Kidneys And Back Pain

Any type of pain in the body is the sign of a problem. Back pain is a

symptom of many different medical problems, not always isolated to the

back itself. There are a number of organs nestled in the torso that can,

when suffering dysfunction, result in back pain. The kidney is one such


It is important to distinguish between back pain caused by a back

problem and back pain caused by a kidney problem. Kidney conditions can

be serious and warrant immediate medical attention. Fortunately, common

types of kidney problems have other symptoms that can help you identify


The kidneys are located between the mid and lower back very close to the

muscles of the back. They are each about the size of a fist. The top

portion of the kidneys are protected by the ribcage, but not the bottom

portion. The right kidney is lower than the left one, given its

proximity to the liver. When pain is felt to the side of the spine

between the mid and lower back, kidney problems must be ruled out.

Kidney Infection

Infection of the kidney causes inflammation; this is the body’s attempt

to isolate the threat and facilitate healing. Inflamed kidney tissue

causes a significant amount of pain in the surrounding area, most

notably in the back between the hip and ribcage (the flank) on the side

of the infection. The pain associated with kidney infection is sharp and


The best way to distinguish between regular back pain and kidney

infection is to simply touch the area that hurts. If you have an

infected kidney, your flank will be very tender and painful to the

touch. You may also notice swelling of the flank. Infections also

generally make people sick. Fever, nausea and vomiting frequently

accompany a kidney infection.

If not treated quickly with antibiotics, the infection can spread to the

bloodstream. If you have back pain with tenderness, fever and/or nausea,

seek medical attention.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are solid deposits that can accumulate inside the kidneys.

Stones may be large or small. The stones scrape against the lining of

the urinary tract and, if large, can block the flow of urine. This

causes the fluids to back up and enlarge the kidney.

Pain from kidney stones is referred to as colic, as it comes in waves

rather than being steady. The pain is severe and has been likened to

labor pains. The pain begins in the flank area, and may travel down the

side and into the groin as the stone moves through the urinary tract.

You may see blood in your urine if you have a kidney stone.

Kidney infections and stones are the most common associations between

the kidneys and back pain. Very rarely does a kidney problem result in

dull back pain. Cancer of the kidney can result in a tumor that, over

time, causes dull pain in the back. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a

hereditary disease, can result in gradual enlargement of the kidneys

that is felt as pain mainly in the abdomen, and sometimes the back as


If you have sharp, severe pain in the flank area accompanied by urinary

changes, fever, nausea and/or vomiting, there is good reason to expect a

kidney problem as the cause. If not, there is still good reason to be

concerned. While back pain is often not a reason to run to the emergency

room, it is always the sign of a problem. Narrowing down the potential

causes of your pain will bring you closer to resolving it.