Low back pain is a very common condition that affects about 80 percent of adults at some point in their lifetimes.
Sometimes, this pain is localized to the left side and may have you wondering what might be causing it. A lot of the time, it is caused by muscle strain, other times, it might be a symptom of some other medical conditions.
Causes Of Lower Left Back Pain
1. Muscle Strain
This is by far the commonest cause of low back pain. When our muscles are overused or overstretched in the course of our jobs and daily activities, they can cause pain.
The nature of this pain is usually a dull ache. Muscle strains are also common in certain jobs that require constant or continuous use of the lower back muscles such as construction workers, long-haul drivers, jobs that require long hours of standing or sitting.
An improper posture where you favor one side over the other may also cause left-sided low back pain. Persons with scoliosis, where the curvature of the spine is not well aligned, may cause back pain on the left side.
Shingles is an infection of the nerves that expresses itself on the skin.
If the nerve affected is in the left lower back region, then you may experience pain in varying degrees of severity in that section even before the rash appears. Generally, there is also a feeling of unwellness like you are coming down with the flu.
3. Kidney Stones
Our kidneys are located in the back of the loins, one on the left and the other on the right. A left kidney stone can cause pain in the left lower back.
Stones in the kidney are collections of clumped up minerals and salts that deposit in the kidneys. These stones form over a period of time and when they are large enough, they can start causing problems.
The pain is often due to the body trying to pass the stone out through urine, causing a cramping sensation that tends to start at the lower back, radiating towards the groin. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and passing bloody or cloudy urine.
4. Kidney Infection
A kidney infection, called pyelonephritis in medical terms, causes lower back pain and if it is the left kidney affected, the pain would be on the left side. Accompanying symptoms include fever, chills, weakness, bloody or cloudy urine.
It occurs more commonly in women as a progression from a bladder infection.
5. Slipped Disc
In the vertebral column, there are discs between each vertebral bone to allow for the movement of one bone over the other. When one of these discs ‘slip’ due to an injury or other medical condition, it presses on the nerves close to it. This is called disk herniation.
If the nerve close to it is one that supplies the left lower back area, it will cause pain. It may also cause numbness and weakness of the left leg, abnormal sensations on the left side, and pain that spreads from the lower-left back to the left leg.
6. Gynecological Conditions
Certain gynecological conditions may cause left-sided lower back pain. These cause pain because they are located in the lower back area of the female body. They include conditions like fibroids and endometriosis.
A fibroid is a non-cancerous growth of the muscular layer of the uterus. If it grows too large or it twists on the stalk from which it grows, it could cause pain.
Endometriosis is a medical condition where the innermost layer of the uterus, called the endometrium, is found in other parts of the body. During menstruation, the endometrial tissue bleeds regardless of what part of the body it is in.
One of the most common sites to find the endometrial tissue is the ovaries. If the left ovary is infiltrated with endometrial tissue, during menstruation, when the endometrial tissue bleeds, there would be pain in the lower left abdomen or back – depending on the position of the ovary.
Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas due to causes including infection, gall stones, excessive alcohol use, trauma, and certain medications. The pancreas is an important digestive system organ positioned close to the back, so an inflammation could cause pain that spreads to the lower back.
Pancreatitis is a pretty serious condition with symptoms that include upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and if not promptly treated can rapidly affect other organs including the heart and lungs.
Pregnancy can cause pain in the left lower back. This may be due to abnormal posture due to the weight of the growing baby, a co-existing fibroid or any other medical condition mentioned above.
When To See A Doctor
You should see your doctor for lower left back pain if it is sudden, persistent or has other symptoms like:
- muscle weakness
- limb numbness
- painful urination
- skin rash
Your doctor will examine you to make an accurate diagnosis and may request blood tests, urine tests, X-rays, a CT Scan, MRI or other special tests.
The treatment is dependent on the cause.
For muscle strains, this helps to decrease the inflammation that is going on and therefore, decreases the pain. If you stand or sit for long hours, taking intermittent breaks can help to improve the pain. Your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist to help relieve the pain and improve your posture.
If it’s caused by a muscle strain, becoming more physically active can help. Your physiotherapist can prescribe relevant exercises routines and stretches to strengthen your back muscles and alleviate your symptoms.
Staying Well Hydrated
For aches caused by kidney stones, drinking enough fluids can help you pass out the stones. Your doctor might ask you to drink a particular volume of water every day to attempt to release the stones.
Over the counter medication like paracetamol and NSAIDs can help reduce the pain temporarily. Examples of NSAIDs are Ibuprofen and Diclofenac.
Sometimes, surgery might be needed for spinal problems like nerve root compression.
Lower left back pain has a number of causes but is commonly due to muscle strain.
Please see your doctor if it is sudden, persistent or if there is a fever, severe pain, difficulty moving your legs, abnormal sensations, vomiting or if you are just plain unsure of what is going on.