Is Your Lower Back Pain Only On The Left Side?

I personally struggled with chronic lower back pain on both the left and the right side… In addition to pelvic inflammation as well. It wasn’t until November 2015 that actually experienced living completely pain-free.

I’m almost confident that at least 1-3 ideas on this post will help you get some relief. I want this post to be as useful as possible, so I’m going to divide it into 3 sections:

  1. I’ll talk about what you need to do to rule out any sinister causes.
  2. We’ll talk about the possible cause of lower back pain (whether the pain is on the left or right side).
  3. I’ll give you some suggestions on what to do to get relief AND to avoid triggering the pain.

Back Pain On The Lower Left Side…Is It Serious?

Disclaimer: if you’re experiencing chronic lower back pain in just one side in particular, please visit your doctor first and get an assessment to rule out any serious causes. You just never know. It’s always good to check. If you feel numbness and you experience incontinence, please don’t wait. See a Doctor immediately.

If I didn’t investigate the constant pain I was experiencing on the left side of my lower back, I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (and wouldn’t have taken action into doing something about it). So it’s always good to check and dig deeper to finding the root cause.

Causes of Lower Back Pain

Whether you’re experiencing lower back pain on the left or right side, there is always a root cause.  A lot of people freak out when they experience sudden pain, but you should understand that most of the time, your body won’t start sending you signals (pain) until the pain threshold has been reached. And that usually happens after a long period of time.

Now let’s break down what these pain triggers are:

Flexed Posture Intolerance

This is when any bending at the spine triggers pain. Sitting is one of the most common triggers for chronic lower back pain or hip pain.  And that’s because when we sit, we’re more likely to hunch over, round our shoulders and get into that flexed position.

Observe how sitting for longer than 15 minutes affects your posture. Especially if your seat doesn’t support your lumbar spine. Most people spend the majority of their days like this:

Eyes locked on the computer… Shoulders rounding… Back hunched over. Humans were not designed to sit for long periods of time in front of a computer, with no movement whatsoever. Usually, one side will bear the load. Due to compensation.

Paul Chek from the C.H.E.K institute stated in his blog:

Today, our modern culture is characterized by “sitting disease.” It is reported that a sedentary lifestyle is the single strongest predictor of death, ahead of smoking and hypertension. Many busy adults sit far too long at desks in front of computer screens working or relaxing in front of mobile devices or a TV.

We see the results in posture-poor bodies whose heads fall forward, shoulders that are hunched and backs that become rounded.

Physically, prolonged sitting shortens the frontal muscles of the body and the deeper psoas major muscle, along with the scalenes at the neck, creating inflexibility and soft bones at all levels.

Worse, sitting compresses the diaphragm where breathing deeply becomes compromised, strangling blood innervation to the organs and glands, and putting the person at risk for developing all sorts of diseases.

Without pumping the body, we have a difficult time removing waste from tissues or stimulating peristalsis action in the bowel. When the body becomes stagnant, so do our thoughts and moods.

Don’t be surprised if the pain moves from one side to the other. Many people start experiencing lower back pain on the left side and it switches to the right. It’s important to not take an isolation approach here and still think of your body as one unit.

When there is an imbalance, usually one side will start doing more work and become dominant. If you’re always using your right side, for example, to carry bags, hold a back-pack, or do housework, that side will become more dominant, leaving the opposite side weak and inactive. Make sure you’re using your body in a balanced way.

Alternate between sides. Don’t leave room for imbalances to build. Anyone can develop imbalances. Even athletes. Repetitive movements create and strengthen these imbalances.

Intrinsic Stabilization Subsystem

Most people don’t know how to activate, engage and fully integrate their deep core muscles. Doing a bunch of exercises without understanding why you’re doing them, how to do them properly, or which muscle they’re targeting can be considered a waste of time.

Yes, I’m glad you’re moving and exercising. But, one of the reasons people don’t trust exercise or think it doesn’t work is mainly due to this reason.

Your core is your spine’s safety belt. And your core is not just your abs.

The core is made of an inner and an outer unit. Both these units work together to help you accomplish simple daily tasks…and more advanced athletic performance. Let’s break this down so you can understand what the core really is.

