What Is Kidney Pain?


Kidneys are bean-shaped organs that are about the size of a fist and located at the back of the torso. They are situated under the lower part of the rib cage on each side of the backbone. Their main function is to filter waste from the blood and produce urine that is sent to the bladder. Kidney pain is discomfort in the area of the kidneys. It typically presents as a dull ache on the sides, back, or stomach area. However, pain in these areas is not always linked to the kidneys and may be caused by the back.

Kidney pain vs. back pain

Muscles, bones, and other organs are located close to the kidneys, making it difficult to determine the actual cause of pain in this area. Pain that radiates down the legs is typically a result of spine issues. Back pain usually impacts the middle of the back, commonly the lower back, and may be reduced when shifting the body. Kidney pain is felt deeper and located higher in the back, generally under the ribs and to the right or left side of the spine. It can also radiate to the abdomen or groin area.


Kidney pain may present with a constant, dull ache that worsens with a gentle tap to the area. It may be experienced on either side of the flank or both sides. Symptoms that may accompany kidney pain include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Abdomen pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Cloudy urine
  • Fever or chills
  • Frequent urination
  • Constant, dull ache in back
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the sides, under the rib cage
  • Pain that spreads to the groin
  • Recent urinary tract infection
  • Sharp or severe pain that may come in intervals


Kidney indicates that something is affecting the kidneys. Possible causes of kidney pain include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Atheroembolic renal disease
  • Bladder or ureter problems
  • Cyst
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Hydronephrosis (blockage)
  • Injury or trauma
  • Kidney stones
  • Mass or cancer
  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD)
  • Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)
  • Renal artery aneurysm
  • Renal vein thrombosis
  • Ureteral stricture
  • Ureteropelvic junction obstruction
  • Urinary retention
  • Vesicoureteral reflux (VUR)

Risk factors

There are no known risk factors in developing kidney pain. However, those with kidney disease or other conditions that impact the kidneys are more likely to experience kidney pain.

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