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What are Common Causes of Back Pain on One Side?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Back pain on one side is a common affliction and is experienced by many people at some point. In most cases, this type of pain is due to something relatively simple, such as incorrect posture or muscle strain. Some types of back pain on one side may be due to slipped discs in the spine or joint problems. In some cases, kidney issues such as infection or kidney stones may lead to this type of pain. Proper treatment relies on obtaining an accurate diagnosis so that the originating condition can be treated appropriately.

Muscle injuries are among the most common causes of back pain on one side. Muscles may be strained or pulled from overuse, a traumatic injury, or incorrect posture or lifting techniques. Practicing good posture and bending at the knees when lifting heavy objects can often reduce the risks of this type of injury. Over-the-counter medications, rest, and heat or ice therapy are typically recommended to aid the healing process when injured muscles are the cause of back pain on one side.

Slipped or herniated discs occur when one or more discs of the spine move out of place. This can happen due to spinal injury or natural disease processes such as arthritis. Nerves can often become compressed or pinched, sometimes leading to back pain on one side of the body. Damage to any of the joints of the spine may also result in this type of pain. Treatment options include oral medications, steroid injections, or surgery to repair the damaged spine.

When a person experiences back pain on one side without the presence of any type of spinal injury or disease, kidney problems are often suspected. The kidneys are located on each side of the body in the lower back region. Infections are frequently the cause of this type of pain, and prescription antibiotics are typically needed to cure the infection. If the pain occurs suddenly or is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, kidney stones may be present. The doctor may perform tests to check for kidney stones and prescribe pain medications to help ease some of the discomfort the patient feels until the stone has passed.

While most cases of back pain on one side can be safely treated at home, it is important to first obtain an accurate diagnosis from a physician. Any damage to the spine could lead to further complications if not treated appropriately and promptly. Kidney infections that are left untreated may eventually lead to a loss of kidney function, sometimes creating the need for dialysis or transplant.

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