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Why You're Having Lower Back Pain on The Left Side Above Your Buttocks

Around 84 percent of adults reported experiencing lower back pain at some point in their lives. The pain could be felt on both sides of the spinal column or on just one side of the back, then extends to the buttock region. It could be the constant kind of pain or the type that comes and goes, ranging from a dull ache to a sharp and stabbing one. The exact location of the back pain, which can also include buttock pain, is a major clue to the precise cause of the problem.

So why exactly are you having lower back pain on the left side above your buttocks? Your lower back is made of a complex system beneath. Below the five vertebrae and the discs between lies the bones, the ligaments that hold the vertebrae together in place, and the tendons that attach the muscles to your spinal column. Located near your lower back are your kidneys, colon, pancreas, and uterus. Any one of these can be the cause of your lower back pain. It’s important to remember this when determining the culprit behind your pain.

What Are the Causes of Lower Left Back Pain

Some causes of lower back pain on the left side are specific to that area while some may cause pain in any area of your back. Common causes of this type of pain are:

  • Muscle sprain or strain - strain is the result of a tearing or stretching of your muscle or tendon, while a sprain is a result when this happens to your ligament. This is usually the result of twisting or lifting objects that are too heavy in an improper way (which means lifting using your back instead of your legs), which causes your muscles to overstretch. This makes you have back muscle spasm and you may have difficulty moving without pain.
  • Sciatica - your sciatic nerve runs through your buttocks and down the back of your leg. When this nerve gets compressed, it results in sciatica. Common causes are bone spur, herniated disc, and spinal stenosis. This condition usually affects just the side of your lower back where you will feel a burning or electric type of pain that radiates down to your leg, causing leg pain as well. The pain can get worse when you sneeze or cough. Sitting down for a long time also aggravates not just back pain, but also hip pain.
  • Herniated disc - this happens when one or more discs between your vertebrae get squeezed, causing them to bulge outward into your spinal canal. The bulged discs push against your nerves, which is why you feel pain, weakness, or numbness. Sciatica is also a common result of a herniated disc. This condition can originate from an injury and you are more at risk to have it as you get older - the discs and the nerve root naturally degenerate as you age. 
  • Osteoarthritis - this is a condition that results when the cartilage between your vertebrae starts to break down. Because of the stress of walking, the lower back is a common area for osteoarthritis. Normal wear and tear is the standard culprit of this condition, but it can also originate from previous back injuries. Usual symptoms are pain and stiffness and when you have this condition, bending or twisting your back can become really painful. 
  • Sacroiliitis - also known as dysfunction of the sacroiliac joints, this condition is an inflammation that affects one or both sides of your spine. Your body has two sacroiliac joints, one on each side of your spine. It connects with the top of your pelvis. The most common symptom of sacroiliitis is a pain in your lower back and buttocks, which is usually made worse by standing, running, climbing the stairs, taking large steps, and putting much weight on the affected leg.
  • Endometriosis  - this happens when the type of cell found in the lining of your uterus grows outside of that organ. When you get your monthly period, these cells tend to swell and bleed, which causes pain and possibly other issues. This condition occurs usually in women in their 30s and 40s. Aside from lower back pain, other common symptoms include pelvic pain, very painful menstrual cramps, painful urination or bowel movement during your period, and pain during sex. You may also experience digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea and even infertility.
  • Fibroids - these are usually benign tumors that grow in your uterine walls. Symptoms of having fibroids include painful and heavy bleeding during periods, full feeling in your lower abdomen, lower abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, frequent urination, and pain during sex.
  • Kidney stone or infection - kidney stones are formed when there’s not enough fluid in your kidneys or there’s a buildup of waste. Most kidney stones, especially small ones, may not even show symptoms and will pass on their own. However, larger stones may require treatment, as determined by your doctor. Symptoms include sharp radiating pain on one side of your lower back, vomiting, painful or bloody urination (burning sensation happens as well) fever, and nausea. A kidney infection usually starts with a urinary tract infection. Unlike stones, this infection needs medical attention since it can bring permanent damage to your kidneys. 

Causes of Lower Left Back Pain While Breathing

Scoliosis, kyphosis, and other conditions that affect your spine can cause back pain and breathing issues. 

  • Scoliosis - a common condition among pre-teens and teenagers (although it can happen at any age), scoliosis is the result of your spine curving to the side. The most severe cases of scoliosis cause the curvature to place extra pressure on the lungs. This might make breathing harder, even painful for the patient. 
  • Kyphosis - this condition happens when the spine curves forward, resulting in a hunched position. Common causes of kyphosis are spinal injury and aging. Aside from back pain, you will also experience swelling and balance difficulties. Severe cases of kyphosis can make breathing and eating more difficult or at least uncomfortable. 

What About Lower Back Pain on the Left Side During Pregnancy?

A portrait of pregnant young woman indoors at home.

