Many of us suffer from back pain due to strain and overuse, but back pain can also be an indication that something else if wrong. The kidneys can actually cause pain that originates in the mid-back area on one or both sides. Physicians refer to this as “flank pain”.
Pain in the back that is due to a problem with the kidneys usually manifests itself as sharp pains in the flank area. These pains may or may not radiate to the lower back or ribcage area. When the area over the kidneys is pressed, it feels sore. Back pain due to kidney involvement usually presents itself suddenly, without a history of any type of back injury. This pain may be mild or severe, depending upon what is causing the problem.
Back pain due to kidney involvement is usually caused by a kidney infection. Other symptoms may accompany the back pain. A kidney stone, which is a hardened mass of mineral deposits in the kidney, can also cause kidney back pain. When this stone tries to leave the kidneys by way of the ureters, the sharp edges of the stone can cut into the kidneys or ureters, causing severe pain. Other causes of kidney back pain may include acute kidney failure or trauma to the kidney.
In addition to flank pain, the patient with kidney involvement may also have blood in his urine, fever, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, frequent urination, changes in urine color, strong smelling urine or swelling in the tissues due to accumulation of fluid. Symptoms usually start suddenly and may be especially painful during and immediately after urination.
Certain tests are often done to make sure the back pain is actually from the kidneys and is not due to back muscle pain. One of the most common tests is a urinalysis, which determines if there is blood or white blood cells (casts) present in the urine. This is a definite indicator that an infection is present. An ultrasound or CT scan may be done to determine if the problem is being caused by a kidney stone. Other tests may include a urine culture, urogram or x-rays.
Treatment for kidney back pain may include analgesics to control the pain, antiemetics to control nausea and vomiting or antibiotics to eradicate the causative infection. Treatment for kidney stones may include lithotripsy, which is used to break up the kidney stone to ease its passage out of the urinary tract, or surgery to remove the offending stones. Acute kidney failure or kidney trauma may require hospitalization to treat the condition. Acute kidney failure may also require short-term dialysis to allow the kidneys to heal faster.