When To Contact A Doctor
An affected individual needs to know when to contact a doctor about kidney pain. Patients who mistake back pain for kidney pain will think they can treat their pain at home with over-the-counter medications, rest, and heat therapy. However, kidney pain should not be treated at home without the guidance of a physician. Any severe and persistent pain that is not improving in severity after resting should be evaluated by a physician. Kidney pain that worsens over time can indicate the progression of life-threatening conditions or diseases.
Kidney stones can produce pain that may be debilitating to the point where a patient has trouble with walking or standing. If kidney pain is accompanied by other aforementioned symptoms, the patient must seek medical treatment. A kidney stone left untreated can cause a urinary obstruction that leads to irreversible kidney injury and kidney failure. An untreated kidney infection can lead to a life-threatening blood infection called sepsis. Untreated kidney cancer can progress to metastatic cancer that spreads to other parts of the body and cause kidney failure.
Kidney Pain Vs Back Pain: How To Differentiate
According to various data banks, the overall prevalence of low back pain was found to be 42% in India. Kidney problems too result in back pain which may be a little different from musculoskeletal back pain. In todays write up we will find out how to differentiate between the two.
Each person has got a pair of kidneys located posteriorly on the lower side of the abdomen. The kidney purifies blood for nutrients and discharges urine.
How to differentiate kidney pain from general backache:
Musculoskeletal back pain is usually felt around the lumbar region, it may pain while muscles are touched. However musculoskeletal back pain can be felt all through the back as well.
Musculoskeletal back pain due to disc or nerve impingement may radiate to buttocks, back of the thigh, laterally to leg and ankles too.
The musculoskeletal back pain is mostly coming and going, peaking after high-intensity work and better with rest. Pain here too is dull aching.
The musculoskeletal back pain is not very severe.
Are You Mistaking Back Pain For Kidney Pain
When trying to determine if the pain is coming from the kidneys or is just back pain, you need to take into account:
- The location of pain
- Type and severity of the pain
- Accompanying symptoms, you have any
In this blog, we discuss the main characteristics, location, severity, and any accompanying symptoms to identify if it is kidney pain or a backache. Also, find out when is the time you should see your doctor for the pain.
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Kidney Location Where Are Your Kidneys Located
As mentioned above most people have one kidney on each side of the posterior abdominal area. The specific location of the kidneys sometimes causes the pain sensation to be confused with other types of pain such as liver or back pain. It is very important to understand the exact location and sensation of kidney pain.
The picture below shows a drawing each kidney in the area where they are located. Flank pain is specifically found in this area. If movement of the muscle or massage does not relieve pain in this area you may be experiencing kidney pain.
Flank pain which is sharp or doesnt change upon movement is most likely kidney pain and not muscular pain.
Picture 1 : Surface of the kidney location Image source : meded.ucsd.edu
What Are The Symptoms Of Kidney Stones
“A kidney stone is a hard mass that’s made up of minerals , certain salts and other byproducts. They can form when these substances accumulate in the area of your kidneys where urine is produced,” explains Dr. Kannady.
Kidney stones can be as small as the point of a pen or as large as a ping pong ball.
“Typically, a person doesn’t start noticing the symptoms of a kidney stone until it moves from the kidney into the ureter, which is the tube that carries urine from your kidney to your bladder,” Dr. Kannady adds.
Kidney stone symptoms include:
- Sharp pain in the lower abdomen, typically on one side
- A burning sensation or pain while urinating
- Urinating frequently
- Feeling like you’re urinating incompletely or in small amounts
- Urine that is brown, red or pink, which indicates the presence of blood
- Smelly or cloudy urine
- Feeling queasy or nauseous due to the intensity of the pain
- Signs of infection, including fever, chills and vomiting
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Swelling In Hands Or Feet
Why this happens:
Failing kidneys don’t remove extra fluid, which builds up in your body causing swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, and/or hands.
What patients said:
I remember a lot of swelling in my ankles. My ankles were so big I couldn’t get my shoes on.
Going to work one morning, my left ankle was swollen, real swollen, and I was very exhausted just walking to the bus stop. And I knew then that I had to see a doctor.
