Categories: Kidney

Kidney Pain vs. Back Pain: How to Differentiate

According to various data banks, the overall prevalence of low back pain was found to be 42% in India. Kidney problems too result in back pain which may be a little different from musculoskeletal back pain. In today’s write up we will find out how to differentiate between the two.

Each person has got a pair of kidneys located posteriorly on the lower side of the abdomen. The kidney purifies blood for nutrients and discharges urine.

How to differentiate kidney pain from general backache:

  1. Location – As is the location of kidneys the pain will be felt on the posterior (behind) lower side of the abdomen usually on one side (the side whichever kidney is involved). It may rarely occur on both sides too.

Musculoskeletal back pain is usually felt around the lumbar region, it may pain while muscles are touched. However musculoskeletal back pain can be felt all through the back as well.

  1. Radiation of pain – Kidney pain may radiate to the inner thigh or lower abdomen.

Musculoskeletal back pain due to disc or nerve impingement may radiate to buttocks, back of the thigh, laterally to leg and ankles too.

  1. Type of pain – Mostly a constant steep pain(stones) or dull aching pain( infection). The kidney stone pain may vary as the stone moves

The musculoskeletal back pain is mostly coming and going, peaking after high-intensity work and better with rest. Pain here too is dull aching.

  1. The severity of pain – Mostly a constant steep severs pain (stones) or mild aching pain (infection).

The musculoskeletal back pain is not very severe.

  1. Relief – No relief unless the stone moves or underlying cause is treated.

The musculoskeletal back pain feels better with rest, local applications, heat, and cold.

  1. Symptoms of both:
Kidney pain Musculoskeletal Back pain
·         fever with chills

·         nausea and vomiting

·         cloudy/dark urine

·         frequent urge to urinate

·         painful urination

·         urinary tract infection

·         blood in the urine

·         small gravel-like substance in urine

·         constipation or diarrhea

·         fatigue

·      aching or stiffness of the whole body

·      the sensation that muscles have been pulled or overworked

·      fatigue

·      sleep instabilities

·      twitching muscles

·      the feeling of “burning” in your muscles

Severe Kidney pain comes with:

·         bad breath

·         metallic taste

·         confusion

·         irregular heartbeat

·         muscle cramps

·         shortness of breath

·         swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet

Severe Musculoskeletal back pain comes with:

·         inability to move from the bed

Causes of Kidney pain:

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
  • Kidney stones
  • Kidney infections
  • Blood clots in the kidneys
  • Trauma or injury to the kidneys

Causes of Musculoskeletal back pain:

  • stress and strain on back tissue like muscle or ligament-like during overstretching, lifting excessive weight, or using incorrect lifting practices
  • poor posture
  • prolonged standing or sitting
  • muscle spasm
  • direct injuries to the back, like fractures or falls
  • damaged, dislocated, or ruptured discs (Prolapsed Intervertebral Disc)
  • abnormal curvature (Kyphosis, Scoliosis)
  • spine tumors

Other medical conditions that may cause Back pain other than Kidney and Musculoskeletal reasons are:

  • shingles
  • cancer of the spine
  • infection
  • cauda equina syndrome affecting the base of the spinal cord
  • abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • endometriosis

When to seek medical advice?

In case of kidney pain, as indicated through symptoms, immediate medical advice should be taken to get rid of the underlying cause. Musculoskeletal pain can be treated in the house through:

  • Over the counter pain meds and muscle relaxants
  • Rest
  • Ice or Heat (based on acute or chronic)

If the problems persist or aggravate, medical consultation should be immediately taken. Combined complicated symptoms include:

  • numbness, or tingling radiating pain into upper or lower limbs
  • difficulty standing or walking
  • swelling of the legs, ankles, or feet
  • unexplained weight loss
  • sudden bladder or bowel problems
  • fever
  • irregular heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • bony protrusion from the back
  • sexual inability

The whole purpose of the write-up is early distinction detection of kidney issues. The prognosis of both kidney and musculoskeletal problems is way better with early detection than a delayed diagnosis. A famous person once said, ‘Awareness levels the playing field. We are all humans doing the best we can’.

Dr. Suman Lata Nayak Prof | Director & Senior Consultant – Nephrology, Kidney Transplant – Adult | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi & Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Gurugram

Narayana Health

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