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Kidney Pain: Causes, Why kidneys hurt & When to seek care

Team AckoSept 18, 2023

The kidneys filter toxins, waste, and excess fluid from your body, which makes them vulnerable to damage and infection. Excess calcium, phosphorus, and oxalate can build up in the kidneys and form stones. This may result in Kidney Pain by restricting the flow of urine.

Not just stones, Kidney Pain can be caused by a variety of other factors. It might be an indication of an infection in the urinary tract, an injury, or any other health issue. You may experience such pain on either one or both sides of your back. This article will discuss the causes, features, and treatment options of Kidney Pain in detail.




What is Kidney Pain?

Kidney Pain can be described as a constant, dull pain deep within your body. You may experience pain on one or both sides of your flank that worsens when gently pressed by someone.

Kidney Pain (KP) does not always have to be associated with kidney problems, but it does indicate an issue with your urinary system. People mistakenly consider back pain as KP, but both have key differences in terms of how they feel.Back pain typically affects the spine, the centre of your back, and the lower back. The pain sometimes radiates down your legs. On the other hand, KP feels deeper and feels higher on your back. It can be felt in other parts of the body, such as the side of the spine, abdomen, groin, and thigh.

Common causes of Kidney Pain

Kidney Pain can be caused by various factors, including the following.

1. Kidney stones

Kidney stones can be formed due to the accumulation of minerals in your body. Small stones may come out on their own from your body through the urine, whereas larger stones may get lodged in your urinary tract and hinder urine from passing through. In either case, severe KP may occur.

2. Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)

This condition arises due to the development of bacteria in your kidneys. Pyelonephritis can cause fever, nausea, a burning sensation when urinating, Kidney Pain, and soreness.

3. Haemorrhage

Bleeding in one or both kidneys can be caused by a number of factors, including injury, infection, and certain medical conditions. You will likely have bloody urine along with abdominal or lower back pain.4. Renal vein thrombosis

In this condition, a blood clot forms in one or both of the renal veins connected to your kidneys. A renal vein thrombosis can cause severe pain in your flank and inflammation around your ribs.

5. Hydronephrosis

Hydronephrosis is a blockage that can cause your urine to back up and retain water in one of your kidneys, making it inflamed. Usually, hydronephrosis affects only one kidney, but in certain circumstances, it can affect both. You may experience persistent dull aches with random spells of acute pain if you have hydronephrosis. The symptoms associated with KP may include painful urination and nausea.

6. Kidney cancer

Kidney cancer may occur when cells in your kidneys alter and grow uncontrollably. You may experience high blood pressure, blood in the urine, swelling in the kidney region, and chronic pain in your lower back or on the side.

7. Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)

In this congenital condition, you may develop multiple fluid-filled sacs inside the kidneys. As your PKD advances and the cysts expand, you may experience severe pain in your back and sides. This may cause damage to your kidneys, and you may not be able to function properly. You may also experience kidney stones, blood in your urine, and high blood pressure.

8. Renal artery aneurysm

This can be caused by an inherent weakness in the artery walls, certain illnesses, infections, or trauma to the vascular walls. You may feel pain in the flank if you have a renal artery aneurysm. Other symptoms may include high blood pressure, impaired kidney function, and hematuria (blood in the urine).

9. Injury or trauma

Sometimes, contact sports impacts, accidents, or other physical trauma may cause damage to your kidneys. This may cause severe Kidney Pain, blood in the urine or surrounding the kidneys, or urine leakage from the kidneys.

Associated symptoms of Kidney Pain

People suffering from KP may encounter several other symptoms as well. Some of the most prevalent symptoms are as follows.

  • A persistent dull pain in your back, on both sides of the kidneys, under the rib cage, or in the abdomen

  • Severe throbbing pain that comes in bouts

  • Pain that radiates to the groin area

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Hematuria (blood in the urine)

  • Fever and chills

  • Frequent and painful urination

  • A burning sensation when you urinate

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Dizziness and fatigue

Diagnosing Kidney Pain

By evaluating the other symptoms of your Kidney Pain, your doctor may recommend the following tests to diagnose the exact cause.

1. Urinalysis

This test detects the presence of blood, white blood cells (which indicate an infection), proteins, and specific compounds associated with certain kidney disorders.

2. Kidney function test

A blood sample may also be taken to perform a kidney function test to detect infection, bacteria, and other organisms in your blood.

3. Imaging tests

Other tests include an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI scan of the kidneys to help diagnose the physical structure of the urinary tract and the kidneys. These tests can also diagnose whether you have stones and whether your urine flow is adequate.

How is Kidney Pain treated?

Depending on the underlying cause, KP can be relieved with home remedies, medications, or surgery.

1. Home remedies

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of fluids may help in flushing germs from your urinary system. Drinking a sufficient amount of water may help flush out smaller stones from your kidneys. Caffeinated beverages and alcohol should be avoided.

  • Apply heat: Placing a heating pad on your abdomen, back, or side may help alleviate the pain.

2. Medication

Your doctor may prescribe the following medications after looking at the underlying cause and symptoms.

  • Antibiotics for treating various kidney infections and UTIs

  • Anticoagulants to prevent blood clots and renal vein thrombosis

  • Certain cancer medications like axitinib (Inlyta), sorafenib (Nexavar), cabozantinib (Cabometyx), lenvatinib (Lenvima), pazopanib (Votrient), sunitinib (Sutent), and tivozanib (Fotivda) to treat kidney cancer.

  • Pain relievers to treat fever or pain (not recommended for patients having known cases of liver or kidney damage)

  • Blood pressure medications to help relieve symptoms of polycystic kidney disease

3. Surgery

Sometimes, surgery may be needed to treat the kidney condition. For example, patients with a renal artery aneurysm may be required to undergo aneurysmectomy if the debilitated part of the artery wall expands or tears.

Laparoscopic kidney cyst ablation is a minimally invasive surgical procedure for removing symptomatic kidney cysts while leaving the kidney intact. It is designed to help patients who suffer flank pain, stomach pain, or an obstructed kidney due to kidney cysts.

Ureteroscopy is a surgical procedure used to remove kidney stones. It includes passing a thin telescope known as a ureteroscope through your urethra, bladder, and ureter to the location of the stone.

A nephrectomy involves the removal of an entire kidney. If one of your kidneys is severely damaged, such as from hydronephrosis or cancer, your surgeon may perform a nephrectomy. You can live a healthy life with the remaining kidney.

If you have a tumour in the kidney, your surgeon may remove only the part of the kidney containing the tumour or use cryotherapy to freeze and eliminate the tumour.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a list of common questions about Kidney Pain.


What are the causes of Kidney Pain?

Kidney Pain can be caused by various factors. It might be an indication of an infection, an injury, or another health condition, such as kidney stones. Some major causes of Kidney Pain include pyelonephritis (a kidney infection), haemorrhage, renal vein thrombosis, hydronephrosis, polycystic kidney disease, or kidney cancer.

How do I know if it's Kidney Pain?

When you feel pain in your back, just below the rib cage on either side of the spine, it may be due to Kidney Pain. The pain may feel sharp or dull, and it may come and go. Other symptoms that may indicate Kidney Pain include nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and frequent urination. However, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of your pain.

How is Kidney Pain treated?

Kidney Pain treatment depends on the underlying cause, but common treatments include pain relievers, hydration, antibiotics, surgery, and lifestyle changes. It's important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of the pain and get the appropriate treatment. In some cases, Kidney Pain may be a sign of a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention.


 Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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