The Inner Core Unit

The inner core stabilizes, supports, and protects the spine from damage. The muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine, that are part of the inner core are:

  • Transverse abdominis: a deep abdominal muscle that acts as a belt around your waist to protect your spine – let’s imagine you want to pick a box from the floor, and your transverse abdominis (the belt) isn’t engaged to stabilize you. Your spine and hip joints will bear the load.
  • The other important stabilizers that are part of the inner unit are: The pelvic floor (connected to your pelvis), diaphragm and multifidus.

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Before attempting to work on the outer core unit (which is also important and serves crucial functions ), you’ll need to make sure you have a stable and strong inner unit. Think of it this way...

If the inner unit is a house foundation. And that foundation is weak. Then, no matter how nice the outside of that house looks like, cracks will start to appear on the walls. And it may even collapse at one point in time.

Build a strong foundation first, and then move on to the next level.

The Core Outer Unit

The outer core unit is responsible for movement. We call these muscles prime movers. Primer movers are the muscles that move the trunk such as the rectus abdominis, external obliques, the shoulder girdle, back, legs and the rest of your body. 

The core is an integration of ALL these muscles. Crazy… right? Who knew that the core was much more than just a 6 pack of abs?

Now, a weak inner core will contribute to chronic lower back pain. The more stable your spine is, the less pain you’ll experience bending over, standing and sitting. I highly encourage you to test your inner core strength. How to test your inner core strength?

Here’s a super simple test: Stand nice and tall facing a mirror. Lift one leg up (you can bend at the knee). Put your leg back down. Then lift the other leg up. Do you notice that you were shifting a lot to one side whenever you lifted your leg? And do you notice you were holding your breath during the lift?

If you also feel unstable walking, bending over, and also feeling a lack of confidence overall when exercising…you’re lacking the support that’s provided by that ‘foundation’ and it’s important to focus on this as a long-term solution to healing from chronic lower back pain.

You can get started with the deep core training that I created specifically to help you build your inner core foundation. The Back Pain Bootcamp, however, contains everything you need (from posture assessment to strengthen your stabilizing muscles). Here’s where to read more about the Back Pain Bootcamp.

How to Get Quick Relief From Chronic Lower Back Pain

I’m not gonna sit here and tell you to simply take this vitamin, wear this belt, or do this stretch and all your back problems will disappear. It just doesn’t work that way. 

Fixing postural or muscular imbalances require daily effort (not necessarily a lot of hard work, but daily mindful effort). People love shortcuts but I’m not gonna lie to you here. I tried all the shortcuts that promised me wonderful results, and nothing worked.

There are no shortcuts to achieving a healthy body. You have to do certain things on a daily basis to maintain your health and a pain-free state – just like when you maintain your car by changing the oil and the filters, and so on… You also need to maintain your spine and health on a daily basis.

There are however a few things you can do to get quick relief. These tools will actually support your healing, in addition to giving you relief right away. I’ve listed them all on a separate blog post which you can read below:

The Long-Term Approach

I’ve created a video to help you investigate the possible repetitive postures or movements that may be triggering lower back pain.

Can Exercise Or Machines Make Lower Back Pain Worse?

Machines are a good way to supplement your training. However, they should be used in moderation. The main program you are following should be based on corrective exercises to re-educate muscles to work together. Why is machine training not recommended?

Machine training restricts the nervous system. In addition, the neurological engagement between the isolated muscles and the brain decreases. So you’re actually not improving your mind-body or mind-muscle connection which is very important.

For example, a functional, corrective exercise program should include:

  1. 3-ways lunges
  2. planks
  3. Bridges
  4. Pressing
  5. Pulling
  6. Rotation
  7. Flexion/extension
  8. Hip hinge

A corrective exercise program will help you build a strong foundation. And teach you how to maintain structural integrity. You’ll prevent injury and get long-term relief from lower back pain and other muscular imbalances like piriformis syndrome and pelvic instability.

If this is your goal, check out the Back Pain Bootcamp. The #1 fitness program created specifically to help you fix chronic lower back pain, build strength, correct posture and get back in shape safely and injury-free.