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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

2-minute read

Pain in your kidney area can be caused by many different problems. If you have pain in your kidney area, please see your doctor.

The pain may be a sign of infection, a kidney stone or something else completely.

What is 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, abdomen or groin.

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:

Check your symptoms with healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

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.

Pain around your kidneys can also be caused by other problems, such as:

Kidney pain diagnosis

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.

Kidney pain treatment

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

Sources:

Kidney Health Australia (Kidney stones), UpToDate (Acute complicated urinary tract infection (including pyelonephritis) in adults), UpToDate (Acute simples cystitis in women), UpToDate (Diagnosis and acute management of suspected nephrolithiasis in adults), UpToDate (Renal and perinephric abscess), MedicineNet (Kidney pain)

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

Last reviewed: January 2019

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