Now accepting telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.

Back pain versus Kidney Pain

Back pain versus kidney pain

Back pain vs kidney pain is a topic that deserves a lot of discussions. For many individuals, it is difficult to understand the difference between the two. Consequently, what you perceive as back pain may in fact be kidney pain. 


The problem is that a lot of people suffer from kidney pain that goes unchecked as they confuse it with lower back pain. As a result, these individuals may undergo treatment for lower back pain, leaving their kidney problems to get worse. It is incredibly common to suffer from kidney pain if you have any of the following issues: 



Therefore, it is so important to understand the difference between back pain and kidney pain. Today, we’ll show you how to differentiate between the two: 


Where is kidney pain felt?

Understanding where kidney pain is located is as simple as knowing where your kidneys are located on your back. They sit just under your ribcage on either side of your spine. As such, kidney pain is most often felt in this area of your back - sometimes only on one or two sides. 


If you experience pain lower down your back, it is likely just lower back pain. However, the location of your pain isn’t the defining factor. You can still suffer from back pain in the same area as your kidneys because of all the muscles there. Still, this is a good way to rule out kidney pain if your pain isn’t in this location!


What type of pain are you experiencing?

Back pain or kidney pain can be determined by looking at how the pain feels. Generally, kidney pain manifests itself as a dull ache that could occur on one or two sides of your body. It tends to feel as though it’s really deep inside your body and gets worse if you press the area. The pain is very consistent and may worsen to become extremely sharp if you suffer from kidney stones. 


By contrast, back pain is a completely different feeling. There are many types of back pain: 



Muscular pain refers to tight muscles or knots in your back that often present a constant stabbing pain. It can get worse when you move around - but it can also feel better if you do certain stretches or massage the area. 


Skeletal pain links to pain radiating from your spine. This can be because of slipped discs or any other spinal issues. Again, the pain is more likely to be stabbing and gets worse when you move around or do certain things - while other things can bring relief. 


Finally, nerve pain can cause shooting pain down the back of your leg and is most commonly caused by sciatica. Once more, depending on what you do, the pain can get better or worse. 


Back pain tends to come or go depending on what you do, while kidney pain is constant. If you stretch or massage the area and see no relief, there is a chance it is kidney pain. 


What additional symptoms do you have?

You should also look at any other symptoms you may have when you experience the pain. This is one of the best ways to see if it is kidney pain or back pain. 


Do you suffer from any of the following: 



If you do have any of these symptoms, this could indicate you have a kidney problem that’s causing your pain. As mentioned in the introduction, there are lots of kidney causes of back pain. These symptoms are present in some or all of those issues, so it is really important to seek help if you are suffering from any of the above. 


Summary: How to tell if it’s kidney pain or back pain?

To summarize, here’s what you need to do to figure out where your pain is coming from and what the issue might be: 





Now, you should be able to differentiate between the two types of pain, letting you know what to treat. From here, you can get the right treatment to deal with the issue. 

Uday Khosla, MD Uday Khosla, MD Uday M. Khosla, MD, is board certified in nephrology and hypertension and has served as a Houston kidney consultant since 2004. He currently practices as a renal specialist at Kidney360 - a nephrology practice located in Houston, TX serving the greater Katy, Sugar Land, Channelview, Pearland, Montrose, Downtown Houston, and Spring areas. Dr. Khosla is available as a kidney consultant in various settings, including in-hospital, outpatient clinics, outpatient dialysis, and home care.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Sleep Apnea and Kidney Disease

Sleep apnea, snoring, and kidney disease are more closely linked than most people realize. How exactly do they link together and what can be done to treat both sleep apnea and kidney disease?

Causes of Blood Pressure Spikes

What causes blood pressure to spike? Many things can cause blood pressure readings to fluctuate, such as caffeine, sleep apnea, and more.

Weight Cuts and Electrolyte Abnormalities

Weight cutting is a process whereby an athlete attempts to lose a large amount of weight in a short time, typically to compete in a lower weight class. While weight cutting can benefit some athletes, it can also lead to electrolyte abnormalities.

Combat Sports and Kidney Function

What effect does engaging in combat sports have on kidney function? How can weight cutting damage the kidneys? The link is important for anyone to understand.