Home > Blog > Sharp Stabbing Pain in Lower Left Side of Back
Back pain is common, and there are many possible reasons for it. The exact location of the pain is a key indicator of its cause. Your lower left side back pain can be a result of a spinal or musculoskeletal issue that can be addressed with guided physical therapy. If you are tired of constant or frequently occurring pain in the lower left region of the back, schedule an appointment with therapists at the Physical Therapists NYC to learn how physical activity can help you seek relief. The experienced and award-winning physical therapists perform a thorough evaluation to identify the causes of your back problems and come up with personalized treatment plans to alleviate chronic pain.
Lower back pain that is felt on one side of the body may feel like a constant ache or dull pain that flares up occasionally and subsides after some time. In some cases, this pain can go away on its own without needing any treatment, or it may worsen with movement or change with pressure on the back.
Pain in the lower left side of the back can also result from various health issues that include underlying problems with the internal organs, damage to the spinal column, and musculoskeletal conditions or injuries. The level of injury and the severity of the pain may affect the type of treatment you need. If the pain is resulting from health issues that include problems with the internal organs, it needs proper investigation. In case of spinal column damage and musculoskeletal injuries, a visit to a doctor and a physical therapist to heal and strengthen the muscles and prevent further injury can alleviate the pain efficiently.
Causes of Pain in the Lower-Left Side of the Back
The most common causes of sharp, stabbing lower left side back pain include:
- Injury to the structures along the spinal column such as facet joints or spinal discs;
- Damage of soft tissue structures that support the spine, such as the ligaments or muscles;
- Conditions that affect the internal organs such as intestines, kidneys, or reproductive organs located around the lower side of the back.
Soft tissue damage
Muscles or tendons in the lower back that are weak, overused, or overstretched can become strained. A torn or overstretched ligament can also lead to a painful sprain. Both these types of injuries are associated with inflammation that leads to sharp, stabbing muscle spasms.
Accidents like a hard fall or a minor car accident, or abrupt movements like twisting or bending can damage tissues in the lower back. Sometimes poor posture or improper lifting techniques can also result in back injury. If the lower left side pain is resulting from soft tissue damage, you will experience stiffness or soreness in the back accompanied by stabbing pain during movement or muscle spasms.
Spinal column damage
Certain conditions, such as facet joint syndrome, a herniated lumbar disc, or sacroiliac joint dysfunction, along with other problems, can result in pain on one side of the lower back.
Facet joint syndrome
Facet joints are small bony structures that stabilize vertebrae or spinal bones. They look like bony knobs, located between the vertebrae. These small joints connect vertebrae in a chain-like manner to promote spinal movement in different directions. Degeneration or damage to facet joints can result in a condition, called facet joint syndrome.
A serious injury or wear and tear to the joints due to aging are some of the issues that can cause inflammation of the facet joints. Pain generally develops in the region where the affected joint is located. People suffering from facet joint syndrome complain about pain in the lower back that occurs at one side, such as the left side, and radiates to the buttocks, thighs, or legs.
Additional symptoms of facet joint syndrome include:
- Shoulder pain;
- Muscle weakness;
- Stiffness in the back;
- A loss of flexibility in the spine;
- Tenderness or pain in the inflamed area.
There are times when injuries resulting from poor posture while lifting heavy objects or twisting the body the wrong way can also trigger the onset of facet joint pain, even though they are not considered serious.
Lumbar discs are located between each vertebra in the lower region of the spine. These discs work as protective shock absorbers. Any traumatic spinal injury, improper lifting techniques, sedentary lifestyle, or repetitive movements can lead to a herniated disc, causing the delicate structure to protrude or bulge. This condition can result in pain on one side of the lower back, such as the left side, depending on the position of the disc. In some cases, a disc may even break or rupture, which causes immense pain that may even require surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
It develops when the joints that connect the sacrum or lower region of the spine to the rest of the pelvis begin to move abnormally. Some people experience stiff joints that lead to poor coordination and lower back pain, while others may suffer from pain due to joints that become loose. Women mostly suffer from the problem of loose joints, especially during pregnancy, due to hormonal changes.
Falling hard on your left side can also affect the position of the joint and result in lower left side back pain. The pain may be accompanied by inflammation in the area of the joint, and it may lead to a persistent ache in the left lower side of the pain as well as pain in the buttocks and the back of the upper thigh. People who experience these types of spinal issues find relief in physical therapy under the trained eye of a therapist. Many people notice significant improvement after just a few weeks of treatment. However if the sharp, stabbing lower left side back pain is resulting from an internal organ problem, additional symptoms typically accompany this form of back pain.
Internal organ issues
Intense and piercing pain on the lower left side of the back may be a warning sign of some internal organ problems, such as kidney infection, kidney stone, ulcerative colitis, pancreatitis, or uterine disorders, such as fibroids, endometriosis.
Kidney or urinary infections
A kidney or urinary infection can result in constant, stabbing pain that radiates through the lower left side of the back. Commonly experienced symptoms associated with this condition include:
- Pain while passing urine;
These symptoms should not be taken lightly, and you should visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis of your condition.
Kidney stones usually develop due to mineral buildup in the urinary tract. They can cause intense pain on the lower left side of the back and below the ribs, in the lower abdomen, above the buttocks, and the groin. You may also notice the presence of blood in the urine.
The sharp, stabbing pain may subside if the smaller stones pass through the urinary tract, but larger stones require specific treatment such as medication or shock wave therapy to break them up and facilitate their passage.
