5 Red Flags - Sudden Middle Back Pain on the Left Side - (Best Remedies & Stretches to Try)

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Sudden Middle Back Pain on the Left Side - Common Causes & Remedies

Written by: Marijune Tiamzon, RN, MHPNP

What Causes Sudden Sharp Middle Back Pain on the Left Side?

To answer this, we need to learn about what is considered middle back. The middle back is what consists of the thoracic spine area. This starts below the neck and ends at the bottom of the rib cage.

The thoracic spine includes 12 vertebrae and 12 ribs on each side.  In this area of the body, there are many muscles, ligaments, tendons as well as internal organs. This can lead to many reasons why you might feel pain in your middle back.

There are many reasons why someone might experience sudden onset of middle back pain and we will discuss them here:

Kidney Stones

The kidneys are located in the middle of the posterior body. When there are problems with the kidneys including kidney stones, this can be extremely painful.

kidney stones

Passing a kidney stone has been compared to labor! Other signs of kidney issues include problems using the restroom, dark colored urine, nausea or vomiting and fever. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should reach out to your medical provider.

Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary Tract Infection Causes

Urinary tract infection is also an issue that can be rather painful and cause pain in the middle back. Similar to issues with the kidneys, there might be painful urination, dark urine as well as fever and nausea or vomiting.

There may be referred pain to the middle back from a urinary tract infection. If you believe these symptoms are causing your middle back pain, reaching out to your medical provider is the first step.

Herniated Disc

Urinary Tract Infection Causes

Many people talk about herniated discs but it is important to know exactly what that means. Between each of your vertebrae, there are cushioned discs that maintain the space between the vertebrae.

This allows your nerves to exit your spinal cord and head out towards your extremities. If there is a herniated disc, those nerves get pinched and can be very painful.

This is what causes so much pain in the middle back with a herniated disc. This pain could be the upper, middle, or lower middle back depending on the disc that is herniated.

Herniated discs might be resolved on their own over time, but a referral from your medical provider to a physical therapist is a great idea to help speed up this recovery timeline.



A common cause of middle back pain is scoliosis. Scoliosis is when the spine has an S or C shaped curvature. This is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults but can be diagnosed later in life.

As we've talked about above, there are spaces between the vertebrae where the nerves exit the spinal cord. If the spine is curved in an abnormal way, the nerves can be squished as they come out of the spinal cord and this can be very painful in the middle back.

Traumatic Injury

Injuries can cause middle back pain in various forms. It could be that you were in a car accident which caused middle back pain or had an injury during a sports game. Regardless of the mechanism of injury, middle back pain could be from muscle strain or sprain as well as a muscle bruise.

The mechanism of this injury will dictate the recovery timeline, but speaking to your medical provider is always a great idea in these scenarios.

What are the specific organs in your back on the left?

Spleen Located

The middle back on the left houses the spleen. It is under your ribcage on the left in the middle of your body. As we have discussed, one the kidneys are located on the middle left of the back as well.

How long does middle back pain last?

The length of the middle back pain symptoms is directly related to the cause. A UTI or kidney issue will quickly improve with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. If the pain is related to a muscle strain or sprain, usually seven days is the standard recovery time.

Other issues like a herniated disc or scoliosis could cause more long-term middle back pain. Your medical provider will be able to help you address these issues.

Stretches for Middle Back Pain on the Left Side

Spinal Twist

This can be done in a seated position. Start with good posture and then slowly start to twist your shoulders and thoracic spine. Take your right hand and reach for the outside of your left knee. Hold for 30 seconds. Then, complete on the other side.

Cat-Cow Pose

Cat Cow Pose

Ideally, this should be done starting on all floors on the floor or your bed. If you can not get in this position, you can complete it in a modified seated position as well.

Start in a neutral position, then slowly drop your midsection toward the ground while allowing your buttocks and head to rise up.

You essentially create a U shape with your spine. Then, slowly reverse so that your midsection raises high in the air while your buttocks and head go low.

This should look like a cat who is scared in a cartoon! Slowly, complete 10 repetitions.


Bridge Pose

Laying on your back, bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Slow, raise your bottom off the ground and create a bridge with your middle and low back. Your spine should remain a straight line throughout the process. Hold for a count of 10, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Child’s Pose

Starting on all fours, spread your knees apart to a comfortable position and slow lean back so that your hands remain on the ground while your buttocks slowly meets with your heels. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax and repeat 10 times.

What Causes Middle Back Pain During Pregnancy?

Middle back pain during pregnancy is common and can be related to a few factors. It is important to remember that as the baby grows, all the internal organs are moved, smooshed, squished, etc!

That alone can be painful and cause many things like acid reflux, constipation, etc. This can also cause middle back pain.

The muscles, tendons and ligaments are being pulled and stretched in new ways than they are used to. As with any pregnancy symptoms, speak to your doctor about your concerns with middle back pain.

Remedies for middle back pain



Improving posture can significantly improve low back pain. If the spine is aligned in the way it was meant to be, that will allow for optimal positioning and thus, decreased pain.

Make sure that you are sitting upright with your shoulders down and away from your ears with your hips in a neutral position.


While this might seem counterintuitive, continued movement is important to relieving middle back pain. With any of the causes of pain, one of the worst things that someone could do is to sit still for an extended period of time period this causes increased muscle tightness as well as muscle weakness and well increase the timeline for recovery.

continued movement


Speak with your doctor before starting any over the counter medication, but an NSAID might be great option for you to decrease any inflammation and minimize pain throughout the recovery process.


Using ice on a new injury is optimal for recovery period ice can decrease the inflammation which will decrease pain. A general rule of thumb is 20 minutes of icing every hour while awake. There are many types of reusable ice packs on the market, or a standard pack of frozen vegetables will work too!

reusable ice packs


Heat is also an option for reducing pain. This can relieve muscle soreness and tension which can relieve pain. Same as with ice, a general rule of thumb is 20 minutes of heat every hour while awake. Make sure that you set a timer if you are using an electric heating pad as you do not want to risk skin injury from prolonged use.

Read Related Article:  Best Heating Pads for Back Pain Relief


Rest is another way to decrease pain. As above, we talked about movement, but rest is important as well. Getting a good night's sleep is vital to the recovery period. Our bodies do a great deal of healing overnight and need to be given that rest time to help alleviate middle back pain.


There might be instances where surgery or other procedures would be indicated to decrease middle back pain. Speaking with your doctor about these options is the first step if a procedure is required for you.

When to see a doctor for middle back pain

Certainly, for any middle back pain caused by an infection or significant injury, seeing your doctor is vital. This includes middle back pain that can be attributed to pregnancy.

Pain that is related to a mild injury or overuse, you should try the above listed home remedies. If those do not work, or you feel your pain is getting worse instead of better, it is advisable to seek medical care.

When to visit ER or Urgent Care for middle back pain

If your back pain is caused by a more serious problem, you might feel different symptoms. This would include significant muscle weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control or chest pain. You might also feel numbness or tingling throughout your back or down your arms or legs. If you are feeling any of those symptoms, it is necessary to seek emergency care.

Middle back pain, especially on the left side, can be caused by many issues. It is important to evaluate your symptoms for severity and length to determine if your pain is something that needs addressed with urgent medical care, or you can try home remedies to decrease the middle back pain.

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