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How do I Recognize Back Pain from Kidney Stones?

Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Back pain caused by kidney stones is a unique type of pain caused by tiny stones blocking the flow of urine between the kidney and the bladder. You can recognize the difference by the type of pain felt. Back pain due to another condition tends to cause muscle aches and soreness in the spine or muscle tissue. Back pain from kidney stones, however, comes in cycles and is described as very intense pain that begins on the right or left side. Kidney stone pain often moves from the original location to the lower abdomen and may even be felt, at times, in the groin area as a stone moves about inside the ureter.

Besides back pain, a person with kidney stones may also experience nausea, vomiting, fever and urine tinged with blood. For some, kidney stones also produce back and abdominal spasms. It is not uncommon for individuals with kidney stone pain to also have symptoms of a urinary tract infection.

In order to clearly diagnose back pain caused by kidney stones, a medical professional will perform a urinalysis and an x-ray to determine if a stone is present and to determine whether or not it is likely that it may naturally pass during urination. If it is too large to pass, a stone may need to be removed via surgery or dissolved using medications. Once stones have passed, dissolved, or been removed, any pain should subside.

Pain that is relieved by topical pain medications, heat treatments, or massage is not caused by kidney stones. The unique type of kidney pain caused by stones cannot be relieved as easily. In fact, a person experiencing back pain from kidney stones will often find it difficult to be still and will be compelled to constant movement because of the pain. Back pain due to muscle injury or spinal injury, on the other hand, causes a person to react differently, as physical movement tends to cause the discomfort to intensify.

Back pain from kidney stones also does not produce an aching pain, which is common to other types of back pain. Instead, a person will feel a sharp, very sudden pain that also causes severe cramping. Many people describe it as a pain attack, due to its sudden onset, and characterize it as the worst pain they have ever felt. While back pain can be debilitating in general, for many people, it pales in comparison to kidney stone pain.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By anon343980 — On Aug 04, 2013

@feruze: Thanks so much! I've had a full blown kidney stone before, so I knew this duller pain couldn't be a full blown one. Kidney sand seems to make sense for my own condition, especially since the urine does sting a bit at times as if I was passing something small and sharpish.

By anon341991 — On Jul 16, 2013

@MikeMason: In my own personal experience with kidney stone attacks, the pain seems to originate from a specific side. It could be the left or right side, however. I'd describe a lot of the back pain as toothachy, dull and constant instead of sharp and occasional. Once the kidney stone attack progresses, however, it becomes more like a knife stabbing you from the inside, along with some really intense waves of pain all over the lower abdomen on that side.

@literally45: You could also be experiencing pain from gall bladder stones. The gall bladder is roughly in the same area as the kidneys, and it can produce the same painful spasms when it's inflamed. You could also be experiencing occasional urinary tract infections or an inflamed kidney. It could be going through a cycle of healthy, inflamed, infected and back to healthy again over a period of weeks.

By stoneMason — On Oct 11, 2012

Is lower back pain caused by kidney stones usually on one side or both?

By bear78 — On Oct 10, 2012

@literally45-- Your doctor would best but what you described sounds like what I experience when I'm passing kidney sand.

Most people don't even know that you can pass sand, it doesn't always develop into kidney stones. I also get this sharp, lingering pain once in a while in my back and I know that I'm passing sand again.

This might sound kind of gross but you can actually check if you have kidney sand by urinating into a clear container (like a glass jar) first thing in the morning. If you are passing sand, you will be able to see it in the urine.

Some herbal teas (especially parsley tea) and fermented drinks (like beer or root beer) also help to pass the sand more easily and with less pain.

By literally45 — On Oct 09, 2012

I have this constant lingering pain in my lower back exactly where my kidneys are. This pain comes and goes every couple of months, hurts anywhere from three days to a week and then goes away.

I thought I was passing kidney stones and got checked out but they didn't find any. What could be causing this pain?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
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