Kidney Pain

We all possess two bean-shaped kidneys on either side of the body. The pain in kidney is commonly referred to as flank pain. Kidney plays an important role in our body. It acts as an excretory organ and therefore filters the blood and removes the waste material from it.

It also plays a role in the regulation of hormones and electrolytes. Pain in the kidney can be due to a number of pathologies.

Kidney Location

Since kidney is a retroperitoneal organ, its pain is not felt exactly on the localized point. Pain is somewhat diffuse and difficult to localize. The pain can be mistaken to liver or stomach pain by the people. Therefore, it is must to understand the exact location of kidney pain.

The pain which you feel in the lower back region in the flanks just below the ribs is the pain due to any pathogenesis of kidney. The knowledge regarding the exact location of kidney pain is essential in order to reach a correct diagnosis. Sometimes people may consider pain coming from a muscle pull or ligament sprain a kidney pain.

Surface of the kidney location anatomy


Picture 1 : Surface of the kidney location (back side of the abdomen)
Image source :

Kidney Pain Location

kidney location in abdomen pain


Picture 2 : Kidney pain located in the Right and Left Upper Quadrants
Image source : HealthHype

Causes of Kidney Pain

Renal Stones

This presence of stones in the kidney is the main cause of pain in the flank. These may arise due to imbalance between the electrolytes, fluid and mineral. Renal stone may also cause hematuria i.e. blood in the urine. Their removal is essential because otherwise these stones can cause renal failure.

Polycystic kidney

This is usually a hereditary condition in which multiple cysts appear in the kidney. This leads to kidney enlargement. This enlargement of the kidney then leads to flank pain or renal pain. Pain here is usually experienced in the abdomen rather than the back. Kidney enlarges with the passage of time in case of polycystic kidney disease.

Infection of Kidney

The infection can occur in the kidney and then leads to various manifestations in addition to kidney pain. Infection usually arises from the urinary tract and involves the kidney. Pyelonephritis is commonly encountered condition. The renal infection requires immediate medical intervention and treatment.

Pain due to Kidney Vessels Problems

Arteriosclerosis of the renal artery may also bring about renal pain. It can also be accompanied by a number of other problems due to failure of blood to flow properly to the kidney.


Here kidney enlarges owing to backup of urine into the kidney. This also causes pain in the flanks.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Basically the urinary system involves kidneys, ureters, urethra and urinary bladder. The infection in any of these organs may bring about urinary tract infection. The main symptoms are fever with rigors and chills, urinary urgency and frequency. UTI occurs more commonly in women.

Kidney Cancer

The carcinoma of the kidney usually causes pain in the flank region along with painless blood loss via urine.

Kidney and Alcohol Abuse

The problems associated with kidney may be related to the alcohol abuse. Alcohol can affect certain renal hormones such as anti-diuretic hormone. It can also produce dehydration by increasing the urinary output. Also, alcohol raises the risk of atherosclerosis and clot formation.

Associated Symptoms of Kidney Pain

If there is a disease or a disorder related to kidney it can be accompanied by a number of other symptoms. The possible symptoms seen here in addition to flank pain are:

  • Symptoms related to urinary tract such as oliguria, polyuria, anuria or hematurina. Urine color may also be changed sometimes.
  • Urinary urgency and frequency can also be present. Urination may become painful.
  • There is a feeling of a stabbing pain in the upper back area.
  • Person may also complaint feelings of nausea and vomiting.
  • Owing to failure of removal of water, edema appears and resulting into swelling of the face, hands, legs, feet or even whole body.
  • A patient may complaint of a loss of appetite, weakness, fever and weight loss.
  • Pain can radiate to the back as well as to the groin region.
  • Other problems may find along with kidney pain such as:
    • Joint pain
    • Painful menstruation
    • Hypertension (High blood pressure)
    • Nail Abnormalities

If you are suffering from the above mentioned symptoms, then you are most probably having a kidney disease.

Differential Diagnosis of Kidney Pain

It is must to undergo a full medical check up and examination if you experience severe pain accompanied by different other symptoms. You will be asked to undergo following tests but depending on your main symptoms.

Full blood Count

It will determine the number of bloods cells particularly white blood cells. If their count is high, it may show the presence of infection. Also, this test determines the amount of haemoglobin in blood.

Blood cultures and Urine Culture Test

These determine the causative agent behind infection in case there is a suspicion of renal or urinary tract infection.


It is also must as it can tell various important clues helpful for detecting the main etiological agent.

Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)

It is the X-ray specially designed for kidney and urinary tract. It is used to detect the size, position and shape of the kidney, urinary tract and ureters. It can also help to locate the stone.

Abdominal X-ray (KUB)

This x-ray gives a portrait of the kidneys, the urinary bladder, and the ureters. Stones can also be detected via it.Other tests that help to detect the pain in the kidney include CT scan and ultrasound of the kidneys.

Treatment for Kidney pain

Diet Modification

Many diets are responsible for the formation of kidney stones such as those containing calcium oxalate including chickpea, cauliflower, carrot and turnips. Instead use diets that richly contain water or fluid such as watermelon or grapes. Eat foods that richly contain amino acids.

Medical Treatment

Infections require antibiotics while other treatment is symptomatic. Over the counter pain killers can help but they should be avoided.

Surgical Treatment

If stones fail to dissolve by medical treatment then either surgery or laser is used to remove them.

Treatment is basically given according to the cause of the kidney pain. Avoid alcohol and factors that aggravate your pain.



Published on by under Pain Management.
Article was last reviewed on September 4th, 2016.

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