When To See A Doctor
People will often assume that sudden flank pain is caused by a pulled muscle or overexertion, and, in many cases, it will be.
If the pain persists, worsens, or is accompanied by urinary symptoms or signs of infections, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible. This is especially true if you are experiencing high fever, chills, vomiting, or the inability to urinate.
Even if a kidney infection is mild, it can sometimes progress and lead to bacteremia if left untreated. This is a condition in which a local bacterial infection âspills overâ over into the bloodstream, causing systemic and potentially life-threatening symptoms, including irregular body temperatures, disruptions in breathing, a severe drop in blood pressure, and shock.
Given that acute pyelonephritis can strike in as little as two days, a rapid response is essential.
The same applies if you experience a dull but persistent pain alongside uncommon symptoms such as painful urination, chronic fatigue, or unexplained weight loss. None of these should be considered normal, and you shouldnât wait until there is visible blood in urine to seek care.
If you are pregnant, don’t assume that persistent back pain is pregnancy-related. Be cognizant if there is a dull ache across your lower back or along the sides of your back between the ribs and hips. If accompanied by symptoms of infection or changes in urination, call your doctor immediately.
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 .
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.
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Osteoarthritis Of The Spine
If you have osteoarthritis of the spine, the joint cartilage wears down, which can irritate spinal nerves and cause flank pain, according to Ornelas.
Osteoarthritis of the spine can sometimes lead to the growth of bone spurs as well, which can cause another problem called spinal stenosis, in which the spinal canal narrows and the spinal cord and nerve roots can become compressed. Nonsurgical treatment options such as physical therapy or braces may relieve symptoms if not, surgery is an option.
What Is Flank Pain
The flank is the area on the sides and back of your abdomen, between your lower ribs and your hips. Pain in this area is called flank pain. Several injuries, diseases and infections can cause pain in the flanks.
Flank pain can range from mild to severe. The pain can be sharp or a dull ache, and it may come and go. Its usually worse on one side, but it can occur on both flanks.
Problems in the kidney are common causes of flank pain. Back injuries also cause pain that starts in the spine and travels to the flanks. Healthcare providers treat the condition thats causing flank pain. Treatments include rest and medication.
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Chronic Low Back Pain Of No Specific Origin
Low back pain is defined as pain, tightness, and stiffness between the lower end of the rib cage and the buttocks. “Chronic” means the pain has lasted for twelve weeks or longer, and “no specific origin” means the pain cannot be traced to any specific cause, incident, or injury.
Most susceptible are individuals who perform heavy physical work, especially when there is ongoing anxiety, depression, and emotional stress at the same time. The longer the stress and back pain continue, the more difficult it is to ease the symptoms and return the patient to normal functioning.
Treatment involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and sometimes opioid medications for pain, though both have risks when used long term. Antidepressants may also be tried, along with psychological counseling.
Corticosteroid injections for the back are effective for some patients, and fusion surgery is sometimes attempted. Lifestyle changes in the form of improved diet, exercise, and stress management are very helpful in most cases.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, unintentional weight loss, back pain that shoots to the butt, fever, involuntary defecation
Symptoms that always occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: lower back pain
Symptoms that never occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: thigh numbness, buttocks numbness, lower back pain from an injury
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Where Are Your Kidneys
Your kidneys are located below your ribs, which is why a problem with these organs can often be felt in your upper back or flank, or side area.
The kidneys perform several important functions for your body, including:
- Removing waste products, excess fluid, and drugs
- Regulating salt, potassium, and acid content
- Producing hormones that control red blood cell production, blood pressure, and more
- Providing vitamin D for bone health
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Kidney Pain Definition And Facts
- The function and purpose of the kidneys are to remove excess fluid and waste products from the body.
- The kidneys are organs that are located in the upper abdominal area against the back muscles on both the left and right side of the body.
- Kidney pain and back pain can be difficult to distinguish, but kidney pain is usually deeper and higher in the and back located under the ribs while the muscle pain with common back injury tends to be lower in the back.
- Common causes of kidney pain are mainly urinary tract infections, kidney infections, and kidney stones. However, there are many other causes of kidney pain, including penetrating and blunt trauma that can result in a “lacerated kidney.”
- If a woman is pregnant and has kidney pain, she should contact her doctor.
- Symptoms of kidney pain may include
How To Tell If You Have Back Pain Or Kidney Pain
Back pain due to kidney diseases is often severe and throbbing as opposed to dull pain originating due to normal back pain. The pain resulting out of kidney diseases is termed as renal colic and it occurs in waves. The severe throbbing pain comes, stays for some time and then subsides on its own, whereas normal back pain is persistent, plaguing you with a dull ache. Back pain, especially the lower back pain mostly stems from an injury to the muscle, ligament, even vertebral discs located in that area.
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What Is The Function Of The Kidneys
The excess waste products and excess fluid are removed when the kidneys produce urine that is excreted from the body. Moreover, the kidneys play an important role in the regulation of the body’s salt, potassium, and acid content.
How Common Is Flank Pain
Flank pain is very common. Nearly everyone gets flank pain at some point.
Kidney stones are one of the most common causes of flank pain. Every year in the United States, more than half a million people receive treatment for kidney stones. One in 10 people will get a kidney stone during their lifetime.
