding, which might be life-threatening if not treated as soon as possible.

Experts recommend seeking medical attention right away if you experience the following:

  • Severe pain that doesn’t seem to get better
  • Vomiting and fever
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat

Ovarian Cyst Pain From Associated Conditions

Ovarian cysts commonly develop during childbearing years due to ovulation and pregnancy. But you can also experience ovarian cyst pain linked to associated conditions, such as:

  • Endometriosis: When tissue similar to the inside of the uterus develops outside the uterus and can form ovarian cysts
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): A hormonal condition that is associated with enlarged ovaries and multiple small follicles or cysts inside the ovaries
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): An infection that can affect the ovaries and fallopian tubes
  • Pelvic or gynecologic surgery complications: There's a chance of scar tissue or infection involving the ovary
  • Ovarian cancer: In rare cases, cysts can be cancerous, which occurs most often in people who are older

How Do You Know What Ovarian Cyst Pain Feels Like?

When you notice symptoms of what you think might be ovarian cyst pain, getting a confirmed diagnosis is important to treat it properly.

Though there are no at-home tests for self-diagnosing ovarian cysts, common signs to discuss with a healthcare provider include the following:

  • Sharp or dull ache in the pelvic area
  • Pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Bloating
  • Menstrual periods that are irregular or painful
  • Painful sexual intercourse

A routine assessment at a healthcare provider’s office might include:

  • A pelvic exam: To feel for any abnormalities within the pelvic area organs
  • Ultrasound or other imaging: Helps determine the size, type, and location of an ovarian cyst
  • Blood tests: To check hormone levels or tumor markers for ovarian cancer
  • Laparoscopy: Only performed if necessary due to concern for ovarian torsion or other complication

How to Relieve Ovarian Cyst Pain At Home

Many ovarian cysts don’t have any symptoms and may not require medical treatment. But if you are experiencing mild to moderate pain, a healthcare provider may recommend a couple of at-home treatment options to help ease your discomfort, including:

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication such as ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • A heating pad on your lower abdomen to help soothe the area
  • Gentle massage therapy to relieve muscle tension

If your pain isn’t going away or is worsening with these home remedies, let your healthcare provider know so they can consider other treatment options.

Your healthcare provider may recommend the wait-and-watch approach, depending on factors like age, symptoms, and the size of the ovarian cyst. Instead of jumping straight to treatment, your provider may want to keep track of any changes in the cyst's size or appearance via pelvic ultrasounds and routine exams.

Treatment for Ovarian Cyst Pain

Treatment for ovarian cyst pain will vary based on several factors, including age, symptoms, and the size of the cyst. Options may include:

  • Hormonal contraceptives like birth control pills help regulate hormone levels, particularly with ovarian cysts that PCOS may cause
  • Prescription pain medication if there is no improvement with OTC medications 
  • Antibiotics if the ovarian cyst becomes infected, as may happen with cysts caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Surgery in more severe cases to remove the cyst if it is large, infected, or ruptured, or if the ovary is torsed

Ovarian cyst pain can range from mild to severe and has the potential to impact a person's quality of life. Experts recommend that healthcare providers thoroughly explore all treatment options with patients to ensure their personal and work life isn't greatly affected.


Ovarian cysts are common; many are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. But for ovarian cyst pain that is severe or long-lasting, speak to a healthcare provider. They can recommend appropriate medications, hormonal treatment, or surgery. Seek medical attention immediately if your ovarian cyst pain is severe, doesn't seem to be getting better, or comes with signs of infection or low blood pressure like lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, and fever.

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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 Cristina Mutchler
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.