What causes pain on the right side of the lower back?
Lower back pain on the right side is caused by muscle pain. Other times, the pain has nothing to do with the back at all.
Most internal organs are located in the front of the body, except for the kidneys. However, these organs can still cause pain that radiates to your lower back. Some of these internal structures like appendix, ovaries, and intestines, share nerve endings with tissue and ligaments in the back. So, pain in one of these organs whether located in the right lower portion or left, could be referred to one of the tissues or ligaments that share a nerve ending.
Most cases of lower back pain on the right side are not medical emergencies. However, you should get immediate medical help if you experience any of the following:
- Intense pain that affects daily activities
- sudden, severe pain
- intense pain accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, fever, and incontinence.
Back muscle or spinal issues
Back pain can be triggered by mechanical problems, such as:
- overstretching or tearing of a ligament due to wrong lifting
- degeneration of a shock-absorbing spinal disc due to aging or normal wear and tear
- muscle tightness due to improper posture
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or medications to reduce inflammation. If this fails, your doctor may recommend surgery.
The kidneys are located under the ribcage, on either side of the spine. The right kidney hangs a little lower than the left, making it even more likely to cause lower back pain if it’s inflamed or infected. Common kidney problems include kidney infection and kidney stones.
Kidney stones are solid structures that looks like pebbles and consists of excess minerals and salts normally found in urine. You may experience a sharp pain along the back and groin when these stones lodge in the ureter. The ureter is a tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.
Kidney stones causes the pain to be recurrent as the stone moves. Accompanying symptoms may include:
- difficulty emptying bladder
- painful urination
- urgent need to urinate
- small amount of urine after urinating
- bloody urine caused by the stones cutting tissues as it travels down
For treatment, your doctor may recommend:
- drugs to help relax the ureter so the stone can pass more easily
- shock wave lithotripsy (SWL), which uses ultrasound- or X-ray-guided shock waves to break up a stone
- surgical procedures to remove or pulverize a stone.
READ ALSO: 9 Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones
Kidney infections is mostly caused by bacteria, such as E. coli, which lives in your bowel, traveling through your ureter into the bladder and kidneys. Symptoms are similar to those of other urinary tract infections, and include:
- pain when urinating
- back pain and abdominal pain
- urgent need to urinate
- cloudy, dark, or foul-smelling urine
Kidney infection may cause you to be sick with symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, fever, and chills.
READ ALSO: 8 Best Foods for Healthy Kidneys
If left untreated for long, kidney infection can lead to permanent kidney damage and a life-threatening blood infection. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect a kidney infection. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to fight off the bacteria.
Another possible cause of low back pain is appendicitis. Appendix is a small tube that attaches to the large intestine and sits in the lower right side of the body. Appendicitis occurs when the appendix gets inflamed and infected. Symptoms of appendicitis include:
- tenderness and fullness in your abdomen
- pain that worsens with movement or by pressing the tender areas
- pain around the back or groin.
- nausea and vomiting.
If you have any of symptoms of appendicitis, get immediate medical help. If the appendix continues to swell it may eventually burst and spread its infected contents throughout the abdomen, creating a deadly situation.
A surgical procedure called appendectomy may be performed to remove the appendix. It can be done via minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery in uncomplicated cases.
Appendicitis can also be treated with only antibiotics.
Causes in women
There are some causes of low back pain on the right side that are unique to women.
Endometriosis occurs when the uterine tissue grows outside of the womb, often on the ovaries and fallopian tubes. If the tissue grows on the right ovary or fallopian tube, it can irritate the organ and surrounding tissue and cause a crampy pain that can radiate from the front and side of the body to the back.
READ ALSO: Endometriosis: Can it Cause Leg Pain?
This condition can be treated with:
- Hormonal therapy: uses low-dose birth control pills to shrink growths
- Surgery: can be used to remove the growths.
Causes in pregnancy
Pregnant women also experiences low back pain on either side of the spine. This is common throughout pregnancy. Mild discomfort can generally be eased with massage, taking warm baths, gentle stretching, wearing low-heeled shoes. See your doctor if back pain in first trimester or second trimester is associated with cramping or spotting, burning sensation when urinating, cloudy urine, or abdominal pain.
Causes in men
In men, low back pain on the right side can be caused by testicular torsion. This condition occurs when spermatic cord, which lies in the scrotum and carries blood to the testes, becomes twisted, thereby disrupting blood flow to the testicle.
- swelling of the scrotum
- severe, sudden groin pain, that can radiate to the back, either on the left or right side, depending on which testicle is affected
- nausea and vomiting
Testicular torsion is a medical emergency. It can cause the testicle to be damaged irreversibly. Doctors will have to surgically untwist the spermatic cord to save the testicle.
READ ALSO: Muscle Cramps
Consult your doctor whenever you have pain that is new, intense, or worrisome. Seek immediate help if the pain is so severe it interferes you’re your daily activities or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever or nausea.
Tips for managing lower back pain on the right side
Low back pain on the right side can be managed with lifestyle changes or simple home treatments. They include:
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, and reduce your intake of animal protein and salt to reduce your risk of kidney stones.
- Apply ice or heat for 20–30 minutes, every 2–3 hours to ease pain.
- Take pain medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Mortin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), as prescribed by your doctor.
- Engage in exercises that stretches tight muscles
- Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from the colon entering the urinary tract and causing infection.