How to Know the Difference Between Back and Kidney Pains



The kidneys are located underneath the rib cage, toward the back. So, when you experience pain around this part of the body it apparently becomes tough to understand whether the pain is emanating from the kidney or the back. However, the symptoms along with a close observation of the type, severity, and location of the pain can help understand where the actual problem is. Here is a guide that will help resolve the dilemma of back pain vs kidney pain.

Location of Pain

  • Back pain is mostly located in one of the buttocks or in the lower back, but it can be identified anywhere on the back as well.
  • You can feel kidney pain in the flank, i.e., on either side of the spine between the ribcage bottom and hips. However, mostly, felt on one side of the body, kidney pain can be experienced on both sides as well.

Type of Pain
Understanding the type of pain is another way to distinguish between back pain vs. kidney pain.

  • You will feel a dull ache in case of muscle pain. An irritated or injured nerve pain mostly gives a sharp sensation of burning that travels down the buttock to the lower leg or sometimes, even the foot.
  • A kidney stone causes sharp pain that may fluctuate with the stone’s movement. During an infection, a dull, constant ache is felt, and it does not go away without treatment and remains unaffected if you move.

Pain Radiation

  • Muscle pain mostly stays in the back. The pain in the nerve can spread to the lower leg.
  • Sometimes, the kidney pain radiates to the lower abdomen or inner thigh.

Severity of the Pain
How severe your pain is actually can help you to discriminate between back pain vs. kidney pain.

  • Usually, an acute pain can last from days to weeks. The subacute pain can last from 6 weeks to 3 months! A chronic back pain can last longer than 3 months.
  • A kidney stone causes a severe pain while the pain caused by an infection is usually mild.

Accompanying Symptoms

  • Back pain results in numbness in the legs, muscle spasm, swelling in the affected area etc., which are the accompanying symptoms.
  • For kidney pain, vomiting, nausea, chills and fever, dark urine, feeling pain while urinating, a recent bladder infection, blood in the urine etc. are some of the accompanying symptoms.

Consulting a healthcare professional is always the best idea to distinguish between back pain vs. kidney pain and to get better with the right treatment.