Female Kidney Pain Location On Back

Muscle pain may affect one or both sides, but nerve pain usually only affects one side.

Kidney Pain vs. Back Pain: How to Tell the Difference

Because your kidneys are located toward your back and underneath your ribcage, it may be hard to tell if the pain you’re experiencing in that area is coming from your back or your kidney.

The symptoms you’re having can help you figure out which is the source of the pain.

The location, type, and severity of the pain are some of the things that will be different depending on whether the pain is from a problem in your kidneys or your back.

Kidney pain is most often caused by a kidney infection or a stone in the tubes coming out of your kidney.

If the pain is coming from your kidney, it will have these features:

Where the pain is located

Kidney pain is felt in your flank, which is the area on either side of your spine between the bottom of your ribcage and your hips. It usually occurs in one side of your body, but it can occur in both sides.

Type of pain

Kidney pain is usually sharp if you have a kidney stone and a dull ache if you have an infection. Most often it will be constant.

It won’t get worse with movement or go away by itself without treatment.

If you’re passing a kidney stone, the pain may fluctuate as the stone moves.

Radiation of the pain

Sometimes the pain spreads (radiates) to your inner thigh or lower abdomen.

Severity of the pain

Kidney pain is classified according to how bad it is — severe or mild. A kidney stone usually causes severe pain, and the pain from an infection is usually mild.

Things that make it better or worse

Typically, nothing makes the pain better until the problem is corrected, such as by passing the stone. Unlike back pain, it usually won’t change with movement.

Accompanying symptoms

If you have a kidney infection or a kidney stone, you may also experience:

  • 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

Back pain is more common than kidney pain and is usually caused by a problem in the muscles, bones, or nerves in your back.

Back pain has the following features:

Where the pain is located

Back pain can occur anywhere on your back, but it’s most commonly located in your lower back or one of your buttocks.

Type of pain

Muscle pain feels like a dull ache. If a nerve has been injured or irritated, the pain is a sharp burning sensation that may travel down your buttock to your lower leg or even your foot.

Muscle pain may affect one or both sides, but nerve pain usually only affects one side.

Radiation of the pain

Nerve pain may spread to your lower leg. Pain from a muscle usually stays in the back.

Severity of the pain

Back pain is described as acute or chronic based on how long you’ve had it.

Acute pain lasts days to weeks, subacute pain lasts six weeks to three months, and chronic pain lasts longer than three months.

Things that make it better or worse

Back pain may get worse with movement or if you sit or stand for a long time. It may get better if you switch positions or walk around.

Accompanying symptoms

Other symptoms you may experience with back pain include:

  • 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, 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.

Kidney Pain

Kidney pain is felt in your sides, back, belly or groin. It’s often mistaken for back pain. Kidney pain can be caused by kidney stones, kidney infection, an injury or kidney cancer. Kidney pain treatment depends on the underlying cause.

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Common kidney pain causes include kidney stones, UTIs, injury, infection, polycystic kidney disease and cancer.

What is kidney pain?

Kidney pain (renal pain) is discomfort near your kidneys. Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located just below your ribcage, on each side of your spine. Kidney pain doesn’t always mean there’s a problem with your kidneys specifically — but it does usually indicate an issue somewhere in your urinary system.

What does it feel like when your kidneys hurt?

People often mistake kidney pain for back pain. But there are some key differences between kidney pain and how it feels compared to back pain.

Kidney pain vs back pain

Back pain usually affects the middle of your back, over your spine, and most commonly in the lower back. Spine-related issues can also cause back pain to sometimes radiate down your legs.

In comparison, kidney pain is typically located higher on your back and it often feels deeper. Most of the time, kidney pain symptoms occur under your ribs, to the right or left of your spine. Kidney pain may also radiate to other areas, such as your abdomen or groin. Sometimes, hip pain is confused with kidney pain, but hip pain is lower down in your back than kidney pain.

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Possible Causes

What are the most common causes of kidney pain?

Your kidneys are connected to your bladder and ureters (the tubes that carry pee from your kidneys to your bladder). Problems with any of these areas can result in pain and discomfort. Possible causes of kidney pain include:

