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Sharp Stabbing Pain in the Lower Left Side of the Back

Frequently occurring sharp, stabbing pain in the lower left side of the back is debilitating and makes it impossible for you to focus on your work and life. It may be a result of some injury, trauma, or an underlying medical condition related to internal organs, damage to structures along the spinal column, and musculoskeletal conditions that must be checked. Visit Redefine Healthcare to have your symptoms evaluated by pain management specialists for identifying the possible reasons behind your back problems. Dr. Eric Freeman is an experienced, board-certified physician and has treated patients with various spine and back issues successfully over years. He focuses on diagnosing the source of your pain and comes up with the best treatment methods to eliminate your pain for good. 

Lower back pain that occurs on one side of the body may feel like a constant ache or pain that flares up occasionally and then subsides. This pain can be sharp, stabbing and severe, or dull, which makes it difficult for you to move, sleep or work normally. In some cases, this pain stops or worsens with movement or even changes places if there is any pressure on the back.

It is best to consult a doctor if your pain is persistent, does not go away after a few days, or you begin to experience other symptoms to ensure it is not something serious. It could be anything from a muscle strain to an underlying medical issue that needs proper diagnosis and treatment.

Common Causes of Sharp, Stabbing Pain in the Lower Left Side of the Back

The most common causes of sharp, stabbing pain in the lower left side of the back include:

  • Injury to structures along the spinal column, such as facet joints or spinal discs
  • Damage to soft tissue structures that support the spine, such as ligaments or muscles
  • Conditions that affect internal organs on that side, such as the intestines, kidneys, or reproductive organs

Common Causes of Sharp, Stabbing Pain in the Lower Left Side of

Soft Tissue Damage

Overused, weak, or overstretched muscles and tendons in the lower back can become strained and cause pain. Similarly, a torn or overstretched ligament can result in a painful sprain. These types of injuries are associated with inflammation accompanied by sharp, stabbing muscle spasms.

Common causes of soft tissue damage in the lower back include incidents, such as abrupt movements like twisting or bending, a hard fall, or even a minor car accident. In some cases, poor posture or improper lifting techniques can also lead to a back injury. Signs that your pain in the lower back is resulting from soft tissue damage include a sore or stiff back, stabbing pain in the back during movement, or muscle spasms.

Spinal Column Damage

Many conditions cause one-sided lower back pain or pain on the left side of the lower back. They include:

Facet Joint Syndrome

Small bony structures that stabilize the vertebrae or spinal bones are called facet joints. They are located between the vertebrae and look like bony knobs. These small joints connect vertebrae in a chain-like manner to allow spinal movement in different directions. Any damage or degeneration of facet joints can result in a condition known as facet joint syndrome.

The pain usually develops in the region where the affected joint is located. Wear and tear of the joint due to aging, called osteoarthritis, are serious complications that can cause inflammation of the facet joints. The most commonly experienced symptom of this condition is pain in the lower back that is usually one-sided or occurs on the left side and radiates to the buttocks, thighs, or legs.

Other symptoms of facet joint syndrome include:

  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stiffness in the back
  • A loss of flexibility in the spine
  • Tenderness or pain in the inflamed area

Sometimes injuries that are not considered serious, such as poor posture while lifting heavy objects or twisting body the wrong way, can trigger the onset of facet joint pain.

Herniated Disc

Positioned between each vertebra in the lower region of the spine, lumbar discs function as protective shock absorbers. Improper lifting techniques, traumatic spinal injury, inactive lifestyle, and repetitive movement can lead to a herniated disc, more commonly known as a slipped disc. The disc protrudes or bulges out, which then presses onto the nerves, leading to numbness and pain on one side of the lower back, depending on the position of the disc.

In some cases, the disc may break or rupture, resulting in severe pain that needs surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage.

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a condition when the joint that connects the hip bones to the lower back part of the spine moves abnormally and becomes inflamed, causing a dull aching pain in the left lower back. A hard fall on the left side can also alter the position of the joint and cause pain in the region. Accompanied by inflammation, the pain may radiate from the lower back to the buttocks and the back of the left upper thigh.

For some people, the joint becomes stiff and causes poor coordination and lower back pain, while others experience pain due to joints that have become loose. This condition can be chronic or result from temporary stress.

Internal Organ Issues

Sharp and stabbing pain on the lower left side of the back may be coming from the organs in your mid-back, abdominal, or pelvic area. It could be anything from a kidney infection to a kidney stone, ulcerative colitis, pancreatitis, or uterine disorders. A healthcare professional can identify the source of your pain by focusing on the symptoms and running some tests.

Kidney or Urinary Infections

Left kidney infection or advanced bladder infection can cause constant, aching pain on the left side of the lower back. Kidney infections are usually caused by bacteria that infect the bladder and travel up to the kidneys. Other symptoms of a kidney infection include foul-smelling urine, dark cloudy, or bloody urine, fever, chills, and painful urination combined with frequent, painful urination.

Kidney Stones

The presence of stones in the kidney is associated with sharp, stabbing pain on the lower left side of the back and intense pain below the ribs, in the lower abdomen, above the buttocks, and in the ground. These stones develop due to mineral buildup in the urinary tract and cause pain due to irritation or blockage. The pain comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity.

The pain may reduce as the small stones pass through the urinary tract, but larger stones require specific treatment. It becomes necessary to break them up to facilitate their exit from the body.

Pancreatitis

It is inflammation of the pancreas that leads to abnormal pancreatic function. Chronic pancreatitis can also lead to the development of fluid-filled sacs on the surface of the organ. Commonly experienced symptoms of pancreatitis include severe pain in the middle of the abdomen or on the left side of the stomach that may extend to the lower back.

