5 Reasons For Pain in Lower Left Back

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Almost everyone has had an episode of back pain. Depending on the cause, it may start suddenly or build up gradually and may be continuous or come-and-go for some time. Back pain can be debilitating and significantly impact our quality of life.

The back has five vertebrae that are held in place by ligaments and discs in between, which act as a cushion for these bones. There are 31 nerves in the lower back, and organs such as kidneys, pancreas, colon, and uterus are situated on the left side. Any issue with these nerves in any of these could be associated with lower back pain

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

There are ample reasons for left-side back pain. Let us dive into some of them:

1. Muscle Strain or Sprain

Muscle strain, or sprain, is one of the most common reasons for lower back pain. A strain occurs when a tendon or muscle gets torn or stretched. Whereas a sprain is when a ligament is torn or stretched. Both of these happen due to sudden pressure build-up in that muscle or tendon, lifting something heavy, lifting a heavy item improperly, overstretching the back muscles, or a sports injury.

All these events lead to swelling, pain, and difficulty moving the joint or the area. The best way to treat a sprain or strain is to use the RICE method. Under this method, - 

  • R stands for rest: Provide adequate rest to the back, and do not engage in any activity which involves using the back.
  • I stand for an ice pack: Apply an ice pack to the strained or sprained area for 15-20 minutes.
  • C stands for compression: Use a back brace for compression and pain relief. 
  • E stands for elevation:  It is not possible to lift the back. Therefore, focus on keeping the back parallel to the ground.

2. Sciatica

Sciatica is caused by sciatic nerve compression and prompts pain, inflammation, and numbness. This pain travels down to the hips and the leg on one side. This pain worsens with a cough, a sneeze, or sitting for long periods and could feel like a shock or a jolt. It may start as mild pain and turn into a burning sensation or numbness in the leg and the affected area.

Sciatica mostly occurs by lifting heavy objects, obesity, diabetes, prolonged sitting, or even simply because of age. 

One of the ways to prevent sciatica is not to lift heavy weights while exercising or otherwise. Another way is to take breaks regularly when you have to sit longer. It is also important to maintain a proper posture while sitting. Place a pillow or a cushion at the lower back to support the curve in the back. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight also play an important role in preventing sciatica.

3. Herniated or slipped disc

A herniated disc occurs when the disc in your vertebrae protrudes into the spinal canal. The protrusion occurs because the outer ring of the disc becomes weaker and tears, causing the soft inner portion to expose. A herniated disc also happens due to age, an injury to the back, or because of lifting a heavy weight. Excessive body weight and too much twisting or turning could lead to a slipped disc. 

Treatment of a herniated disc can range from conservative to surgical. Generally, most people find relief by doing exercises that stretch and strengthen the back muscles. Over-the-counter medication can also offer pain relief and release muscle tension. If there is still pain after trying these methods, your doctor may suggest a stronger medication, such as a muscle relaxant. Surgery may be necessary if none of these treatments are working and the condition worsens.

4. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis. It leads to inflammation, pain, swelling, deformity, and bony changes in the joint. Osteoarthritis occurs when the bones of a joint rub together because the protective cushion of the joint, known as the cartilage, wears out, causing friction and pain in the joints. When the bones of the joint rub together, you might experience a grating sensation in the joint, hear a popping or cracking sound, or hard lumps might form around the joint.

Medication is the first form of treatment for osteoarthritis. Your doctor may prescribe pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You can also reduce inflammation by getting proper rest, regular exercise to strengthen the muscles, heat and cold therapy, and managing body weight. 

5. Problem In an Internal Organ

The internal organs also sometimes develop major problems that affect other body parts and lead to pain. Kidney stones, endometriosis, kidney infection, ulcerative colitis, and pancreatitis can all cause lower back pain on the left side.

A kidney stone may cause nausea and pain when urinating, while an infection in the kidney can have the same symptoms and a stinging sensation. Endometriosis affects the pelvic area and leads to painful menstrual cramps. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine leading to sharp back pain or abdominal pain. Pancreatitis pain starts in the upper abdomen and spreads to the lower left side of the back. In case of all these conditions, it is advisable to reach out to a healthcare professional for timely treatment.

Lower left back pain can be triggered by many conditions, not just the ones we covered in this article. Most can be treated at home with rest and medication unless the condition worsens. Consult a medical professional if the pain becomes unbearable or does improve.


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