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 or pelvis. 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 to see a doctor.
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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 these pouches become inflamed, resulting in pain in the left lower abdomen that might also be felt in the back. Other possible symptoms of diverticulitis include fever, nausea, vomiting, and constipation 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 radiates into the lower abdomen could indicate a kidney stone or a kidney infection. Kidney stones develop from excess crystal-forming substances in the urine. When larger stones move through the urinary system, they might cause a blockage, leading to pain, bloody urine and nausea. Similar pain can also be felt with a urinary tract infection involving the kidney, a condition called pyelonephritis. Typical symptoms include one-sided abdominal and back pain, burning with urination, increased urinary frequency, nausea, vomiting, and fever and chills.
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 is severe or worsening. 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, or dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.
Reviewed and revised by: Tina M. St. John, MD
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- 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
- American Family Physician: Diagnosis and Management of Ectopic Pregnancy
- American Family Physician: Left Lower-Quadrant Pain: Guidelines from the American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria
- The Merck Manual Home Edition: Diverticulitis
- National Kidney Foundation: Kidney Stones
- American Cancer Society: Colorectal Cancer Guide
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Ovarian Cyst
- American Cancer Society: Possible Symptoms of Testicular Cancer