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Pete asked...

I have a specific back pain on the left side...

I have a specific back pain on the left side of my back just below the rib cage and have had it a few weeks now. I've booked a Dr's appointment but the earliest they could see me is the end of November. This pain is concerning me, so I guess my question is whether I should challenge the Dr's for an emergency appointment or just wait another 5 weeks. I'm after advice as to whether this pain could be something serious or not. It doesn't seem to be muscle related.

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The answer

Thank you for contacting us here at Ask the Expert.

Here at Ask the Expert we can provide information, discuss possible causes of the problem and support but are unable to diagnose conditions so we will endeavour to answer your question as best as possible with the information you have provided.

You say you have been experiencing left sided back pain over the last few weeks which you feel is not of a muscular nature the possible causes for this could be:

  • Kidney Infection- Often presents with symptoms including back pain particularly to the side and possibly with the presence of high temperatures, general malaise, loss of appetite, nausea and possibly diarrhoea. You may also experience difficulty with passing urine and notice that your urine has an offensive smell to it and appear cloudy or blood stained.
  • Kidney Stones- Again this can present with similar symptoms to a kidney infection but often the pain experienced tends to be sharp and can also radiate to the groin or abdomen as well. Kidney stones are more common in men aged 30-60 years of age and occur due to the build up of crystals from the waste process into harden lumps in the kidneys.
  • Diverticulitis- This is inflammation of the bowel and this can often present with abdominal and back pain as well as changes to the normal bowel habits.
  • Referred Pain- From other abdominal organs due to inflammation or infection.
  • Pulled Muscles- From injuries or overstretching and overexertion of muscles in the back and surrounding areas.

In view of all of the possibilities, of the cause of your pain, we would very much encourage you to seek an earlier or emergency appointment with your GP in order to ascertain the cause and to enable treatment to be given as appropriate.

If an appointment with your GP is not forthcoming we would seek a telephone consultation with a GP initially or a consultation with the Practice Nurse as both sources could then escalate you to obtaining a face- to- face consultation if necessary. Some doctors may well prescribe treatment on your description of symptoms if it is likely to be a minor ailment causing the pain.

In view of the discomfort that you have we would expect that you will need to see a Doctor but that you may well need a physical examination as well as some investigations such as blood and urine tests to ascertain the cause of your back pain.

You may find that making sure you keep hydrated, taking analgesia and using heat packs may help to alleviate some of the symptoms if related to infection or muscle pain.

If you still find it difficult obtaining an appointment with your GP we would suggest you seek an appointment with another GP in the practice you attend.

Other ways that you could seek an appointment sooner is via the NHS Walk-In Centre service that may be near to where you live or work or by seeking an appointment with a Private GP.

We hope this is of some help and wish you a speedy recovery.


Answered by the Health at Hand nurses