Is Your Lower Back Pain Kidney Related?

Kidney back pain is usually felt where the kidneys are located, which is just above the arches of your pelvis on either side of the lower back. It  can also be felt in the front of the groin and hip area as shown in this diagram below (this is called referred pain and is where pain is felt a distance away from the cause).


This can be confusing as normal non-specific low back pain can also cause pain in the same areas. But there are usually clear differences between normal back pain and kidney pain.  If I am assessing someone it is usually a combination of symptoms that would make me suspect kidney not lower back problems.


diagram showing kidney pain can be felt in the lower back and groin area

The most common kidney problems include infection and stones

Symptoms of an infection include:
  • Lower back pain, either one or both sides which may radiate into the groin.
  • Feeling unwell, possibly sick and maybe vomiting.
  • Fevers and high temperatures
  • Urine may be cloudy and may smell different to usual
  • There may be blood in the urine
  • You may need to go to the toilet more often than usual.

    Bear in mind that you may not have all of these symptoms.

Kidney stones may be painless if they are small, if they are larger they can get wedged in the renal pelvis or ureter as the body tries to pass them, this may cause extreme pain. In addition stones can cause an infection leading to the same symptoms shown above.

Lower back pain tends to behave differently

  • the pain is often more localised
  • it may have occurred suddenly
  • it may be improved or worsened by certain movements and positions
  • It does not cause a fever or generalised illness
  • Often, if you have back pain, taking pain relief can make you feel a bit different to normal, even a bit sick, but it's important not to confuse this with kidney problems

    Severe lower back pain problems such as cauda equina can affect your bladder and bowels, but again these symptoms are very different to the symptoms described above. You can read more about them in this link to serious back problems.

kidney lower back pain

In my practice I have very rarely come across someone with kidney back pain that has been mistaken for a lower back problem.  You can usually tell the difference straight away.

Do you think your lower back pain is a kidney problem? The only way to be sure is to go and see your doctor who will be able to diagnose this either with a clinical examination or by organising some tests to check for infection or stones.

This is a nice 3D video showing you where the kidneys are (muscles start at about 3 mins)


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A useful outline of kidney problems can be found on the NHS direct Web Site

From back pain kidney problems to other causes of lower back pain

Lower Back Pain Toolkit Home Page




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