How to differentiate kidney pain from back pain?

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Hernia, sciatica, pyelonephritis or stones, when you have back pain, you don’t always know where it comes from. It is difficult to differentiate between back pain and kidney pain.

To do this, you must first locate the origin, identify the symptoms to calm the pain and avoid recurrences.

Assessment of kidney/back pain

How to recognize kidney pain?

Located under the ribs, on either side of the spine, the kidneys are organs that filter the blood, eliminate organic waste and have very subtle functions, the main one being the regulation of blood pressure. They also produce hormones and vitamins essential to the proper functioning of our body.

When they are sick, they are extremely discreet, even silent. Kidney pain often refers to a lumbar vertebra, and a medical diagnosis is required to spot the condition and prevent it.

Right or left kidney pain may be a sign of pyelonephritis (kidney infection) or kidney stones :

This is a urinary tract infection that affects one or both kidneys. Germs in the bladder can travel up the urinary tract to the kidneys. Pyelonephritis occurs following untreated or poorly treated cystitis, mainly due to the bacterium Escherichia Coli. This type of infection affects women more than men.

It is simple in people without pathologies, but can cause complications in the most fragile people, especially in children, pregnant or menopausal women, people with a urinary catheter or immunocompromised…

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Good to know :

Anything that can promote cystitis (urinary bladder infection) may possibly promote pyelonephritis: decrease in urinary flow, prostate hyperplasia, pregnancy, unbalanced diabetes, etc.

Also called kidney stones, kidney stones are small stones that form in the urinary tract, kidneys, bladder or ureter.

These small pebbles can pass through the body without causing pain. In contrast, large stones can block the flow of urine and lead to renal colic as the ureters try to evacuate them. Sometimes bleeding is also observed. The pain is excruciating and requires emergency analgesic treatment.

There are four main types of urinary stones:

  • Calcium stones (the most common)
  • Uric acid stones
  • Cystine stones
  • struvite stones

back pain

“I have a bad back”, “I blocked my back”, are expressions that we hear very often. About 80% of the population suffers from back pain on an occasional or regular basis.

Bad postures, overweight, false movements, muscular or psychological problems (stress) are all factors responsible for what is called the “evil of the century”.

Back pain is generally identified by the type of pain it causes (acute, chronic, inflammatory or mechanical) and also according to the area of ​​the body concerned: low back pain, neck pain, sciatica, back pain, etc.

Differentiation of pain from symptoms

Kidney pain, what are the symptoms?

Whether it’s pyelonephritis or kidney stones, there are symptoms that should alert you.

Pyelonephritis has the following clinical signs:

  • Fever above 38° accompanied by chills
  • Fatigue and general malaise
  • Abdominal/lumbar pain
  • Burning during urination, with an urgent need to urinate
  • Traces of blood in the urine (also change in smell and color)
  • Digestive manifestations, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting
  • Etc.

If you have these symptoms, consult a doctor as soon as possible to avoid any complications or risk of sepsis (generalized infection).

Unlike pyelonephritis, symptoms of kidney stones appear when they begin to move from the bladder into the kidney. This is sudden, excruciating pain in the back, on one or both sides.

Among the symptoms:

  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cloudy urine with a bad smell
  • abdominal swelling
  • Etc.

Back pain: symptoms by type of pain

Brutal or diffuse, back pain can be of varying intensity. The name of each pain depends on its location.

  • Lower back pain: lumbago

Very common pain, low back pain or lumbago can be caused by a sudden effort or an unsuitable posture. It also occurs if you carry objects or heavy loads that exceed the adaptability of the muscle-sacro-lumbar mass.

It is manifested by an intense contraction, a muscle damage or a ligament sprain. It can be caused by a herniated disc (during pregnancy, overweight, etc.), osteoarthritis, a gynecological problem, etc.

  • Upper back pain: neck pain

The pain located in the cervical vertebrae is called neck pain. The 2 most common types of neck pain are: torticollis and cervical osteoarthritis.

Torticollis is a muscle contracture accompanied by sudden pain in the neck and sometimes blockage of movement. Osteoarthritis is defined by the wear and tear of the cartilage of the cervical vertebrae and can be accompanied by headaches (headaches), and in some cases by buzzing or dizziness.

  • Pain in the middle of the back: dorsalgia

Whether mechanical or inflammatory, back pain is pain that is located in the spine and causes a burning, tingling or tingling sensation in the painful area.

It is manifested by moderate to intense back pain throughout the dorsal region, muscle tension, blockage of the back…

Consult a doctor for a complete check-up

How to calm kidney pain?

Urinary tract infections; pyelonephritis or kidney stones; should not be taken lightly. They can result from insufficient hydration or underlying diabetes. A diagnosis of the renal and urinary system is essential to identify the source of the disease.

In the event of renal pathology, the doctor can prescribe you an ECBU (Cytobacteriological examination of the urine) to check the presence of bacteria in the urine or imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or a computed tomography (CT) to visualize the whole of the urinary tract.

If it is pyelonephritis, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics and painkillers. In case of kidney stones, it will be rather anti-inflammatories and antispasmodics.

If the pain does not pass with the treatments mentioned above, surgery is then possible: remove the stones from the bladder, insert a probe…

Excess calcium, protein, salt, sugar, oxalate… Bad eating habits can promote the formation of kidney stones. A varied and balanced diet and regular physical activity are recommended.

What to do to relieve back pain?

Against back pain, an analgesic such as paracetamol combined with an anti-inflammatory can be administered for a short time.

The doctor can also prescribe a lumbar belt to support the lower back or even back braces to maintain a proprioceptive position of the spine.

What about natural solutions?

There are natural remedies to soothe kidney pain and back pain.

Certain therapies such as acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy or reflexology can reduce urinary leakage and relieve lumbar, cervical or back pain.

Good to know :

Back pain and urinary tract infections do not only affect adults, but also young people.

For the reimbursement of your health expenses, HEYME offers you the subscription to student mutual insurance from €9.90 per month!

Depending on the level of cover taken out, you benefit from partial or total coverage of your medical expenses: hospitalization, purchase of medication, etc.

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