How to Tell the Difference Between Back Pain and Kidney Pain?

How to Tell the Difference Between Back Pain and Kidney Pain?

As the kidneys are located toward the back and underneath the ribcage, it might be hard to tell whether the pain that you're experiencing is coming from the back. Or whether it’s coming from the kidneys. There are symptoms that can help you to find out whether this pain is back pain, or whether the pain is kidney pain. It is the location, the type of pain, as well as the severity of the pain, that can help you figure out if the problem you’re experiencing has to do with the kidney, or whether it has to do with your back.  

How can kidney pain be identified? 

Kidney pain is pain that is often caused by an infection or a stone in the tubes, that come out of your kidney. There are some symptoms that can let you know whether the pain is coming from your kidney. These symptoms are:   

  • The location of the pain - Kidney pain is a pain that is felt in the area on one or the other side of the spine, between the bottom of the ribcage and the hips. Usually, this pain occurs on one side of the body, but it can also occur on both sides of it.  
  • What type of pain you have  - Kidney pain is a pain that is usually a sharp one, especially if it’s caused by a kidney stone. When you have a kidney infection, the pain is usually a dull ache. This type of pain isn’t one that will go away on its own, without getting treated, and it’s also a type of pain that gets worse when you move.  Pain caused by a kidney stone is very likely to fluctuate, as the stone moves.  
  • Where the pain radiates - There are cases, in which the pain is likely to spread to the inner thigh and the lower abdomen.  It is also important to pay attention to the severity of the pain. An infection is likely to cause a milder type of pain, while kidney stone pain is in most cases a severe one.  
  • What changes the severity of the pain  - There are things that can better or worsen kidney pain. Kidney pain is usually worsened when moving, and nothing can better it unless, in case of a kidney stone, the stone has been passed.  
  • Symptoms that accompany it  - People who have a kidney infection or a kidney stone, are also likely to experience other symptoms. These accompanying symptoms may be fever, chills, vomiting, nausea, an urgent need to urinate, urine that is dark or cloudy, feeling pain when you urinate, finding blood in the urine, or finding small kidney stones in the urine. If you’ve had a recent bladder infection, it is also more likely that the pain that you’ve been experiencing is kidney pain and that the infection has spread to one or both kidneys.  

How can back pain be identified?  

Back pain is a pain that occurs more commonly than kidney pain. It is usually caused by issues with the muscles, bones or the nerves of the back. Back pain can be identified by looking at some of the following factors:  

  • The location of the pain  - While back pain may happen anywhere on the back, it is usually found in the area near your lower back or one of the buttocks. 
  • What type of pain you have  - Back pain is typically a dull ache. A dull ache usually means that the pain is caused by an issue with the muscle. If the issue has to do with a nerve that has been injured or is irritated, the pain is usually a sharp burning sensation. This type of pain is also likely to travel down to the bottom of the lower leg. In some cases, this type of pain can even radiate down to your foot. While muscle pain can occur on both sides, back pain that is caused by issues with the nerves usually affects only one side of the body.   
  • Where does the pain radiate - Back pain caused by nerve issues can spread to the lower leg. Pain that is caused by a muscle issue usually doesn’t radiate and is only located in the back.  
  • How severe the pain is - The severity of back pain is typically divided into acute pain or chronic pain. This depends on how long a patient has been dealing with it. A pain that is acute is present for a few days to a few weeks, a pain that is subacute lasts a few weeks to a few months, while pain that is chronic is pain that lasts for over three months.  
  • What changes the severity of the pain - Back pain is typically a type of pain that tends to get worse with movement, or after standing up or sitting down for a long time. It is also a pain that can get better if a person switches their position or starts to walk around.  
  • Symptoms that accompany it - Back pain Is usually accompanied by muscle spasms or numbness and weakness in one or both of the legs. If apart from back pain, you have issues with holding your urine or bowel movements, you should seek medical attention immediately. This might mean that there’s something pressing on the spinal nerves, a condition called cauda equina syndrome. This condition can cause severe long-term damage to the spinal nerves and needs to be treated immediately.  

Do you need medical assistance? 

Once you have paid close attention to your symptoms and experience pain that’s not going away, you should get evaluated by your pain management doctor. This is especially the case if you suspect that the pain is caused by a kidney stone or kidney infection. These types of issues with the kidneys need to be treated as soon as possible, for a more positive outcome. Chronic back pain should also be checked out by a medical professional.  

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