Back pain is a common problem that is sometimes accompanied by testicular pain. While some men may be hesitant to discuss back and testicular pain with a doctor, especially if the pain is a dull ache, tingling, or only lasts for short periods of time, it is not something to ignore.
Here are some possible causes of back and testicular pain that require a doctor visit to determine the best course of treatment.
1. Spinal nerve compression
Spinal problems are commonly overlooked causes of testicular pain in men. Some examples include:
- Facet joint osteoarthritis. Degeneration of a facet joint can lead to bone spurs (osteophytes) and narrowing of the intervertebral foramen, which can impinge a spinal nerve. If the L1 spinal nerve is compressed, it could radiate pain and/or tingling into a testicle on the same side. Similar symptoms could occur with spinal nerve compression anywhere from the bottom of the thoracic spine to the top of the lumbar spine (T10 down to L2).1
- Herniated disc. If a disc herniates and inflames any of the spinal nerves from T10 to L2, it could also radiate pain and/or tingling into a testicle on the same side.1
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Any type of dysfunction or degeneration that develops in the sacroiliac (SI) joint could potentially compress sacral spinal nerves. If S2, S3, or S4 becomes compressed, it could radiate pain into the scrotum.1-2
Other spinal levels or problems in the spine may also be capable of referring pain down to the testicle(s) and/or scrotum.
Epididymitis involves inflammation of the epididymis, which is tubing located toward the back of the testicle. It is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection but can also result from a virus. Symptoms typically include testicular swelling and pain on one side, which may start out as dull but can become more intense or sharp. In some cases, pain may also be felt in the abdomen, pelvis, or low back.
Epididymitis is the most common cause of acute testicular pain in the U.S. and occurs in more than 600,000 men each year.3 As such, it is common for this condition to be suspected in cases of acute testicular pain. While epididymitis can occur at any age, it is most likely in men ages 20 to 39.3
3. Testicular cancer
This form of cancer is relatively rare, but it is the most common cancer in younger men. Testicular cancer typically starts as a lump on one of the testicles but pain may not develop until much later. Many symptoms of testicular cancer can be similar to epididymitis, such as the testicular pain and swelling. Back pain is not usually present unless the testicular cancer has reached a more advanced stage.4
There are many other potential causes of back pain and testicular pain occurring together, and sometimes they have separate causes. If you have back and/or testicular pain that persists or is accompanied by troubling symptoms, such as any numbness or weakness, seek medical attention. Getting the correct diagnosis early can help set you on the path to recovery and pain relief sooner.
- Patel AP. Anatomy and physiology of chronic scrotal pain. Tranl Androl Urol. 2017; 6(Suppl 1):S51-56. doi: 10.21037/tau.2017.05.32
- Leone JE, Middleton S. Nontraumatic testicular pain due to sacroiliac-joint dysfunction: a case report. J Athl Train. 2016; 51(8):651-7.
- Trojian TH, Lishnak TS, Heiman D. Epididymitis and orchitis: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2009; 79(7):583-7.
- Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer. American Cancer Society Website. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html. Updated May 17, 2018. Accessed March 6, 2019.