Where are your kidneys?
Your kidneys sit on either side of your backbone (spine), between your ribcage and your hips.
How do you know if you have kidney pain?
Kidney pain, or renal pain, is usually felt in your back (under the ribs, to the right or left of the spine). It can spread to other areas, like the sides, upper abdomen or groin. If you have a kidney stone, you usually feel the pain in your back, side, lower belly or groin.
Back pain due to muscle problems is usually in your lower back. Pain due to kidney problems is usually deeper and higher in your back, under your ribs.
Signs that it is a kidney problem can also include fever, vomiting, pain in your sides or painful urination.
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the kidney pain Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
What causes kidney pain?
Kidneys drain urine to the bladder via tubes called ureters. Your bladder is emptied via the urethra. Problems in any of these areas can cause pain, and may be caused by:
Pain around your kidneys can also be caused by other problems, such as:
How is kidney pain diagnosed?
To diagnose pain in your kidney area, your doctor will talk to you and examine you. You may also be asked to have:
If you have had kidney stones in the past, it may not always be necessary to have a computed tomography (CT) scan, which exposes you to radiation. Ask your doctor if a CT scan is necessary for you. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
How is kidney pain treated?
Treatment depends on the cause, the severity of the pain and how sick you are feeling.
You may find the pain eases with simple treatments like paracetamol. Talk to your doctor and your pharmacist.
If you have pain that you are worried may be caused by a kidney problem, please see your doctor. If you are pregnant and you have kidney pain, see your doctor.
You should also see your doctor if you have a pain in the back along with any of the following:
- discoloured urine, painful urination or blood in your urine
- feeling that you need to urinate urgently
- a temperature
- the appearance of gravel (small kidney stones) in your urine
- feeling unwell
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Last reviewed: January 2021