Lower left back pain is, by definition, pain located in the lower left part of the back. Also mentioned as pain experienced in the left lumbar region, this type of symptom is scientifically known as osphyalgia of the left side.
In general, lower back pain is one the most common regional types of pain felt by people universally, with around 50% of the adult population admitting to having experienced the sensation at least once in their life.
Contrary to the predominant belief held by patients that lower left back pain is caused solely by musculoskeletal problems, we have to keep in mind that it is not the only reason behind the appearance of the symptom.
Underneath the skin and subcutaneous tissue, the left side of the body hosts the spleen, pancreas tail, the descending and sigmoid colon (parts of the large intestine) and at the back of the body, the left kidney and left ureter. In women, the left side is also the location of the left ovary and fallopian tube.
The kidneys are organs that filter the body’s blood, producing urine that is carried via the ureters to the bladder during the process of urination. The spleen is an important organ, responsible for destroying old blood cells, and also taking part in the immune system’s response. The pancreas lies horizontally in the abdominal cavity, with its tail extending to the left area. It is responsible for producing digestive enzymes. The descending and sigmoid colon are two parts of the large intestine, carrying out the dehydration process of food and absorbing nutrients, finally forming what is known as feces, which is disposed of.
In women, the left ovary has no different function than the right one; it is responsible for producing egg cells and for secreting various hormones. The fallopian tube connects the left ovary to the uterus and helps the mature egg cell (secondary oocyte) leave the ovary and travel further down. The fallopian tube is also where the sperm fertilizes the oocyte.
Last, but not least, the spine is a vital structure located in the center of the back. More specifically, the spine’s 5 vertebrae located in the lower lumbar part are the strongest ones, supporting the body’s weight and allowing one to bend forward at a great angle, backward and sideways. In between the vertebrae rest the intervertebral discs and, surrounding the left region of the spine, muscles and ligaments are responsible for its stabilization and support. Nerve roots exiting or entering the spine are also a vital part of its function.
The symptom of left osphyalgia can be either acute or chronic.
In general, lower back pain, either right or left, is caused due to a great variety of conditions, having to do with the musculoskeletal system, the spine, or the abdominal internal organs: herniated discs, degenerative spondyloarthropathies, psoriatic arthritis, spinal infection, traumas, lymphomas, abdominal aorta aneurysms, or many other conditions.
But now, let’s take a look at the predominant causes of lower left back pain.
Pregnancy: Pregnant women often experience pain in the back of their body due to the compression of abdominal organs. This pain is most often located on the left side of the body
Ovarian conditions (left): Left ovarian cysts or tumors also cause a dull, painful sensation in the back.
Sprain or strain of muscles or ligaments in the left side: In the majority of the cases, this is an acute symptom. In this case, minor trauma is present, due to a sudden movement or bad posture when lifting weight. This mechanical injury is a non-specific type of back pain, meaning the exact cause cannot be pinned down with a clinical examination or further tests.
Direct traumatization: Damage to the left side of the back caused directly by any type of force exerted on the spine.
Conditions of the tail of the pancreas: Pancreatic cancer or other conditions which affect the tail are usually accompanied by pain that is located on the left side of the back.
Left kidney infections or stones: Infections of the kidneys do not always involve both of the kidneys, and neither do stones. A unilateral pyelonephritis (infection) or stone problem on the left side could produce the symptom of lower left back pain.
Ureter conditions: Just like the kidney, the left ureter is located at the back of the body and any type of disease (tumor, traumatization, or stenosis) can result in left osphyalgia.
Sigmoid/descending colon disease: Due to their location on the left side of the body, conditions affecting those parts of the large intestine like tumors or inflammatory bowel diseases can cause radiating pain to the left side of the back.
Intervertebral disc condition: Mostly due to degeneration and secondarily a disc hernia. In these cases, it is not uncommon for pain to extend to the left buttock or even the posterior (back) region of the left knee and leg.
Spondyloarthropathies: This category includes all the conditions affecting the spinal joints. A degenerative spondyloarthropathy is caused by degeneration and targets older individuals, whereas ankylosing spondylitis is accompanied by inflammation. This causes pain when someone is resting for a long time.
Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal that can be present in any part of the spine. It may be a condition existing since birth, a condition developing as a primary disease (not due to an underlying pathology) or because of trauma, infection or surgery on the spinal cord. Symptoms include pain and numbness in the lower left back area, buttock and also at the front of the thighs.
Osteoporosis: Causes osphyalgia only when it has caused a left vertebral fracture.
Somatization: A distinct cause of back pain is somatization disorder, in which the pain is a result of a bodily response to stress or depression. The sensation of pain is real, however, no pathological cause exists in the body.
As the symptom of left osphyalgia can be caused by a wide range of conditions, a clinical examination is the first step toward finding the underlying cause. The pain characteristics, location, and duration will provide the physician with the information needed to order the necessary tests. Further examination may include x-rays, MRI, a CT-scan or a PET-CT scan until a foolproof diagnosis is reached. Respectively, treatment of lower left back pain is always based on the condition causing it.
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