It is described as a sharp, shooting, or burning pain that fluctuates and lasts for several hours or even a few days. Nausea and vomiting may occur along with other symptoms. If this condition persists or progresses, the painful episodes may increase in frequency and severity.

Uterine Disorders

Endometriosis is a uterine condition that leads to painful lesions that grow outside the uterus. The lesion may also be present in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or intestines. Any abnormal growth on the left ovary or left fallopian tube can result in lower left-side pain that radiates to the back. Severe cramps during the menstrual cycle and painful intercourse are also linked to this condition.

Uterine fibroids are another common issue linked to lower left-side back pain. These are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus or the ovaries. Fibroids may also cause intense cramping, heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and prolonged menstruation.

Effective Treatment Methods for Sharp, Stabbing Pain in the Lower Left Side of the Back

Treatment for this pain varies, depending on the way it is affecting you and the underlying causes. It is necessary to have your condition accurately diagnosed by a healthcare professional to know more about your pain and how it can be reduced.

If your back pain is occurring due to some problem with internal organs located on that side, identifying the causes and treating them timely can eliminate the problem.

Potential treatments for issues related to internal organs include:

  • Kidney stones – The doctor may prescribe medication or shockwave therapy to break up the kidney stones.
  • Endometriosis – Medication is recommended to target the pain, and in some cases, surgery may be needed to remove excess tissue.
  • Pancreatitis – In case of bile duct obstruction, surgery is performed to remove the fluid or drain it from the pancreas.

If your lower left side back pain is developing due to some musculoskeletal or spinal issues, the following strategies may help you feel better:

Rest

If your back injury and pain is resulting from a minor accident, such as a fall from stairs, impact in a vehicle, or quick movements, including improperly lifting an object, restrict your back activities and take some rest.

Limiting movements or activities that worsen the pain and discomfort can lead to a swift recovery.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Keeping a cold compress or ice pack on the affected area several times a day for about 20 minutes every time can reduce the pain and inflammation. Cold targets swelling, discomfort, and muscle spasms by slowing the blood flow to the affected area. It is essential to wrap the ice pack in a cloth or towel before applying it to the skin to protect it from damage.

After cold therapy, a hot pad can be applied to the area to lessen the pain for about 20 minutes to soothe and relax the tense muscles or ligaments. Heat therapy boosts the circulation of blood, and enhances muscle flexibility. Increased circulation helps to transfer nutrients and oxygen to damaged tissues and removes the chemical irritants that build up at the inflammation area, accelerating the healing process.

Pain Relieving Medications

Over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, help ease the inflammation causing pain in the lower left side of the back. Acetaminophen is a popular pain reliever that is used for alleviating discomfort when NSAIDs cannot be taken, or they do not produce the desired effects.

If over-the-counter pain-relieving medications are not working, your doctor may suggest stronger, prescription medications and muscle relaxants to manage moderate to severe chronic pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is an effective way to seek relief if you continue to experience sharp, stabbing pain in the back despite medication or self-care. Healthcare experts also recommend post-operative physical therapy as pain management for people who need surgical treatment.

The goals of physical therapy include:

  • Reducing pain and stiffness
  • Ensuring quick recovery with a guided activity
  • Strengthening your muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Improving your range of motion
  • Correcting postural issues
  • Encouraging safe body movements

The good thing about physical therapy is that your therapist can come up with a personalized program that can be performed at home for prolonged wellness. Therapists also monitor your progress and suggest adjustments to your routine accordingly for the best results.

When to See a Doctor for Sharp Stabbing Pain in Your Lower Back?

You may experience varying degrees of pain in your lower back. While mild to moderate pain can be eased with pain-relieving medications, including NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and other conservative treatments like rest and physical therapies, severe and persistent pain needs medical attention.

If your back pain does not decrease after 1 to 2 weeks or worsens, it is essential to call your doctor.

Other symptoms that indicate a serious condition and call for medical assistance include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • Incontinence
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Painful urination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Blood in the urine
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Difficulty moving the legs
  • A loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Weakness or tingling in the lower body

Your doctor may perform a physical examination along with imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, or MRI to identify the causes behind your symptoms and diagnose your condition accurately. If you are already going through physical therapy, discuss your symptoms with the therapist to seek professional advice and timely treatment.

Read more: Sciatica Self-care: 5 At-home Remedies for Low Back and Leg Pain

Do not take your lower left-sided back pain lightly, as it could be much more than bad posture or a hard day at work. It could be resulting from underlying muscles, joints, mid-back, or organ issues in the pelvic area that cannot resolve on their own and need medical attention. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Eric Freeman at Redefine Healthcare to learn more about the type of pain you are experiencing and how to manage it safely and effectively. Dr. Freeman specializes in using the most advanced minimally invasive procedures for treating a range of painful spine and lower back conditions to relieve discomfort and prevent further complications.

Page Updated on Dec 12, 2022 by Dr. Freeman (Pain Management Specialist) of Redefine Healthcare

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Dr. Eric D. Freeman

Dr. Eric D. Freeman is a top-rated, best-in-class pain management doctor. He is a nationally recognized pain relief specialist and is among the top pain care doctors in New Jersey and the country. He is an award-winning expert and contributor to prominent media outlets.

Dr. Eric D. Freeman has been recognized for his thoughtful, thorough, modern approach to treating chronic pain. He has been named a “top pain management doctor in New Jersey” and one of “America’s Top Physicians” for advanced sports injury treatments.

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