As back pain is a common issue among pregnant women, most of the time there’s nothing alarming about it. When a woman is pregnant, her posture changes since her front gets heavier, which strains her back muscles. Her abdominal muscles get weak as her stomach grows, which means less support on her spine. Her hormones cause the ligaments in her pelvis to relax in preparation for childbirth. Other causes include joint dysfunction, sciatica symptoms or sciatic nerve pain, and a urinary tract infection not treated properly, which can lead to kidney infection.

Lower Left Back Pain For Males

Males are not exempted when it comes to gender-exclusive lower left back pain problems. Men can develop inflammation of their epididymitis, which is the duct behind the testes.  Common factors that set off this inflammation are viral or bacterial infections. Physical trauma can do this as well. This condition happens mostly to men 20 to 30 years old, but it can happen to males of any age. Antibiotics are the treatment for this bacteria, but more severe cases will require surgery in order to drain or remove the epididymitis.

There’s also testicular cancer, a condition that develops in about 1 out of every 250 males, according to the American Cancer Society. Lower back pain is one of the symptoms of this disease, accompanied by pain in the testicles, dull ache in the abdomen, groin pain, and a lump in one or both testicles. Treatment options include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Is Lower Back Pain a Sign of COVID-19 Infection?

Any common ache or pain can be triggered or aggravated by any infection. It just so happens that COVID-19 is unusually good at spreading body aches, including the upper and lower back. Although back pain is listed as one of the possible symptoms of the coronavirus, it doesn’t automatically mean you have it when you’re experiencing some back discomfort. 

All infections lower our pain thresholds and the coronavirus is no different. If you were already having chronic back pain in the past, any infection can cause it to flare up. Although some COVID-19 patients experience worse back pain than others, it’s probably more about their vulnerability to back pain than it does about the coronavirus. 

In a lot of cases, it’s not caused by the virus itself, but by the lifestyle changes brought on by the lockdown. People are complaining more about having back problems due to sitting all day long, especially those who are working from home. 

Is Lower Right Left or Back Pain a Cause for Worry?

Experiencing pain on one side of your back is not necessarily more alarming than central pain. See, there are two main types of one-sided back pain - back pain that could occur on either side but just happens to be on the left or right exclusively. Most ordinary back pain tends to be more pronounced on one side. The other is back pain referred to as a small category, one that comes specifically from structures that exist only on one side.

When Does a Lower Back Pain Require Medical Attention

Patient in a medical consult wearing face mask

However, there are certain lower back pains that can’t be remedied by time and over-the-counter medications. You need to see your doctor if your pain doesn’t get better after a few weeks and/or there’s tingling, weakness, and numbness, especially in your legs. The same goes for sudden and severe pain as well. Other red flags include difficulties in urinating, fever, unexplained weight loss, and bowel control issues.

How to Diagnose Lower Back Pain

After your doctor has covered the basics (physical exam, medical history, and symptoms check), he may also order imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasound, and bone scans. A myelogram may also be needed so the doctor can check for nerve or spinal cord compression. Blood tests are also necessary to check for infections.

How to Treat Lower Back Pain on the Left Side

If your problem doesn’t require hospital treatment, home treatments are usually enough to address the problem. Time, rest, and pain relievers should do the trick. Self-care treatments include ice and hot packs, topical pain-relieving lotion or cream, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and limiting activities that can cause or aggravate your pain.

If your condition requires medical treatment, your potential pain relief solutions include physical therapy, muscle relaxants, nerve blocks, and anticonvulsant medication for certain nerve issues. A lumbar spine steroid injection (aka epidural) can provide you temporary relief from bothersome pain. Stronger pain medications include hydrocodone (Lortab or Vicodin)  which will certainly come in handy when ibuprofen can’t handle your chronic pain. Now do take note that these drugs can be habit-forming, so always stick to your doctor’s instructions when taking them.

If you have kidney problems, you may need antibiotics or treatment to break up or remove kidney stones. If your condition is that severe, surgery may be the only option for you. 

What Are the Odds That Your Back Pain is a Serious Condition

Yes, there are cases in which lower back pain does have alarming causes and requires immediate hospital treatment, but it’s not as common as you think. The odds of your condition turning out to be an infection, autoimmune disease, or worse, cancer is lower than normally assumed. About one in 20 cases of lower back pain turn out to be a fracture for those over the age of 55. So the further you are from this age, the better your odds that your lower back pain is something more manageable. 

But of course, your doctors would like to keep it safe and advise you to have your unusual symptoms checked out for your own peace of mind as well. It’s better to have the worst-case scenarios ruled out so you can manage your pain better without having to worry about dying soon.

Speaking of peace of mind, New York Pain Care can help pinpoint exactly what’s causing your back pain, from muscle strain and other pain concerns, such as pinched nerve, nerve compression, piriformis syndrome, facet joints pain, gluteus medius pain, sciatic pain or sciatica pain, or SI joint pain.

You will certainly be in nothing less than in good hands with our top-rated board-certified spine and pain specialists. Our wide range of services includes interventional spine & pain, physical therapy, sports medicine, podiatry, and acupuncture. Call us to set your appointment - just tell us where it hurts and we will find ways to make the pain go away.

Learn more: 8 Best Office Chair for Lower Back Pain

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