What Procedures And Tests Diagnose Kidney Diseases
The doctor usually will do a history and physical examination. Initial tests usually consist of a complete blood count , kidney function , and urine test, and when appropriate, a pregnancy test. A lacerated kidney may be suspected if the person has experienced a traumatic injury to the lower back.
If kidney stones are suspected, a CT exam or renal ultrasound is done an abdominal X-ray may be ordered but has been replaced in general by ultrasound and CT. As patients with kidney stones often need repeat X-ray studies or have repeat episodes of kidney stones, ultrasound with its lack of radiation is a good study to consider. Abdominal/pelvic CTs with contrast or magnetic resonance imaging and aortogram may be ordered to further define or differentiate underlying kidney and nonrenal causes of flank pain. Such studies are routinely performed if a kidney is suspected to be damaged by a traumatic event .
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When Should Call A Doctor For Kidney Pain
Individuals should not postpone seeing a doctor about kidney pain or flank pain. Although flank pain is often seen in underlying problems with the kidney, there are many other diseases that can mimic kidney pain, and a physician can help with an accurate diagnosis of underlying problems that result in kidney or flank pain. Any acute onset of intense kidney or flank pain should be evaluated immediately.
Warning signs that kidney disease is present and may result in kidney pain or flank pain are the following:
- High blood pressure
- Swelling of the hands and feet and/or puffiness around the eyes
- Testing that shows an abnormal creatinine, blood urea nitrogen , or glomerular filtration rate less than 60
In addition, if an individual has diabetes or any of the congenital problems that lead to kidney dysfunction, the individual should be routinely checked for the onset of kidney dysfunction or kidney failure by their physician.
Shortness Of Breath After Very Little Effort
Why this happens:
Being short of breath can be related to the kidneys in two ways. First, extra fluid in the body can build up in the lungs. And second, anemia can leave your body oxygen-starved and short of breath.
What patients said:
At the times when I get the shortness of breath, it’s alarming to me. It just fears me. I think maybe I might fall or something so I usually go sit down for awhile.
I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t catch my breath, like I was drowning or something. And, the bloating, can’t breathe, can’t walk anywhere. It was bad.
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What Is The Best Treatment For Kidney Pain Or Back Pain
When either your kidneys or your back hurt, you could either experience mild discomfort or a crippling pain. Since the actual problem might not be clear yet, consulting with a physician is imperative to determine the cause before they can administer treatment.
Issues with the kidney could either be a minor problem or a big one. If youre battling a kidney infection, your doctor would most likely prescribe antibiotics for you. A tiny kidney stone will require no treatment at all and pass naturally. In some cases, you many need a short hospital visit so they can get the stones out of your system smoothly. Drinking plenty of water can help with this problem. A larger kidney stone, on the other hand, would require surgery.
As for the back, various causes means many different cures are available. For non-serious back problems, you only need some rest, muscle relaxants, and a heating pad to relieve the pain. If the pain lasts for over two weeks, it may indicate a more severe problem that could require intensive care, physical rehabilitation, or minor surgery.
The Doctors: Visceral Pain
Dr. Travis explained that Visceral Pain comes from the internal organs, but it is not always clear where it is coming from, because it could manifest somewhere else in the body.
That is because of the nerves that run through your body. Thats why, for example, Heart Attack symptoms can include arm pain.
How do you tell the difference? Dr. Travis used Dr. Jim Sears as a model to explain how he examines a patient. To determine the difference between a Pulled Muscle and Appendicitis, he explained that he would have the patient bend the knees and relax the abdomen.
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Symptoms Of Kidney Pain
- A dull ache that’s usually constant
- Pain under your rib cage or in your belly
- Pain in your side usually only one side, but sometimes both hurt
- Sharp or severe pain that may come in waves
- Pain that can spread to your groin area or belly
Other symptoms that can happen with kidney pain
The symptoms of your kidney pain depend on its cause. With kidney pain you may also have:
- Blood in your urine
When To See A Gp
See a GP if you feel feverish and have pain that will not go away in your tummy, lower back or genitals.
Contact a GP immediately if you think your child may have a kidney infection.
If you cannot get a GP appointment and need urgent medical attention, go to your nearest urgent care centre .
If you do not have a local UCC, go to your nearest A& E.
