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Is it Back Pain or Kidney Pain?

It may be hard to tell if your lower back pain is coming from your kidneys or something else. Your kidneys are located towards your back and under your ribcage, making it easy to confuse symptoms of kidney pain with symptoms of pain from your bones, muscles, or nerves.

The exact location, type, and severity of the pain are some things that can help you determine the source of the pain. For help diagnosing back pain, see your pain specialist in Orange County.

Recognizing Kidney Pain

Kidney pain is usually caused by either an infection or kidney stones in the tubes coming out of the kidneys. If what you are experiencing is kidney pain, you should be able to identify the following features.

Location of the Pain

If it is kidney pain, you will feel it in your flank. This is the area on either side of your spine underneath your ribcage and above your hips. Most often, it will occur on one side of the body; however, it is possible to experience pain on both sides.

Type of Pain

If you have an infection, you will feel a dull ache.
If you have kidney stones, you will feel a sharp pain.

Radiation of Pain

Sometimes the pain will radiate to your upper thighs or lower abdomen.

Severity of Pain

Kidney pain is classified from mild to severe. If you have an infection the pain will usually be mild; if you are passing kidney stones, it will usually be more severe.

Things that Make Kidney Pain Better or Worse

The pain will usually be constant: it won’t get better or worse with movement. It also will not go away without treatment.

If you are passing a kidney stone, the pain may “fluctuate” as the stone moves.

Other Symptoms of Kidney Pain

• Fever and chills
• Nausea and vomiting
• Cloudy or dark urine
• An urgent need to urinate
• Pain when you urinate
• A recent infection in your bladder
• Blood in your urine (this can happen with an infection or kidney stones)
• Small kidney stones that look like gravel in your urine

Recognizing Back Pain

Back pain is much more common than kidney pain. It is usually caused by problems in the muscles, bones, or nerves of the back.

If you are suffering from back pain, you will recognize the following features. Once you conclude that you are experiencing back pain, your pain specialist in Orange County can treat you to improve your quality of life.

Location of the Pain

You can experience pain anywhere in your back, but it occurs most commonly in the lower back or one of the buttocks.

Type of Pain

Muscle pain feels like a dull ache. Nerve pain is sharp and most like a burning sensation.

Whereas muscle pain can affect either or both sides of the body, nerve pain usually only affects one side.


Nerve pain may radiate through the buttocks and down the leg, as far as the foot.

Severity of Pain

Back pain is classified on a scale from acute to chronic depending on how long it lasts.

• Days to weeks = Acute pain
• Six weeks to three months = Subacute pain
• Longer than three months = Chronic pain

Things that Make Back Pain Better or Worse

Sitting, standing, or moving excessively may make back pain worse. Periodically switching positions or walking around can make it better.

Other Symptoms of Back Pain

• The painful spot looking swollen and feeling tender to the touch
• A muscle spasm in the painful area
• Numbness or weakness in one or both of your legs (if the pain is due to a nerve issue)

If you find you have back pain and can’t hold your urine or bowel movements, this means something is pressing on your spinal nerves and you should be evaluated immediately. This condition, called cauda equina syndrome, can cause severe long-term damage to your spinal nerves if not treated right away.

OC Pain is your pain specialist in Orange County. If you are experiencing any type of back pain, they can help! Their highly qualified physicians develop partnerships with patients to improve their overall quality of life, which starts with easing body pain. Start Your Virtual Consultation Now!

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