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Evaluation And Treatment Of Flank Pain
After noting symptoms, the doctor examines the person and usually does a urinalysis to check for red blood cells or excess white blood cells. White blood cells in the urine suggest an infection. If an infection is suspected, a urine culture is usually done. A person with very severe, cramping pain and blood in the urine is very likely to have a kidney stone. A person with milder, steady pain, tenderness when the doctor taps over one kidney, fever, and excess white blood cells in the urine is likely to have a kidney infection.
If a kidney stone is suspected, the doctor often does computed tomography or ultrasonography to determine whether a stone is the cause, the size and location of the stone, and whether it significantly blocks urine flow. An intravenous contrast agent is not used for the CT scan. If the doctor is not sure of the cause of pain, often CT that uses an intravenous contrast agent or another imaging test is done.
The underlying disorder is treated. Mild pain can be relieved by taking acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . Pain from kidney stones may be severe and may require use of intravenous or oral opioids.
Several Signs Never To Ignore
Understanding warning signs is vital for quick diagnosis and treatment of kidney stones. Below is a list of symptoms that kidney stone patients may experience. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek immediate medical help.
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Others Experience And Advice
I asked my doctor, why do my kidneys hurt at night? I have felt this on and off pain for many years now, but lately the pain has become more severe. After undergoing many tests, my doctor found a large kidney stone, which is going to be treated by blasting using laser treatment. I am so relieved because I have been taking pain killers for so long, and hopefully now it is all going to be better.
Anyone that has kidney pain, worse lying down? It is very difficult to sleep at night, with pain in right kidney. It gets worse when I turn side to side, so much so that I have to grab my mattress just to turn over.
I have just been diagnosed with kidney stone which causes severe pain that is far worse at night. But now I am receiving medications that seem to make my condition improve. I can now sleep at night peacefully. So if you think you have kidney pains, dont suffer see your doctor right away.
Symptoms Of Kidney Stones
A person with kidney stones experiences sudden and painful flank pain. The pain usually comes in waves and radiates to the groin. The pain continues until the stone leaves the body. If the stone is small enough, it will leave when a person urinates. Larger stones require surgical removal. Other symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Pain when Urinating
If experiencing potential kidney stones, a trip to the doctor to ensure the stones can pass through the urinary tract is necessary.
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Where Is Kidney Stone Pain Located
The sharp pain associated with a kidney stone moves as the stone progresses through your urinary tract. The most common places to feel pain are in your:
- Lower abdomen or groin
- Along one side of your body, below your ribs
- Lower back
However, while pain is certainly the most noticeable symptoms of kidney stones, it’s not always the earliest sign or even the most telling sign, for that matter.
“The pain associated with a kidney stone typically isn’t felt until after its already formed and is passing through your urinary tract,” explains Dr. Kannady. “In addition, due to differences in anatomy, men and women describe kidney stone pain slightly differently. Not to mention that pain itself is relative and everyone has a different threshold for it.”
Plus, the intensity of the pain isn’t necessarily a measure of how problematic the kidney stone might be or become. Smaller stones that are likely to pass on their own can still be very painful. And not every kidney stone that requires medical intervention comes with gut-wrenching pain.
“Any time you’re experiencing pain, it’s important to see your doctor. But if you’re experiencing pain, even if it’s only mind, in combination with the kidney stone symptoms above and, in particular, if you have a fever or severe trouble urinating it’s definitely important to see your doctor,” warns Dr. Kannady.
What Are Symptoms Of Kidney Pain
Symptoms of kidney pain occur in the area of the kidneys, on the sides or middle to upper back, on one or both sides, and may be described as:
- A constant, dull ache in the sides, back, or belly
- Pain in the side
- Pain may come in waves
- Pain may radiate to the belly or groin area
Depending on the cause of the kidney pain, symptoms that may accompany it include:
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Kidney Stones And Pain
Kidney stones or renal calculus can cause much pain and discomfort, especially when the warning signs are ignored. If a stone has grown to at least 3 millimeters it can block the ureter and cause even more pain, usually in the lower back, right or left flank, or groin. The pain can last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes . Unfortunately, kidney stones can be recurring, but understanding the warning signs may help individuals avoid a great deal of pain and suffering.
How To Distinguish Between Kidney Pain And Back Pain
This article was medically reviewed by Sarah Gehrke, RN, MS. Sarah Gehrke is a Registered Nurse and Licensed Massage Therapist in Texas. Sarah has over 10 years of experience teaching and practicing phlebotomy and intravenous therapy using physical, psychological, and emotional support. She received her Massage Therapist License from the Amarillo Massage Therapy Institute in 2008 and a M.S. in Nursing from the University of Phoenix in 2013. This article has been viewed 255,777 times.
When you are having pain in your back, you may not automatically know what it causing it. It can be very difficult to recognize the differences between pain originating in your back and pain coming from your kidneys. However, the difference is all in the details. In order to distinguish between kidney and back pain you need to concentrate on identifying exactly where the pain is located, how constant it is, and whether there are any other symptoms you are experiencing. If you can identify the details, you should be able to distinguish between kidney and back pain.
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