Diagnosing the source of your lower left back pain typically involves a process of elimination. To help you better communicate with your doctor, we are here to provide a step-by-step explanation of this process:
Muscle strain: The most common cause
Following a slip on the ice, a night of sleeping in a contorted position, or perhaps after swinging a golf club, you may feel a sharp pain in the lower left side of your back. This pain is likely from an overstretched or torn muscle, and this kind of injury is known as a muscle strain.
A muscle strain is the most common cause of lower left back pain, so your doctor will likely want to begin the diagnosis process by testing for this type of injury. She or he will ask for a comprehensive medical history, and then may perform a physical examination to check for the following:
- Localized tenderness
- A defect that signals a rupture in the muscle
- Discomfort during range of motion exercises
- Muscle weakness
While your pain may be severe, the silver lining is that lower left back pain caused by muscle strain will typically clear up in a few days (and almost all cases resolve in 3 to 4 weeks).
Problems related to spinal structures
If muscle strain is determined not be the source of your lower left back pain symptoms, your doctor may next check to see if your pain is from a problem related to your spinal column. Common sources of lower left back pain related to the spinal column include:
- Lumbar herniated disc
- Facet joint pain
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
In addition to the diagnostic tests for identifying muscle strain, there is a variety of other tests that may be used to determine if a problem relating to a spinal structure is the cause of your pain. For example, your doctor may perform any of the following:
- Leg raise test
- Reflex test
- Neurologic exam
Moreover, your doctor may order an imaging study to look for a structural problem that may explain your pain which include Xrays, CT scans, and, or an MRI that may reveal a disc herniation, facet or sacroiliac joint arthropathy.
Lower left back pain from your internal organs
If muscle strain or an issue with your spinal structures is not identified as the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will likely then look toward your internal organs. Although it is less common, your lower left back pain may be provoked by a variety of problem with your internal organs, including:
- Kidney stones
- Kidney infection
- Gynecological disorders
- Ulcerartive colitis
Lower left back symptoms caused by a problem with an internal organs can vary widely based on the organ. In light of this, your recent medical history will be particularly helpful in determining which internal organ may be the source of your symptoms. In addition, x-rays, CT scans, and blood tests may be ordered to confirm that a particular internal organ is the cause of your symptoms.
I hope all of the above information will help you better communicate with your doctor, which in turn can set you on a quicker path to healing.