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Kidney Pain vs. Back Pain: How to Tell the Difference



Unexpected pain in any part of the body can be alarming, and you may wish to know how best to differentiate the cause. Back pain can often be a hindrance to your everyday life, so you’ll want to know how best to find relief. Unfortunately, pain from kidney disease or injury can often be felt as a dull ache in the upper abdomen, side, or back. Because of this location, it can often be confused with symptoms of back pain instead. Luckily, there are a few key ways to tell the difference.

Where the pain is coming from

Back pain can occur in any part of the back, although the lower back is most common. To the contrary, kidney pain tends to occur just below the rib cage or on either side of the spine. The feeling can sometimes radiate out to the side, abdomen, groin, or thigh. 

Type of severity of pain

Back pain can result from a number of different conditions, but muscle pain usually feels like a dull ache or soreness and can be triggered by movement. Bone pain, such as that from fractures, tends to come on suddenly and may also be worsened by movement. Nerve pain may feel like a stabbing or burning sensation and can travel to other parts of the body. 

By contrast, large kidney stones cause a sharp and intense pain that only worsens when the stone moves further into the ureters on its own. The ache from a kidney infection will remain stable. 

Look for other symptoms of kidney conditions

Kidney pain is often situated on only one side of the body and may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever or urinary conditions. According to Medical News Today, conditions that affect the kidneys can also cause cloudy or bloody urine, painful urination, a persistent need to urinate, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, or fatigue. 

Consider causes and risk factors

Kidney stones can be caused by urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots in the kidneys, and trauma or injury to the kidneys, all conditions which will need to be diagnosed by a physician. 

Back pain can result from a wide range of conditions, such as a muscle or ligament strain, bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, or osteoporosis. Such conditions must be diagnosed by a doctor. 

Anyone can develop back pain; however, it becomes more common as you get older. Other factors that increase your risk of back pain include lack of exercise, excess weight, improper technique when lifting heavy objects, and smoking. Back pain can also be related to a lack of exercise or psychological conditions. People with anxiety and depression seem to be at greater risk.

When to seek help

According to the Mayo Clinic, one of the most common reasons that people miss work or go to a doctor. While back pain often does improve with home treatment, if your pain is persistent or does not improve with rest, it may be time to see a specialist. 

To inquire about pain relief and physical therapy services at Motus Integrative Health, contact us for a FREE consultation. 


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