One of the best ways to narrow down the possible causes of your back pain is to consider where the pain is located and what type of pain sensation you feel. Many people complain of lower back pain on either the right or left side. The following descriptions of causes may help you understand your pain better.
Muscular Lower Back Pain
Pain on one side of the body may indicate a simple muscle strain. This type of pain is located in a muscle and may be felt as stiffness, soreness or an ache. Muscle strain occurs when a muscle is overworked or overstretched and suffers tears. They can occur in any number of ways throughout the day, such as twisting to the side and lifting an object.
Most cases of muscle strain heal within days. You can alleviate pain by applying ice to the muscle during the first twenty-four hours for 20 minute at a time. Once the muscle is no longer inflamed, you can use heat to loosen it up.
If you have chronic muscle pain, it is possible that a lower back muscle on one side suffers from an overuse injury. This could occur if your job or other daily activities require you to use the muscle constantly. If you have a desk job and frequently turn to one side, for example, one side of your lower back may be strained. Overuse injuries require a change in behavior to heal. Changing the layout of your work station may be a solution to this.
If you have chronic muscle strain, it is possible that your muscle has developed trigger points. These are dense knots that form and make it difficult for the muscle to relax. Trigger point massage therapy or self-myofascial release (SMR) can work out trigger points.
SI Joint Pain
The sacroiliac (SI) joint is formed where the large hip bones meets the sacrum in the lower back on each side. SI joint dysfunction occurs when the joint is misaligned and has either too much or too little motion. It becomes inflamed and irritates the sciatic nerve that runs down the leg. There are a number of causes of SI joint dysfunction; pregnancy, impact, muscle imbalance and leg length discrepancy are common causes.
The SI joint is indicated as your source of pain if the pain is centered on the joint. The joint is usually inflamed if you have SI joint dysfunction, so it may be painful to the touch. The pain may be achy or sharp and often radiates into the lower back, buttocks, hips and thighs. You may also notice that one side of your pelvis is higher or sticks out more than the other. If you have these symptoms, it would be wise to ask your doctor to test for SI joint dysfunction. Physical therapy may assist in recovery.
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the foot on each side of the body. The nerve can become compressed or irritated by a herniated disc, tight piriformis muscle in the hip, vertebral misalignment or inflamed SI joint. These are the most common causes of sciatica pain.
"True" sciatica is marked by compression of the nerve root as it exits the spine. That said, vertebral misalignment and herniated disc are the most common causes of sciatica. SI joint inflammation and the piriformis muscle irritate the nerve further down its length and create similar pain, just with a different starting point. "True" sciatica is characterized by a sharp pain that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and legs, sometimes as far down as the foot. Treating this kind of sciatica may require chiropractic care, physical therapy and spinal decompression treatments. SI joint dysfunction and piriformis syndrome create similar pain, but the pain may be worst at the joint or hip. These conditions benefit from physical therapy.
Pain in one side of your back could indicate muscle strain, SI joint dysfunction or sciatica. If the pain is sore or achy and for the most part localized, you likely have a muscle strain on one side of your back. If the pain is sharp and radiates, you can suspect either sciatica or the SI joint. With a little education, you may be able to resolve your back pain on our own. For more serious conditions, you can help your doctor arrive at an accurate diagnosis.