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Kidney pain can be felt first in your back

Kidney pain can be felt first in your back
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Kidney pain

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Kidney pain is usually felt in your back, under the ribs, to either side of your spine.
  • It may be caused by kidney stones, kidney infection or other kidney problems.
  • Drinking plenty of water and avoiding urinary infections can help prevent kidney pain.

What is kidney pain?

Your kidneys sit on either side of your backbone (spine), between your ribcage and your hips.

They play the important role of cleaning your blood and filtering waste out through your urine (wee).

Kidney pain is also known as renal pain. It can be a sign of a kidney problem.

What are the symptoms of kidney pain?

Kidney pain is usually felt in your back, under the ribs, to either side of your spine. It can spread to other areas, like your:

  • sides
  • upper abdomen (tummy)
  • groin (including the scrotum in males)

It's more common to have kidney pain on just one side of the body.

Symptoms of kidney problems, such as kidney stones, can also include:

  • fever
  • feeling unwell or vomiting
  • pain in your sides, back, groin or lower abdomen
  • pain when passing urine
  • blood in your urine
  • the urgent need to urinate (do a wee)
  • 'gravel' or small kidney stones in your urine

Back pain due to muscle problems is usually felt in your lower back. Pain due to kidney problems may feel deeper and higher in your back, under your ribs.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes kidney pain?

Your kidneys drain urine to your bladder via tubes called 'ureters'. Your bladder is emptied through a narrow tube called the urethra. Problems in any of these areas can cause pain, and may be caused by:

When should I see my doctor?

You should visit your doctor if you have kidney pain. They can diagnose any kidney problems.

How is kidney pain diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you to diagnose the cause of your kidney pain. You may also be asked to have:

If you've had kidney stones in the past, you may not always need a CT scan. A CT scan exposes you to radiation. Ask your doctor if you need a CT scan.

How is kidney pain treated?

How your kidney pain is treated depends on:

  • the cause of your pain
  • the severity of the pain
  • how sick you are feeling

Simple pain relief like paracetamol may help. You can talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Resources and support

Watch a short video to understand the basics of kidney disease. This video is also available in:

Visit Kidney Health Australia for information and resources.

Kidney Health Australia also has resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2023

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