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  • Writer's pictureShruti GOCHHWAL

The Link Between Back Pain and Kidney Damage

adult back pain

Differentiating back or kidney pain can be tough, Credits: Wallpaper Flare

Your back aches yet you don’t recall hurting it and the painkiller doesn’t seem to help kidney pain vs back pain. Could it be due to kidney damage?

Possibly, and almost certainly, if you experience other symptoms.

The kidneys flush out excess fluid and waste products from the bloodstream. It rests on either side of the body just underneath the rib cage.

The kidneys sit against the back muscles, which can make it difficult to distinguish between kidney pain vs back pain.

While trying to determine whether the pain is from the back or kidneys, you need to consider the:

  1. Cause of the pain

  2. Location of the pain

  3. Type and severity of the pain

  4. Accompanying symptoms

Kidney Pain vs Back Pain

The kidneys filter out toxins and waste from the bloodstream, which makes them susceptible to damage and infection.

Excess oxalate, phosphorus and calcium can accumulate in the kidneys to form kidney stones. This can be painful if they cause a blockage.

On the other hand, back pain is very common. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, nearly 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.


Causes of kidney pain include:

  1. Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

  2. Kidney stones

  3. Kidney infections

  4. Blood clots in the kidneys

uti agar

UTI Agar is used for identification of urinary tract infections microorganisms, Credits: Commons wikimedia

  1. Injury to the kidneys

A common cause of back pain is straining a muscle or ligament in the back. This can happen due to overstretching, using incorrect lifting techniques or lifting too much weight.

Other causes of back pain are:

  1. Poor posture

  2. Muscle spasms

  3. Muscle tension

  4. Injuries to the back

  5. Dislocated or ruptured discs

  6. Abnormal curvature of the spine

  7. Tumours

Other medical conditions that may lead to back pain are:

  1. Inflammatory diseases, like spondylitis and arthritis

  2. Osteoporosis

  3. Shingles

  4. Cancer of the spine

  5. Cauda equina syndrome (compressed nerves at the spinal cord base)

  6. Abdominal aortic aneurysm

  7. Endometriosis


kidney position human

Kidneys position in the human body, Credits: Commons wikimedia

Kidney pain occurs underneath the rib cage on either side of the spine. It may also feel as though the pain is coming from deep within the body.

You may experience pain on one or both sides of the body depending on whether only one or both kidneys are affected.

On the other hand, back pain can occur anywhere in the back. But most people experience pain in their lower back.

Type and Severity of Pain

Small kidney stones often pass through the kidney to the ureters without causing much pain. But larger stones can cause a sharp, intense pain that usually worsens when the stone moves through the urinary tract.

A kidney infection can cause soreness or a dull ache that remains stable.

Back pain feels like a dull ache or soreness. Certain body movements can prompt or worsen back pain, the intensity of which can vary from mild to severe and may alter due to stretching.

Some might experience a stabbing or burning sensation that travels to other areas of the body.

Back pain can also result from vertebral fractures or an irregularly shaped spine. This type of pain develops suddenly. It ranges from moderate to severe pain and generally worsens due to movement.


Kidney pain can radiate to other areas of the body, like:

  1. Abdomen

  2. The sides

  3. Groin

  4. Thigh

Sciatica is a type of nerve pain that affects the back. It develops when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or pinched, causing a burning sensation in the lower back that radiates to the buttocks.

Nerve pain can also spread to your lower leg. Back pain due to a muscle usually stays in the back.

Accompanying symptoms

urine problems kidney damage

Urine problems are often linked to kidney damage, Credits: Commons wikimedia

Conditions that affect the kidneys can lead to symptoms, like:

  1. Bloody or cloudy urine

  2. Painful urination

  3. Persistent need to urinate

  4. Nausea and vomiting

  5. Diarrhoea or constipation

  6. Fever

  7. Dizziness

  8. Fatigue

Signs of severe kidney damage include:

  1. Bad breath

  2. Metallic taste

  3. Shortness of breath

  4. Swelling of ankles, feet or legs

  5. Confusion

  6. Irregular heartbeat

  7. Muscle cramps

Symptoms that can accompany back pain are:

  1. Stiffness along the spine

  2. Sharp, stabbing pain in the neck

  3. Hard to stand up straight

  4. Walking difficulties

  5. Tingling or numbness in the back

  6. Weakness in the legs

  7. Inability to empty the bladder

  8. Loss of control over urination

  9. Constipation or diarrhoea

If you face any of these symptoms, or if your pain is unbearable, you should visit the doctor right away.

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