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How To Determine Kidney Pain
Kidney pain is frequently triggered by a kidney infection or a rock in the tubes appearing of your kidney.
If the discomfort is originating from your kidney, it will have these functions:
Where is This Pain Located?You feel kidney pain on your side. This is the area on either side of your spine between the bottom of your ribcage and your hips. It usually takes place on one side of your body. However, it can occur on both sides.
Type of DiscomfortKidney pain is usually sharp if you have a kidney stone and a plain pain if you have an infection. Most often, it will undoubtedly be continuous.It won’t worsen with motion or disappear on its own without therapy.If you’re passing a kidney stone, the discomfort may change as the stone steps.Radiation of the DiscomfortIn some cases, the pain spreads to your inner thigh or reduced abdominal areas.The severity of the PainKidney discomfort is categorized according to how negative it is – severe or mild. A kidney rock typically creates extreme discomfort, and also the pain from an infection is typically moderate.Things that Make it Much Better or worseTypically, nothing alleviates the pain much more till the trouble is dealt with, such as by passing the stone. Unlike pain in the back, it generally will not change with activity.Knowing the SymptomsIf you have a kidney infection or a kidney stone, you may likewise experience:
Back Pain Or Kidney Stone
According to Dr. Charney, if youre feeling kidney pain, its probably coming from one of two places : Either because of distension of the ureter or capsule that surrounds the kidneys.
The ureterstubes attached to each kidneytransport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. All that urine contains salts and minerals, and if the minerals clump together and block one of the ureters, youve got yourself a dreaded, infamously painful kidney stone.
ureter because there is a stone blocking it, says Dr. Charney. Not only that, he says, but when there is a blockage due to the stone in the ureter, the urine may back up into the kidney and that may expand the capsule of the kidney and cause pain.
When it comes to where the pain is located, it is typically just on one side. It is routinely categorized as a dull ache. Dr. Charney adds that the pain is always theremore or less bothering you. Sound familiar? Thats because chronic back pain, especially the kind caused by nerve compression, is usually on just one side too .
However, when it comes time to pass a stone, youll know it.
Stone ache can just be faint pain unless that stone is trying to pass, says Dr. Charney. Then it can be severe and last for several minutes before it goes away. Whenever the pain is too excruciating to bearand really, any time you suspect a kidney stonehead to the emergency room. Treatment is available and of course, better safe than sorry.
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Causes Of Kidney Pain
Kidney pain has many possible causes. These organs are connected to others like your bladder and ureters, where you store and get rid of urine.
Kidney stones. Intense, sudden, stabbing pain may be a kidney stone. These are mineral deposits that can grow large enough to block a ureter, a tube that connects your kidney and bladder. If that happens, you’ll feel sharp pain or cramps in your back or side. It can also spread out to your groin. As you try to pee out the stone, you might feel waves of pain.
Kidney infection. Also called pyelonephritis, this infection could cause discomfort in one or both kidneys. You may feel pain in your back, in your side or both sides under your ribs, or in your groin. You’ll also have a fever. Urinary tract infections also cause discomfort in this organ.
Kidney swelling. This condition, called hydronephrosis, can happen if your kidneys are blocked. Your urine can’t drain the way it should and builds up in your kidneys. This can happen in one or both kidneys and sometimes it causes pain.
Kidney cysts. You may not feel a simple kidney cyst until it grows larger. Once it gets big, you might feel a dull pain in your side or back, or feel pain in the upper part of your belly.
Polycystic kidney disease. This genetic disease causes many cysts to grow in your kidneys. They may cause you to feel a pain in your back or side.
Getting A Medical Diagnosis
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Difference Between Back Pain And Kidney Pain
The kidneys are organs that sit on both sides of the body, right below the rib cage. They rest against the back muscles, which can make it difficult to tell whether youre experiencing kidney pain or back pain. However, you can distinguish one from the other by looking at where the pain is located, how severe the pain is, and what the accompanying signs are.
So what is the difference between back pain and kidney pain? Kidney pain often affects a higher area of the back compared to back problems which tend to occur on the lumbar spine. If your kidney has a problem, the pain wont go away until it is resolved. On the other hand, back pain can lessen when you adjust the position of your body or if you rest for a couple of days.