Left Flank Pain That Comes and Goes: Why and How - Body Pain Tips

Left Flank Pain That Comes and Goes: Why and How

Flank pain refers to pain that occurs on the right and/or left in the lateral middle to lower back. In this post, I am going to write about the left flank pain that comes and goes.

Basically, the complaints may be due to different causes. Not infrequently, the cause is in the kidneys and the urinary tract. However, other diseases can also hide behind the flank pain. In case of persistent or severe pain, a medical examination should be carried out.

What is Flank Pain?

When there is a pain, discomfort or unusual sensations in the region between the lower back and the upper abdomen on either side of your torso, then you have flank pain. It is known to be a kidney related condition that may result in an infection, a tumor or a kidney stone. This condition is not very common. But it is important to get tested with the help of a urinalysis and a physical exam by a qualified physician to clearly determine whether you may have a kidney abnormality.

Flank pain may be accompanied by other symptoms such as the urge to urinate frequently, traces of blood in urine and even chills. Some patients may also experience fever and complain of sleepless nights. The duration, extent of severity and recurrence of pain are characteristics that will go a long way in helping to determine the cause. The pain may vary from chronic to acute and it can also be referred or local depending on a patient.

Irreversible damage may happen if there is a severe renal damage, so even mild flank pain should not be ignored. Flank pain can also develop as a result of a diuresis from intake of large volumes of fluid where a Ureteropelvic Junction (UPJ) obstruction takes place, but this is a very rare case.

Severe flank pain may require the doctor to perform more tests. This kind of pain may not be caused by a kidney problem but other extra-urinary problems and that is why it is advisable to see a doctor as soon as you can, whenever you experience this kind of pain. Treatment may depend on the cause. Rest, exercise and antibiotics are some of the treatments available for flank pain.

Why Left Flank Pain Should Never Be Ignored

There are a number of conditions that can cause left flank pain, the left flank being the area on the left side of the body that lies between the bottom of the rib cage and the hip bones. Depending upon the cause, left flank pain may be felt mostly in the back, or mostly in the front. It may be only felt along the left side, or the entire left half of the abdomen may be painful. There are conditions that can cause right flank pain as well, but in many cases, these same conditions can also be a source of pain on the left side.

The majority of the causes of flank pain seem to cause pain in the left flank, with the most common causes being one of several types of kidney conditions.  Nevertheless, most of the causes of pain in the left flank, which are discussed below, could just as easily apply to right flank issues. Kidney problems are not limited to the left kidney alone, and other urinary tract problems could cause pain on either side or both sides of the abdomen.

The Causes of Left Flank Pain That Comes and Goes

Left Flank Pain That Comes and Goes causes can be either from the skin, the musculoskeletal system (spine, ribs, and nerves) or from internal organs of the left side of the upper abdomen.

Infections and Blockages

The most common types of urinary tract problems that are likely to cause left flank pain are infections and blockages. Blocking in the urinary tract due to the presence of a ureteral stone. This is perhaps the leading single cause of pain in the left flank. Pain caused by an obstruction is usually more severe or intense than is pain caused by infection or inflammation.


There are times when a urinary tract infection will migrate to one of the kidneys. And if it is the left kidney that is involved, it is in the left flank where the pain will be felt.

This type of a kidney infection, one which originates in either the urethra or the bladder, is called pyelonephritis. Flank pain could be your best friend if this infection is allowed to take hold since if left untreated. Permanently damaged to the affected kidney could result.

Another of the dangers of pyelonephritis is that there is always the possibility the infection could spread into the bloodstream. Causing a condition known as sepsis or Urosepsis (blood poisoning), which is potentially life-threatening.  Insofar as most types of kidney diseases are concerned, pain may only be one of several symptoms. In many cases, pain is not experienced at all. If infection, inflammation, or kidney stones are present, however, at least some pain in the left flank is likely to be experienced.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

While some gastrointestinal diseases or disorders will cause left flank pain that comes and goes. Most of them tend to cause bilateral pain. Meaning the pain is felt across the entire abdomen, and at times including the sides and the back.  An exception is pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, which can cause a significant amount of pain. That most often tends to be experienced in the left flank.

Shingles is a disease most often occurring in older people. Shingles are typically characterized by a painful rash, but it can also because more deeply felt pain in some cases. While shingles can affect nearly any organ in the body. It usually manifests itself somewhere in or near the skin. And it is usually present on only one side of the body. If shingles make itself known in the left side of the abdomen, which is one of the more likely locations it would appear. The entire left flank may be quite painful until the disease has run its course.

The cause of left side flank pain can at times be easy to diagnose and at other times difficult. The cause can often be readily determined if other symptoms are present. Such as nausea, muscular tenderness somewhere in the abdominal area, fever, vomiting, and pain while urinating, or a presence of blood in the urine. Differential diagnosis is sometimes relied upon to differentiate the symptoms of flank pain from like symptoms of other disorders.

Other Causes

Some of the disorders causing flank pain are not nearly as serious as some of the aforementioned causes, although the pain can be no less severe. A pulled or torn muscle on the left side would be one such disorder. Other types of trauma can also cause severe pain in the left flank. As can muscle spasms, which can occur during periods of strenuous exercise or activity. It is sometimes easy to distinguish between the flank pain that involves a muscle, particularly a superficial muscle, and flank pain due to a condition that exists deeper in the abdomen. Left flank pain should never be ignored, no matter what the suspected cause may be. When the pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, chills, headaches, or fatigue, it should be treated. As if it was symptomatic of a condition that requires prompt, if not an emergency, treatment, even though sudden and severe flank pain can sometimes result from a condition that is not a particularly serious one. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Treating Left Flank Pain That Comes and Goes

The treatment of left flank pain also depends on the cause:

  • Inflammations of the skin are treated locally with creams or ointments, in case of bacterial cause with antibiotics. Shingles are treated with analgesics and acyclovir, an antiviral medication.
  • Pain caused by the musculoskeletal system is treated with analgesics and sufficient exercise.
  • Infection is administered with antipyretic drugs and antibiotics, which are taken via the vein or as a tablet. Depending on the age of the patient and the severity of the disease.

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