This condition is characterized by abnormal function of the pancreas due to inflammation. Chronic pancreatitis can also lead to the formation of fluid-filled sacs on the surface of the pancreas. The most common symptoms associated with pancreatitis are severe pain in the middle of the abdomen or on the left side of the stomach that can extend to the lower back.
Pancreatitis pain is described as sharp, stabbing, shooting, or burning pain that fluctuates and lasts for several hours or a few days. You may also feel nausea and vomiting. If this condition persists, the severity and frequency of the pain may increase.
Uterine disorders that can result in sharp, stabbing pain in the lower back include:
- Endometriosis – This condition is characterized by painful lesions that grow outside of the uterus. The lesions may also be present in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, or intestines. Any abnormal growth of the left ovary or left fallopian tube can lead to left side pain that extends to the back. Severe cramping during the menstrual cycle and painful intercourse are also associated with this condition.
- Uterine fibroids – it is another common issue that is linked to pain in the lower left side of the back. These fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus or the ovaries. Fibroids also cause intense cramping, heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain, and prolonged menstruation.
Treatment for Sharp, Stabbing Lower Left Side Back Pain
Treatment for sharp, stabbing pain in the lower left side of the back depends on the underlying causes. It is important to have your pain and its causes diagnosed by a doctor or a professional therapist to receive the most suitable treatment.
If back pain in the lower left side is resulting from some problem with internal organs, detecting the causes and treating them can help to get rid of the discomfort.
Healthcare experts may recommend the following potential treatments for pain related to internal organs:
- Kidney stones – the doctors may prescribe medications or shockwave therapy to break up the kidney stones;
- Endometriosis – medication can help to treat the pain while in some cases surgery may be performed to remove excess tissue;
- Pancreatitis – if there is an obstruction in the bile duct, it may need to be surgically removed, or the fluid can be drained from the pancreas.
In case pain on the lower left side of the back is developing due to some musculoskeletal or spinal issue, the doctor may recommend the following remedies:
If the back pain is resulting from an accident such as a fall or swift movements such as lifting an object, resting, and avoiding activities that worsen the pain can help with recovery and healing.
Hot and cold packs
Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected areas several times a day for about 20 minutes each time can keep down the pain and inflammation. An ice pack should be wrapped in cloth before it is applied to the skin to protect it from extreme cold temperatures and resulting complications. Cold applications help with swelling, discomfort, and muscle spasms by slowing down the flow of blood.
After applying the cold compress or ice pack to reduce the pain, a heating pad can be used on the affected area for another 20 minutes to soothe and relax the tense muscles or ligaments. Hot packs are also effective for reducing pain, boosting circulation, and enhancing flexibility. Increased circulation of blood increases the transfer of nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues that promotes healing. In addition to this, improved blood flow also helps to remove chemical irritants that build-up at the site of inflammation.
Over-the-counter medications and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen are typically used to get rid of the inflammation and pain in the back. Acetaminophen is a common pain reliever that can be taken for alleviating back pain when NSAIDs do not work or cannot be taken due to some medical reason.
Doctors may recommend stronger medication and muscle relaxants for dealing with moderate to severe chronic pain when over-the-counter medications prove ineffective.
If sharp, stabbing pain on the lower left side of the back does not go away on its own or pain medication is unable to provide relief, physical therapy may be able to help you. Your doctor may recommend physical therapy after going through surgery as it is a common form of pain management for people whose back pain requires surgical treatment. Qualified and skilled therapists offer a variety of services to address your issues.
Physical therapy is targeted towards reducing pain and stiffness as well as promoting a quicker recovery through guided and monitored activity. It also involves strengthening muscles, tendons, and ligaments and improving range of motion, correcting posture issues, and encouraging safe body movement. Physical therapists come up with exercise programs that you can perform at home for prolonged improvement and relief. They keep an eye on each individual’s progress and make modifications to the workout regime as needed.
Warning Signs of a Serious Problem
Although lower left side back pain varies in terms of severity, medications and physical therapy can provide the desired relief. However, if your back pain does not go away or lessen even after 1 to 2 weeks or continues to worsen, it may be a warning sign of some serious problem.
Consult a healthcare provider if your back pain is becoming intolerable and begins to limit your movement. Additional lower left side back pain symptoms that indicate a potentially serious condition include:
- 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.
If you experience any of these symptoms or a combination of these symptoms, seek medical attention. The doctor will examine you physically and recommend tests including x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, or MRI for accurate diagnosis of your condition. People who develop these symptoms while going through physical therapy should inform their therapist immediately to prevent further complications.
Other chronic issues
Pain in the lower back may result from an injury, but it may also be a symptom of a chronic issue, such as:
- Incorrect posture;
- Spinal stenosis;
- Ankylosing spondylitis;
- Infection of the spine;
- Spinal cancer.
When other conditions cause lower back pain, treatment focuses on curing the underlying cause. The best remedy for back injury will depend on what damage it caused. Physical therapy and rest can help with muscle strain and arthritis.
There are many causes of back pain, but most have simple treatment solutions such as lifestyle changes, improvement in posture, or the use of the right chair or bed and workout to ease the muscles. Consult your doctor or therapist to determine the causes and get on the road to recovery and back to your daily activities as soon as possible.
Lower back pain is not a medical emergency unless the pain is intense or persistent and results from some underlying medical condition or infection. Physical therapists can diagnose the causes by focusing on the symptoms and location of the back pain. The top-rated therapists at Physical Therapists NYC offer holistic pain management techniques that are patient-centered and deliver the best possible care to ensure a speedy recovery. They are focused on your optimal health and offer state of an art facility and equipment that are specifically designed to alleviate the discomfort and help you live a better quality of life.