The kidneys are essential to the human body because they remove excess fluid and waste from the body. They also help regulate the balance of minerals in the body, particularly sodium and potassium, help maintain normal blood pressure. Located against the back muscles on both the left and right side of the body, towards the upper abdomen, it can be hard to differentiate between back pain and kidney pain. Pain caused by the kidneys is usually deeper and higher on the back and can result from various infections and conditions. Medical treatment is often required.


Symptoms of kidney pain include fever, pain during urination, nausea, and vomiting. Because the body has a kidney on either side of the torso, pain may develop on one or both sides of the body. When kidney pain has a serious cause, symptoms can include fever, body aches, and blood in the urine. If any of these symptoms develop in a woman who is pregnant, she should call her doctor immediately.


Causes: General

Kidney pain can be the result of many infections or conditions, such as bleeding in the kidney, blood clots in kidney veins, cysts, kidney stones, or pyelonephritis. Urinary tract infections and trauma to the kidney region can also result in pain. Symptoms in the area of the kidneys that does not quickly resolve should be investigated by a medical professional.


Causes: Kidney Stone

Kidney stones are a buildup of minerals and salts that form inside the kidney. They are extremely painful but do not usually cause internal damage. In most cases, drinking plenty of water is enough to push out the kidney stones. However, in some cases, stones can become lodged in the urinary tract and require surgery or other interventions to remove the stones. Dehydration, family and personal history, and obesity increase the chances of developing kidney stones. Certain medications, diets, and genetic conditions also boost the likelihood of developing kidney stones.


Causes: Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infections are easy to distinguish because they cause a strong, persistent urge to urinate. Pain or burning during urination is also a symptom of UTIs. The infection can happen anywhere in the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, or kidney. UTIs residing in the kidneys usually cause a fever, chills, nausea, and back or side pain. It is essential to visit a medical provider as soon as one develops symptoms because untreated UTIs can rarely lead to permanent kidney damage.


Causes: Renal Vein Thrombosis

Renal vein thrombosis (RVT) is the medical term for a blood clot in the kidney. Decreased urine output, lower back pain, and blood in the urine are symptoms of RVT, but the symptoms may be mild if the clot is small. Some people may also experience pain in the hips, fever, nausea, and vomiting, although this is more common in children and adolescents. RVT can lead to severe damage if left untreated. Depending on the severity, individuals may require medication, dialysis, or surgery. Renal vein thrombosis is more common in people who have medical conditions such as the kidney disorder nephrotic syndrome.


Causes: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the medical name for an enlarged prostate gland. In most cases, the prostate continues to grow throughout a man's entire life. As a result, BPH is common in older males. The enlarged prostate blocks the flow of urine, causing an inability to urinate, UTIs, bladder damage, and kidney damage. The cause of enlarged prostates is not clear, but experts believe it could be a result of unbalanced sex hormones. Family history, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity increase the risk.


Causes: Kidney Cancer

Renal cell carcinoma is the most common form of kidney cancer, though children are most likely to develop a Wilms tumor. Symptoms of kidney cancer include loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, bloody or discolored urine, and constant back or side pain. Risk factors include smoking, advanced age, obesity, high blood pressure, inherited syndromes such as Birt-Hogg-Dube, and family history. Treatment is most successful when the cancer is caught early.


When to Visit the Doctor

Anyone who experiences the symptoms outlined previously should make an appointment with a medical provider. Some urinary and kidney infections, if left untreated, can lead to long-term damage. Back or side pain that is either dull or sharp, combined with fever, body chills, or fatigue could indicate a serious issue, especially if one is pregnant.



In most cases, diagnosing kidney pain is quick and easy. During the doctor visit, a medical provider can diagnose the condition by inquiring about symptoms, taking a personal and family history, physical examination, and lab tests. Standard lab tests include blood tests, urine tests, and CT or MRI scans. Treatment of kidney pain is determined based on the diagnosis.


Home Remedies

While it is best to visit a doctor when kidney pain develops, several home remedies may help alleviate pain and discomfort in the interim or in addition to whatever treatment the physician recommends. Diuretic properties in herbal teas increase urination, flushing waste from the kidneys more quickly. Marshmallow root has diuretic properties and contains mucilage, which helps soothe irritated kidney tissue. Finally, lemon water may help prevent future kidney stones due to its high citrate content. Research shows citrate may slow the development of new kidney stones.

Talk to your doctor before using home remedies, especially if you take medications. Also, note that herbal remedies are not scientifically proven and may be harmful, especially during pregnancy.


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