Difference between Back Pain and Kidney Pain

Back pain is a common condition and anyone can have it at some point in life. Unfortunately, the cause is not always easy to find. In fact, it is attributed by lots of factors. It can also signal a number of different health problems. Problem in the kidney can cause kidney pain, too – and you may mistakenly for back pain. How to distinguish these two pains? What are the differences?

Understanding about back pain in general

The most important thing to remember, it is not a disease. In general, it is considered as a symptom of certain medical condition. Or in other words, it’s not a diagnosis itself.


Back pain can vary from mild to extreme. Again the cause varies – there are lots of factors and conditions that can attribute to back pain. But many times, it is caused by the following conditions [1]:


Spine fractures, sprains, or severe injuries from accident can cause both chronic and short-lived pain in the back.

Fractured bones usually occur from conditions that weaken bones (such as osteoporosis). Sprains are often the result of lifting or twisting improperly.

Mechanical conditions

Back pain can also occur when there is a mechanical problem in your spine. It is usually associated with the way your spine moves.

Intervertebral disc degeneration may be the most common cause of this mechanical problem. It is a condition of when the discs of spine’s vertebrae are breaking down. Typically, it occurs with age. The affected spine can be painful if it is stressed!

Mechanical problem may also come from muscle tension, spasms, ruptured discs, or facet joints (wearing down of large joints of spine).

Cancers and infections

Abnormal growths of tumor (cancers) can also affect the back, though these are not common causes for back pain in most cases! For instance, bone cancer is painful condition. If the cancer grows in the spine, back pain is the common symptom.

Cancers that grow elsewhere in the body can affect the back, too. Even some may also spread (metastasis) to bones. Some of these cancers include cancers of lung, bowel, breast, thyroid, kidneys, and even prostate.

Some infections, too, are relatively rare causes. But it’s also not uncommon to find back pain in some people with discitis (infections that affect the discs of spine) or osteomyelitis (infections that involve the vertebrae).

Acquired diseases

Many medical conditions can contribute and cause back pain. These include:

  1. Arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (both are the common forms of arthritis).
  2. Osteoporosis and other weakened-bone conditions.
  3. Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which one bone of vertebra (your back) slides, particularly when this bone slides over the bone below it.
  4. Conditions that narrow the spinal column and cause extra pressure on the spinal nerves, such as spinal stenosis.
  5. Frozen shoulder, pain and stiffness that affect shoulder joint.

This is not a complete list – back pain may also be caused by other medical conditions not mentioned in here.

Other causes

These may include; fibromyalgia, pregnancy, endometriosis (a disorder in which uterine tissue build-ups occur in places outside the uterus), kidney stones, and kidney infections.

How does it feel like?

This can vary from person to person. The pain can be mild, dull, or even sharp. In general, people with back pain usually experience some of the following symptoms:

  1. The pain is followed with stiffness or aching anywhere along the spine.
  2. It usually flares up or worsens when lifting heavy object or after doing other strenuous activities.
  3. If the pain is localized in the lower or middle back, it may worsen after standing or sitting for long hours.
  4. Or sometime, it can be quite difficult to stand & straight without experiencing muscle spasms or pain in the lower back.

Depending on the underlying cause, you may also have other discomforts such as lethargy (fatigue & weakness), fever, or even poor in controlling bowel and bladder.

Prognosis and outlook

The answer is dependent on the cause of the problem. If the cause is treatable and reversible, the problem should go away once the underlying cause has been fixed.

The good news, back pain is usually not associated with serious condition. In most cases, it is often caused by minor conditions such as minor strains, sprains, or injuries. Many times it will improve in a few months or even weeks.

But if it persists longer than what you think, seek help promptly especially if it gets worse over time or if it’s followed by other unusual symptoms!

Many times it is associated with by physical factors, but psychological problems (such as stress) do also have an effect to make the pain worsen! Even how long your back pain lasts and how severe it is may also be attributed by your stress.

Stress and other psychological conditions (such as excessive anxiety and depression) can affect the body in many different ways, including making the muscles of your back become tense & painful. Likewise, poor sleep or insomnia can also have contribution.

See also the comprehensive guide to cope with back pain in this section!

How does kidney pain occur?

It is also often called as renal pain. As the name suggests, it refers to pain arising from a particular problem in one or both of the kidneys.

Two common conditions that contribute to cause kidney pain are kidney infection and kidney stones.

Kidney infection

It causes infection or /and inflammation, which then may lead to kidney pain.

Depending on the severity of the infection, it can make the kidney to swell. As a result, this stretches the capsule surrounding kidney, causing a sharp pain.

Kidney stones

The kidney stones can cause kidney pain when they accumulate and become lodged in the tube that connects the bladder and the kidneys.

These stones can cause partial or even complete blockage, inhibiting the flow of urine from kidneys to bladder. As a result, the kidneys can enlarge and swell, and this can be painful.

Other causes

Less common causes include:

  1. Polycystic kidney disease, a condition in which cysts grow and develop in the kidneys. It’s thought as an inherited condition.
  2. Cancer that grows in the kidney, either primary or secondary cancer. Primary kidney cancer means the cancer grows from the original cells in the kidneys. Secondary kidney cancer is cancer that grows in other parts of the body spreads to the kidneys.
  3. Kidney infarction, a rare condition results from interruption of blood flow to part or whole kidney.
  4. Hemorrhage (bleeding) of the kidney due to injury.

Difference between back pain and kidney pain

Kidney pain is not always easy to identify. Even at first, you may suppose it a mild back pain (not serious) [2].

What is the difference? When you need to see a doctor promptly?

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