How to tell the difference between kidney pain and back pain

How to tell the difference between kidney pain and back pain

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The kidneys remove waste products and excess fluid from the bloodstream. These two organs sit on either side of the body just below the rib cage.

The kidneys rest against the back muscles, which can make it hard to tell the difference between kidney pain and back pain.

Kidney pain

The kidneys filter out waste and toxins from the bloodstream, which makes them susceptible to infection and damage. Excess calcium, oxalate, and phosphorous can accumulate in the kidneys to form kidney stones, which can be painful if they reason a blockage.

Kidney pain happens below the rib cage on either side of a person’s spine. It can also feel as though the pain is coming from deep within the body.

Accompanying symptoms

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • fever
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

Causes of kidney pain

Conditions that cause kidney pain include:

  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • kidney stones
  • kidney infections
  • blood clots in the kidneys
  • trauma or injury to the kidneys


Back pain is very common; around 80 percent of adults will experience lower back pain at some point during their lives. Back pain happens as a result of problems affecting the muscles, bones, or nerves in the back.

The location, severity, and accompanying symptoms of back pain vary depending on the cause. Back pain can happen anywhere in the back. However, most people experience pain in their lower back.

Type and severity of pain

Muscle pain feels like a dull ache or soreness. Certain body movements can trigger or worsen muscle pain, the intensity of which can range from mild to severe and may fluctuate in response to stretching.

People with nerve pain may experience a burning or stabbing sensation that travels to other areas of the body.

Straining a muscle or ligament in the back is a general cause of back pain. People can strain their backs from overstretching, lifting too much weight, or using incorrect lifting techniques.

Other causes of back pain can include:

  • muscle spasms
  • muscle tension
  • poor posture
  • standing or sitting for an extended period
  • tumors