Experiencing pain in both your abdomen and back can be overwhelming and frightening. Pain in the left lower abdomen and back can signal a problem with any of a number of organs in the abdomen. The pain could be caused by something as simple as constipation or as serious as a kidney stone. Being aware of the danger signs and symptoms of more serious conditions is important to help you determine when it is time to see a doctor.
Diverticulitis is a common cause of left lower abdominal and back pain, and an increasingly frequent reason for hospital stays. As you age, small pouches can develop along the walls of the colon. Most commonly, these pouches develop in the sigmoid colon, located on the left side of the abdomen. Diverticulitis occurs when bacteria get stuck in these pouches and they become infected. The infection causes inflammation of the colon, resulting in pain in the left lower abdomen that might also be felt in the back. Other possible symptoms of diverticulitis include fever, constipation, nausea or diarrhea.
Other Digestive System Causes
Colon problems other than diverticulitis can also cause left lower abdominal and back pain. Something as simple as constipation can cause pain as your colon distends with stool. If painful constipation is associated with bloating and an inability to pass gas, a colon blockage may be present. A tumor involving the last portion of the colon can also cause left-sided abdominal and back pain. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include changed stool consistency, bloating and/or bloody stools.
Urinary System Causes
Severe, left-sided back pain that radiated into the lower abdomen could indicate a kidney stone or a urinary tract infection on that side. Kidney stones develop from excess crystal-forming substances in the urine. When larger stones move through the urinary system, they may get stuck, causing pain, bloody urine and nausea. Similar pain can also be felt with a progressing urinary tract infection on the left side. A urinary infection involving the kidney is called pyelonephritis and is associated with one-sided abdominal and back pain, burning with urination and fever.
Reproductive System Causes
Left lower abdominal and back pain in women could indicate a problem with the ovary or fallopian tube on that side. An infection, cyst or twisting of the ovary can cause severe pain that generally worsens over time. A pregnancy located in the left fallopian tube or ovary instead of the uterus -- a condition known as an ectopic pregnancy -- is another possible cause for pain and may be accompanied by vaginal bleeding. In men, a testicular infection, tumor or twisting of the left testicle commonly causes pain that radiates from the testicle into the left side of the abdomen and back.
When to See Your Doctor
Call your doctor right away if you develop abdominal and back pain, especially if it doesn't go away in a few days or worsens. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience abdominal and back pain accompanied by a fever, bloody stool, persistent vomiting, inability to pass gas, vaginal bleeding, dizziness or fainting.
- American Family Physician: Diagnosis and Management of Acute Diverticulitis
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Colorectal Cancer Statistics
- AUA University: Kidney Stones
- JAMA: Sigmoid Diverticulitis, A Systematic Review
- The Merck Manual Professional Edition: Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections
- The Merck Manual Professional Edition: Intestinal Obstruction
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Colorectal Cancer, Signs and Symptoms
- American Family Physician: Diagnosis and Management of Ectopic Pregnancy