What Are the Causes of Left Flank Pain?

Numerous conditions can cause left flank pain, or pain on the left side of the torso. According to the Clinical Methods website, flank pain is a sensation of pain or distress in the part of the torso between the ribs and the ilia, or hip bones, and the upper abdomen and back 1. Flank pain is often caused by kidney problems, but can also be due to problems with other tissues and structures.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Shingles

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, or NINDS, shingles is an outbreak of skin rash or blisters that's caused by the varicella-zoster virus--the same virus responsible for chicken pox 2. MayoClinic.com states that, although shingles can manifest anywhere on the body, it usually appears as a band of blisters that wraps around one side of the torso, from the middle of the back to the sternum or breastbone. In some cases, a person with shingles may also experience fever and chills, body aches--possibly including left flank pain--headaches and fatigue, according to MayoClinic.com.

Pyelonephritis

In some cases, pyelonephritis can cause serious health complications, such as acute renal failure, irreversible kidney damage and chronic kidney disease. In other cases, kidney infection can spread to the bloodstream, causing a life-threatening condition known as sepsis. A diagnosis of kidney infection is made following a positive urine test in which bacteria and white blood cell formations called casts are identified.

Bruised Ribs

According to MedlinePlus, rib cage pain--including pain on the side of the torso, over the flank--includes any pain or discomfort in the rib area 5. Two of the most common causes of rib cage pain are fractured or bruised ribs 5. Symptoms include tenderness over the affected area, decreased trunk active range-of-motion due to pain and trunk muscle spasms, and pleuritic pain, or pain that's associated with deep breathing. A person who sustains a left-sided rib injury should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional for possible lung and spleen damage. In some cases, a chest X-ray may reveal a collapsed or bruised lung. MedlinePlus states that rest and temporary immobilization are helpful in treating rib cage injuries 5. Other possible treatments include instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, cold laser therapy and kinesio taping techniques.

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