  • Kidney stones. Kidney stones form from the buildup of minerals or compounds inside your body. Stones may be as small as a grain of sand or larger than a pearl. Small stones may leave your body on their own. However, larger stones may get stuck in your urinary tract and prevent pee from passing through. In either case, intense kidney pain can develop.
  • Urinary retention. With this condition, you’re unable to empty your bladder completely. This can happen suddenly or gradually over time.
  • Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). This reflux of urine causes urine to flow backward from your bladder to your ureters or kidneys. VUR can happen to anyone, but it’s most common in babies and young children.
  • Ureteropelvic junction obstruction. With this condition, there’s a blockage that occurs where your ureter attaches to your kidney. This can cause flank pain that may radiate to your belly or groin.
  • Ureteral stricture. This refers to a narrowing of your ureter. The ureters are the tubes that carry urine from your kidneys to your bladder. Ureteral stricture can occur on one or both sides.
  • Kidney infection (pyelonephritis). This condition develops when bacteria infects your kidneys. Symptoms include fever, chills, back or side pain, and nausea and vomiting.
  • Polycystic kidney disease. People with this inherited condition have fluid-filled sacs (cysts) inside their kidneys. As the cysts expand, the kidneys become enlarged and can cause pain. As a result, they may not function properly.
  • Injury or trauma. Impact from contact sports, accidents or other blunt force trauma may cause physical damage to your kidneys. This could result in blood in the urine or around the kidneys as well as leakage of urine from the kidneys.
  • Kidney (renal) cancer. The most common type of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma, usually affects people in their 60s or 70s. Symptoms may include blood in your pee, flank pain or the appearance of a lump on your side.

What are common kidney pain symptoms?

People with kidney pain may experience different symptoms. Some of the most common kidney pain symptoms include:

  • A constant, dull ache in your back.
  • Pain in your sides, under your rib cage or in your abdomen.
  • Severe or sharp pain that comes in waves.
  • Pain that spreads to your groin area.
  • Kidney pain is often accompanied by nausea or vomiting, especially if the pain is due to kidney stones.

Care and Treatment

How is kidney pain treated?

Kidney pain treatment depends on the condition that’s causing it. For example, if you have kidney pain due to an infection, your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotics. If you have kidney pain due to stones, then you may need to have treatment to remove them.

What tests can help determine the cause of kidney pain?

In order to pinpoint a cause, a number of tools are available to help your healthcare provider make a diagnosis:

  • Urinalysis: This test checks for the presence of blood, white blood cells (which would point to an infection), proteins and certain molecules that are linked to various kidney disorders.
  • Imaging tests:Ultrasound or a CT (computed tomography) scan can provide images of the physical structure of the kidneys and urinary tract. It can also tell your healthcare provider if stones are present and determine if urine flow is adequate.

What should I do if my kidneys hurt?

If you have kidney pain that doesn’t go away, the first thing you should do is call your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment or go to the emergency room if you have symptoms such as uncontrolled pain, severe nausea or vomiting, fevers or chills, or an inability to pee. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to ease discomfort:

  • Stay hydrated. Drinking lots of water will help flush bacteria from your urinary tracts. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
  • Use heat. Place a heating pad on your back, abdomen or side to help reduce kidney pain.
  • Takepain relievers. To ease fever or discomfort, take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (unless you have known liver or kidney damage and are not supposed to use these medications).

What drinks are bad for the kidneys?

In general, water is the best. Drinks that are high in sugar can lead to diabetes and those with lots of salt or caffeine can cause dehydration, both of which can lead to kidney damage over time.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call my healthcare provider?

See your doctor if you have persistent pain in the kidney area, or if you have back pain along with any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or chills.
  • Nausea or vomiting such that you cannot eat or drink.
  • Oddly colored pee.
  • Pain when you pee.
  • Blood in your pee.
  • A repeated urgent need to pee that is unusual for you.
  • The appearance of solid material (kidney stones) in your pee.
  • A general feeling of illness or lethargy that won’t go away.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Kidney pain may be mild or severe. Sometimes it’s harmless, but in most cases, it means that you have a problem somewhere in your urinary system. If you develop back pain along with fever, vomiting, pain when you pee or other worrisome symptoms, see a healthcare provider right away. They can find out what’s causing your kidney pain and figure out how to treat the problem.

Where do you feel kidney pain, and what does it feel like?

If a person feels pain in their side or experiences tenderness around their lower back, it could indicate kidney issues. The pain may be dull and constant or sudden and sharp.

Kidney pain may point to conditions such as kidney infections or kidney stones, among others. These conditions can affect how well the kidneys function, so it is essential to seek medical advice for kidney pain.

This article will discuss where in the body someone may feel kidney pain and what it might feel like. It will also explore the possible causes of kidney pain and when to contact a doctor.

a person is bending over forward and showing their back to the camera

A person may feel kidney pain under the lower part of their rib cage. They may feel kidney pain on either their right or left side, or they may experience it on both sides at the same time.

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Kidney pain may also come from the middle or upper part of a person’s back. They may also feel pain relating to the kidneys anywhere in the urinary system, such as the bladder.

Kidney pain may feel like a constant, dull pain or ache. Alternatively, it may be excruciating and sharp.

If a doctor gently presses on or taps the person’s flank area, the pain may worsen.

What the pain feels like will likely depend on its cause. Also, individuals may feel and respond to kidney pain differently.

If a person experiences pain in their mid to upper back, it could indicate that there is something wrong with their kidneys.

