Kidney pain is a sign of many diseases. How to recognise the cause and what to do?

Kidney pain can occur on one or both sides of the back. It can sometimes be seen radiating. Pain in the kidney (or both kidneys) can be excruciating, making movement difficult. When it is present along with additional symptoms like fever, weakness, or urination issues, it is a sign of illness. Nephritis, kidney stones, cysts, tumours, and other conditions can all cause kidney pain.

The kidneys can be found on both sides of the spine, between the thoracic and lumbar regions, beneath the liver, and behind the stomach. Kidney pain is frequently confused with pain in the spine, specifically the cross or lumbar region. Kidney pain usually begins on one side, either the left or right, and radiates inward, usually horizontally. When it comes to the spine, however, it spreads vertically towards the neck or legs and is also felt as numbness.

Kidney pain is typically throbbing, colic-like, and paroxysmal, and is sometimes caused by pressure associated with urinary retention. The back pain is rather monotonous. Kidney pain occurs for no apparent reason (the exception is freezing, chilling). Making the correct diagnosis can be difficult, so when in pain, it is best to consult a doctor.

Differences between kidney pain and back pain

CriteriaKidney painSpine pain
Pain localizationthe middle and sides of the back,
it radiates horizontally
usually the middle or lower back,
it radiates vertically
Features of painpiercing, throbbingdull, monotonous
The cause of the painusually for no apparent reasonafter lifting weights,
after sitting or standing for a long time

Symptoms of kidney diseases

Kidney pain is usually the result of a medical problem that requires attention. The kidneys are a vital organ in the body that performs numerous functions. They filter and purify the blood, as well as balance the water, calcium-phosphate, sodium, and potassium. The kidneys produce compounds that regulate blood pressure and help form red blood cells. When they malfunction, problems can spread to other organs.

In addition to back pain , kidney disease also causes other symptoms, such as:

  • pain below the ribs that worsens with movement
  • general malaise – drowsiness, apathy, hyperactivity,
  • fever, headache , smell of ammonia from the mouth, vomiting ,
  • oliguria, lack of urine,
  • burning when urinating,
  • cloudy urine with an intense, unpleasant odor,
  • bloody or dark colored urine
  • increased blood pressure
  • swelling of the limbs ( leg swelling ) and around the eyes.

Causes of kidney pain

  • Renal colic  ( nephrolithiasis )
  • Nephritis
  • Hydronephrosis
  • Kidney cyst
  • Kidney cancer

What to do when your kidneys hurt?

If you experience kidney pain, see your GP. If the symptoms are extremely severe, they may indicate an attack of renal colic, and in such cases, it is reasonable to call an ambulance. If there is no need for immediate intervention, the doctor will first order a general urine test , additional tests of kidney function parameters ( creatinine, urea, GFR ) and ultrasound of the kidneys and urinary system. 

In some cases, other imaging tests (X-ray, CT scan) will be necessary, and sometimes also a kidney biopsy. Depending on the diagnosis, the next steps may vary. It must be remembered that kidney pain is a symptom, so it is not the cause that should be treated, but the cause, i.e. the actual disease. Untreated kidney disease can lead to life-threatening consequences, including: to complete destruction of the organ. Then the only solution m


10 ways to keep your kidneys in good shape

The kidneys are a pair of urinary system organs. They are in charge of filtering the blood, maintaining proper electrolyte and fluid concentrations in the body, and secreting hormones. Because they are required for our survival, it is important to understand what is good for the kidneys so that they can serve us for as long as possible.

Lose excess weight

Overweight people are more likely to develop kidney diseases such as urolithiasis, inflammation, and cancer. Excess weight also promotes hypertension and diabetes, both of which can lead to kidney failure. To protect your kidneys, do the following:

  • Limit animal fats and replace them with vegetable ones, e.g., olive oil, rapeseed oil; choose lean meats,
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and whole grains.
  • Avoid sugar, sweets, and fast food,
  • Instead of fried foods, eat boiled or baked.

Limit salt

Excessive salt consumption raises blood pressure, which can damage the kidneys. It’s best not to add any salt. Sodium can be found in a variety of foods, including vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, and milk. Furthermore, salt is present in many ready-made products that you consume on a daily basis, such as bread. Powdered dishes, canned goods, smoked fish, and ready-made spice mixes should be avoided because they often contain a lot of salt.

Be physically active

Movement is beneficial to the kidneys because it improves the functioning of all organs. Furthermore, regular exercise will make it easier to maintain a slim figure. Ideally, you should exercise for 30 minutes, three times per week. Adapt the exercise to your abilities. You don’t have to exert any effort. A walk or a bike ride, for example, is sufficient.

Watch out for drugs

Nicotine and alcohol are both harmful to the kidneys. Limit your smoking. Also, avoid smoky rooms. Passive smoke inhalation harms the kidneys as well. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation. This also holds true for beer. Contrary to popular belief, it does not cleanse the kidneys at all.

Protect your kidneys from the cold

The cold damages the kidneys. In cold weather, avoid wearing skimpy blouses and too short jackets. In the summer, after swimming in the sea or lake, take off your wet suit.

Don’t hold your urine

Urinary retention can be harmful to the kidneys. Bacteria begin to multiply in the bladder if it is left there for an extended period of time. This causes urinary tract inflammation. As soon as you feel pressure on your bladder, go to the toilet.

Be careful with medications

Drugs, when consumed in large quantities, cause irreversible kidney damage. This applies not only to strong prescription medications, but also to over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers. When using OTC medications, do not exceed the doses listed on the package. Do not self-medicate for an extended period of time. If you have a chronic disease and must take medications on a regular basis, make sure you follow your doctor’s orders and have regular check-ups.

Treat bladder infections

Cystitis is a common female health problem. Many of us attempt to deal with it at home. However, be cautious because an untreated infection can spread to the kidneys and cause damage. Drink plenty of fluids and use warm compresses and herbal medicines when the first signs of inflammation appear (e.g., bladder pressure, burning sensation when urinating). Consult a doctor if the symptoms do not go away within 24 hours.

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