Kidney pain in the back may be a constant ache, or it may be sharp and sudden. Some people may describe it as a “stabbing” pain.

The most common causes of kidney pain that radiates to the back are infections and kidney stones.

A kidney infection may have started with a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Kidney stones can cause a person to experience excruciating pain that feels like spasms. This pain may also spread to the groin.

However, if kidney pain worsens when a person bends over or lifts something, it may be the result of back muscle or bone problems rather than an issue affecting the kidney.

A person may also feel kidney pain in their groin. This may happen because pain can radiate to areas of the body other than where it originates.

Males may feel kidney-related pain in their testicles.

However, if testicular pain is accompanied by enlargement, redness, or changes to the scrotal skin, the problem might be a primary issue with the testicle. If this is the case, they should seek medical advice.

If a person experiences a stinging or burning pain while urinating, they may have a urine or bladder infection.

Some other symptoms of infection include:

  • wanting to pass urine very often
  • pain at the bottom of the abdomen
  • foul smelling urine
  • cloudy urine

Bacteria in the bladder can cause kidney infections.

A person with any of these symptoms should contact a doctor.

If someone is experiencing kidney pain, it may indicate a problem with one or both of their kidneys.

There are various reasons that someone may have kidney pain, including:

  • AUTI: If bacteria infect part of the urinary tract system, including the bladder or urethra, a person may develop a UTI. If they do not seek treatment for the UTI, the infection may spread to the kidneys.
  • A kidney infection: A kidney infection can affect one or both kidneys and be extremely painful. Doctors call this condition pyelonephritis.
  • Kidney stones: Urine contains minerals that, at high levels, can form stones in the kidneys. If the stones stay in the kidneys, the person may not experience kidney pain. However, as the kidney stones pass into the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder, it can cause pain or block the flow of urine.
  • Renal vein thrombosis: This is a rare condition wherein a blood clot lodges in one of the veins that carry blood from the kidneys. Symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly.
  • Hydronephrosis: If the flow of urine becomes blocked with a stone, blood clot, or scarring, the urine may back up and cause the kidneys to swell. Hydronephrosis can affect one or both kidneys.
  • Kidney cancer: Cancer can form in the kidneys if the cells begin to grow abnormally. Various cancers can affect the kidneys of both adults and children.

A person may experience a range of other symptoms in addition to kidney pain, including:

  • pain or itching while urinating
  • cloudy urine
  • bloody urine
  • smelly urine
  • an urge to pass urine frequently
  • pain in the lower abdomen
  • pain in the groin
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever
  • chills

The kidneys are a pair of bean shaped organs that are situated on either side of the spine, just below the rib cage.

The kidneys are around 4 inches (10 centimeters) long — roughly the size of an adult’s fist. The left kidney tends to be slightly larger and sit slightly higher up in the body.


The primary job of the kidneys is to filter waste products from the blood. For example, they get rid of excess water from the body by creating urine.

The kidneys also help control blood pressure and help the body make more red blood cells.

A person who is experiencing kidney pain should contact a doctor as soon as possible to find out what is causing it.

People must contact a doctor to diagnose and treat kidney pain. Receiving the correct treatment ensures that the kidneys do not become damaged, which can lead to kidney failure.

Doctors may order tests such as:

  • urine tests, which can help them identify any infections
  • imaging tests, such as CT or ultrasound scans
  • cytology, which can help them identify cancer cells in the urine


Kidney infections can lead to a severe and potentially life threatening condition called sepsis.

If a person is experiencing the following symptoms , they need emergency medical care:

  • fever
  • chills
  • low blood pressure
  • a rapid heart rate
  • clamminess
  • extreme pain

Without the correct treatment, kidney infections can become chronic and cause permanent kidney damage.

Kidney pain can occur on either or both sides of the spine, below the ribs. Some people may also experience pain in the lower groin.

Pain in the kidneys may be an indication that something is wrong with these essential organs. Various conditions can cause kidney pain, including infections, kidney stones, and cancer.

People with kidney pain must consult a doctor. Even minor UTIs can spread to the kidneys and lead to sepsis or kidney damage.

Last medically reviewed on April 20, 2021

  • Infectious Diseases / Bacteria / Viruses
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  • Urology / Nephrology

How we reviewed this article:

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Hydronephrosis. (2020).
  • Kidney disease. (2021).
  • Kidney pain. (2020).
  • Kidney stones. (n.d.).
  • Mazhar, H. R., et al. (2020). Renal vein thrombosis.
  • Pain in kidney or urine diseases. (n.d.).
  • Polycystic kidney disease. (2020).
  • Step 1: Learn the basics. (n.d.).
  • What are kidney stones? (n.d.).
  • What is sepsis? (2021).

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Medically reviewed by Joseph Brito III, MD — By Zia Sherrell, MPH — Updated on Jul 1, 2022

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population [BiomedCentral.com]; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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